A-100 sure seems like it’s flying by. Thus, I’ve decided to post after each week to reflect on major milestones in my new career as a diplomat. It’s every bit as exciting and challenging as I’d hoped!
1. I’m off language probation!!
All new US diplomats come in as entry-level officers who must get tenure to continue on in the Foreign Service. One of the requirements for tenure is knowing a language generally at a 3/3 proficiency (exceptions for super hard languages like Arabic/Chinese). My first week at FSI I took the full German test and I just recently found out that I achieved the 3/3! I thought I did fairly well on the test, but I always get really unnecessarily nervous about language testing. I won’t be using German for at least 2 years, but it’s nice to know that I’m off language probation and can start learning a new language like Spanish.
2. Being a consular officer for my first tour is going to rock.
All of us in the 185th are going to be doing Consular coned tours at first. This makes sense given the huge rise in demand for visas and other consular services abroad. Although I’m Public Diplomacy coned, I came close to choosing Consular just because of how meaningful the work is. I really look forward to helping Americans abroad and seeing such issues as immigration firsthand- especially why I’m bidding Mexico/Latin America very high!
3. #Snowmaggedon2016 hit DC and we had another 3 day weekend!
I’ve never seen this much snow in my life, y’all. It’s been really cold here! Looking at pictures of 70 degree Fahrenheit Texas right now is making me miss the heat. And potentially influencing my bidding strategy to choose warmer countries…
Things in my life apparently tend to happen all at once- Saturday I graduated from Rice University, Sunday I moved out of college, and this morning I found out I passed the State Department’s German phone test for language bonus points!
My oral assessment score will now be raised to a 5.77, with .17 bonus points added to my original 5.6. This puts me in an amazing position to get an offer for the next A-100 orientation class once I get my security clearance. I’m really hoping that will be in time for the proposed September 8th class later this year! Of course, it’s hard if not completely impossible to know how long the clearance should take. I’m still pending with the investigations unit, but the person on the phone I spoke to seemed to think things were wrapping up.
Passing German makes me feel a ton more certain that I will actually be employed as a Foreign Service Officer soon and won’t just time off the register. I’m especially glad that my chosen cone, public diplomacy, is not the most competitive at the moment. With a 5.77 in PD according to the Yahoo group’s shadow register, I’m ranked somewhere between number 2 and 7 out of 124 total candidates on the register. That’s a very solid place to be when offers for the next class go out! Now if I could just get that security clearance and pass final suitability review…
At the crack of dawn Houston time (aka 6:45 AM…) I called the testing center at FSI to start my phone German language test. Since the non-disclosure agreement also applies to language testing, I won’t go into what I was specifically tested on. I’ll simply agree that the Foreign Service career candidate guide is very accurate in how it describes the test structure.
The good: I’m really proud of myself for being to answer tough questions about politics and get through the whole test without really struggling for words or grammar- there were a few things I’m sure I could have phrased more diplomatically/professionally, but overall my responses seemed understandable and pretty fluent to me. There was never a moment I lost my train of thought or felt that I was in over my head, which I think is a really good thing! Before the test I had been practicing mock interviews 3-4 times with my German professor, so I pretty much knew what to expect. I also had taken a German literature class this semester, spoke German 3-4 times a week, read/watched the news often. I felt very prepared overall.
The bad/neutral: Overall, I have about the same feeling I felt after finishing the FSOA and awaiting results. I did just about the best I could, and it’s now up to the examiners if I pass or fail. It would put me among the top Public Diplomacy candidates if I gain the .17 points, but even if I failed I’ll still have a solid spot on the register with a 5.6.
A 3 (minimum professional proficiency) is a pretty high bar to reach, and I don’t want to assume that I definitely got the bonus points. I wish I had been a little more active in my responses- there were times when I was not sure if I should add more or not. And while my incredibly kind German professors at Rice assured me I had nothing to worry about, I’m not sure that I’d meet the high FSI standard of professional proficiency in German.
I remember looking at my phone afterwards and seeing that I finished at 7:06- the German-speaking part of the test probably took around 20 minutes. It felt like a really fast spoken test, and I’m kind of still in shock that I don’t have to follow the German news religiously anymore.