Tres/Tres, or I Passed My Spanish Test!!

About two weeks ago, I found out that I passed my end of training Spanish test at FSI!!

Since then, I’ve been getting everything ready for my impending departure for la frontera, aka Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. I am thrilled to be done with training and so ready to leave very soon! Here are a few of the cool things I have done recently in preparation for starting my dream job in Mexico:

-Talked to a group of interns at FSI about the Foreign Service application process while realizing how lucky I am to have this job

-Attended Crash Bang, the State Department’s counter terrorism training in which I ducked for cover and rammed cars in a simulated attack on an embassy

-Sent thank-you emails to everyone in the Spanish department I could think of for their part in my (surprising) success on the test

-Bought a real car and mentally prepared myself for all the driving I’ll be doing in two years

-Planned goodbye dinners with friends in DC 😦

It’s crazy exciting to me that after 9ish months of living here, I’m finally headed to post. I cannot wait to find out what my job will be like as a consular officer. While I’m comforted by a few things (there are 3 Chick-fil-a’s right across the border in Laredo!), I don’t really know what to expect about my new home. But I am sure excited to start my tour!

Reflection on Language Training

I am writing this from the gazebo on my lunch break at the Foreign Service Institute. One of the major things I’ll miss here is the absolutely amazing campus we have with trees, paths, places to escape the classroom.

I’ve been meaning to write a post like this for a while. TLDR: language training is hard. I am both amazed at how far I’ve come in Spanish and how much there is left to learn even after the 3/3.

I am 3 weeks out from my end of training exam and at times, have never felt so stressed in my life.
While I still completely love the fact that I get paid to learn Spanish, it is honestly much harder than I imagined. Sometimes I’ve found myself overly comparing myself with my colleagues and their results- even though I have met or surpassed our goal on every test.

Also, I wish someone had told me that language does end up taking over your entire social life. I’ve had to work harder than I thought to keep a balance between spending time with friends, exercising, and studying. And this is me as a young, single person without other responsibilities like a spouse or kids. I’ve honestly forgotten what life was like before I had homework and language studies all the time. 

I am deeply looking forward to later this year in Mexico when I can actually start doing consular work. It’s easy to lose track of why I’m really learning Spanish- not to argue over nuances of a political opinion article on Argentina’s “dirty war,” but to  adjudicate visas in a crucial part of the world and help Americans at the border. 

La Mitad del Mundo- Spanish Immersion in Ecuador

I recently got back from an awesome 2 weeks in Quito, Ecuador. Amazingly, the Foreign Service Institute sponsored my trip and I didn’t have to take leave! Two weeks of individual classes, field trips to cathedrals and museums in the historical center, and living with a host family. 

It was great to get away from the normal routine of studying Spanish at FSI. I already miss the opportunities to use my Spanish 24/7, even when I didn’t always want to. But this immersion just made me much more excited for moving to Mexico in 2 months!

Here are a few of my favorite moments from the trip:

View from la basilica in Quito, after climbing up several scary staircases 

Me in La Ronda, fun street for eating, drinking, and dancing

Ceviche Peruvian style 

Street art in Quito’s historical center

Plaza de la Independencia in the historical center

View from atop the teferico (cable car)

Day 2 of Spanish Language Training!

A lot happened since I last posted on Flag Day. Since then I’ve been sworn in as an official Foreign Service Officer, passed and completed ConGen (6 week consular training class), and started Spanish!


I’m still psyched that it is now my full time job to become fluent in Spanish. The US Government is paying me to study Spanish for the next 6 months, which is incredibly cool.

Spanish was my #1 preference in my first post. It’s awesome to think that later this year I’ll be interviewing visa applicants and representing American interests at the border in proficient Spanish!

And the winner is…

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico!!!

 

It was a high bid for me! I am thrilled to be doing such important consular work at the US-Mexico border. Plus I’ll be near friends and family in Texas! Spanish language training and Consular tradecraft start in a few weeks! Longer post on my whole Flag Day experience to follow soon.

 Excited to have my Mexican flag 🙂

   

Flag Day Jitters

Tomorrow, I will know my first post as a Foreign Service Officer. That thought to me right now is still very unreal. My whole family is visiting, which means we’ll all find out together whether I’m headed to a border post, somewhere in SE Asia, China, or even potentially somewhere unanticipated! I’ve already prepped my parents for the idea that I’m going somewhere likely more dangerous than Texas..

Week 4 and 5 have been probably the busiest yet. Speeches, a field trip to West Virginia, and composure under fire practice were all included. I love being busy, so I was in heaven! My favorite days are those where we’re challenged in a huge variety of ways- speaking, problem solving, important lectures by high level diplomats.

I really don’t want A-100 to end, as excited as I am to get to post. I remember back at Rice University thinking that Orientation Week (O-Week) went by too quickly. Something in me just likes everything to stay new and exciting! But most of my fond memories from college are the amazingly cool stuff I did as an upperclassman. Like visiting Doha and the US Embassy senior year, or studying abroad all junior year. Once I’m at post, I’ll start having those experiences to look back on.

For tonight, I’m enjoying just imagining all the ways my life is about to change. Flag Day, bring it on!!

A Snow Day-Filled Week Three

Looking back on week 3 of Foreign Service orientation- all I can think of is the massive amount of snow that surrounded DC during #Snowzilla. This week we had (at least I had) a 5 day weekend- normally a good thing, but leaving me bored and unable to leave my apartment much due to the snow!! I was thrilled when classes resumed, but worried we had missed important material.

Here’s what I learned this week:

I prefer warmer countries to somewhere like Mongolia or Russia. Heat and humidity wouldn’t bother me, but being freezing and immobile due to snow is no fun at all. It’s no surprise that most of my high ranks on our bidlist were Latin America and Southeast Asia 🙂 I will be a happy woman indeed if a Mexican flag with my name is called out on Flag Day!

Our class remains incredibly close- several of us in my building got together at the height of the blizzard on the weekend to play board games and eat. We also basically decided our class nickname should be the Blizzard 185th, due to the crazy winter weather.

We started what I refer to in my head as diplomat skills training- public speaking and composure under fire (aka answering hard questions!) I loved both of these sessions as a PD officer. Few things are more important than developing strong public speaking and speechwriting skills, or dealing with hostile questions.

A-100 has gone by so quickly. 6 weeks sounds long, but once you get halfway through it’s over before you know it. Writing this from week 5, I’ve already started wondering about what kind of training lies ahead of me next…and where I’m headed of course!