Category Archives: public diplomacy

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!!

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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!

A-100 Week 2 in Review

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…

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Getting “The Call” for the Foreign Service!

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Or rather “the email”! I am so excited to finally share that I accepted an offer to join the Foreign Service!! A week ago from today, I got the email that is about to drastically change my life.

I will be a Public Diplomacy Officer in the 185th A-100 orientation class. On January 11, 2016, I start my first day as a Foreign Service Officer in Washington, DC! This still feels incredibly unreal. I feel like I waited so long for the State Department to finally hire me, and yet I know many people on the Yahoo groups have been waiting much, much longer. Still, it is a huge relief to know my future at last!

The way I found out is pretty hilarious in hindsight. I currently live and work as a teacher in Thailand, which is 12 hours exactly ahead of DC. Thus, when offers for several cones went out on Tuesday night (DC morning), I chose to stay up until 3AM here to see if PD offers would be extended..

Surprisingly they were not until the next day. This meant I planned to stay up until the wee morning hours again Wednesday night to await my fate! This time I couldn’t sleep from happiness though- at 9:30 pm here, I saw a PD offer for the January class in my inbox. I have honestly never been so happy in my entire life. I called my parents on FaceTime immediately to share the good news. The Foreign Service has been my dream for so long- since I discovered I love to travel, that I’m good at languages and history, and am passionate about helping Americans and sharing our diverse and rich culture.

Returning to DC will be all the more meaningful because last time I was there, it was as an intern. I worked during summer 2014 at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training located at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). This time when I head to FSI for training every day, it will be as a US diplomat. (!!!) I am so honored. My former supervisors from ADST and the US Embassy in Vienna currently work in DC, so I’ll be able to personally thank them for their support and mentorship when I start training.

I don’t really think it’ll hit me until the first day of training. Fingers crossed there will be a lot of formal oaths and inspiring speeches in A-100. I suspect I will be holding back tears often that this dream I had when I was 15 is finally real.

Quick Career Update

There have been some major developments on the Foreign Service front. While I was about to go to bed here in Thailand last night, I noticed on the Yahoo A-100 group that some people reported offers for the January 11 orientation class!! 

On November 24th State received hiring authority for January, much much earlier than the December 8-11 I had anticipated. I wondered if my life was about to change dramatically. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know yet if I’m getting an offer)

In what would be the biggest mistake ever, I stayed up until 3:30 AM here (afternoon in DC..) to see if public diplomacy offers would go out. They did not, and still have not. While ecstatic consular, management, and some political coned candidates are celebrating, I’m still waiting. The time difference of night and day between us is not working well for someone as obsessed as me.

According to the official forums, offers for all 5 cones including PD and Econ will go out next week too. After Thanksgiving break! I am not super excited to be waiting until next week to find out my fate. But it’s a lot sooner than I had thought!

People as high as #22 and #24 were offered invitations though. That may bode well for a sizable January class! I am super hopeful that I will be called at #11 for PD. We’ll see in the next week!

An exciting disappointment

It’s been a few weeks since I learned that I will not be attending the September 8th A-100 orientation class for the Foreign Service after all. For the last class of this fiscal year, only 3 or so public diplomacy candidates I know of received offers. Despite my ranking of 7/103 (probably higher now!), I did not. This post should serve as a PSA to fellow Foreign Service hopefuls out there- it is much more competitive to become a US diplomat than you think! Hiring is really tough at the moment even if you pass every step along the way like I have. You can’t be 100% sure of a job until you receive the official offer, and it will be 28 days before the class starts, to boot 🙂

That being said, I am disappointed but not devastated. The Foreign Service will happen for me when the time is right- most likely in early 2016! If hiring stays around attrition like it has this year, I should get an offer before expiring off the register in December 2016. This gives me a shot at all the fiscal year 2016 classes- I’m especially hopeful that the January 2016 class will be larger and I will get an invite.

Until then, I am so excited to share that I’ll be teaching English at a girls school near Bangkok, Thailand with CIEE! I start in mid-October. My placement is in Nakhon Pathom province, about an hour outside of Bangkok: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/bangkok/nakhon-pathom. Here is one of the tallest pagodas in Thailand right in the middle of my new home:

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In my view, English teaching is one of the US’s best forms of public diplomacy. I get to develop my public speaking and presentation skills, gain international experience, and live in Southeast Asia for the first time in my life. I can’t think of a better experience to have before joining the Foreign Service, whenever that may be!

On Graduation, Summer, and Pre A-100 Plans

Life has been in flux since May 16, 2015- my official graduation date from Rice University. A few months on, it has not really hit me yet that I will not be returning to Rice as a student this fall. Instead I’ll probably be starting my dream career as a Foreign Service Officer! I had sort of planned things for the summer like spending time with family at home and visiting Eastern Europe, but had backups in case the Foreign Service took a year or more to offer me a job. Happily, I’ve been on the public diplomacy register since June 8.

I am currently waiting on the State Department to issue invitations for the next A-100 (orientation) class starting September 8. At around number 5 of 100 public diplomacy candidates, I am really hoping for an offer within the next month or so! However, anyone who knows me will know that I really can’t sit still and just wait at home in Texas until September. I have worked to keep myself busy over the summer, searching for a few opportunities that will help when I start work as a diplomat.

One of my favorite involvements this summer has been getting to work as a camp counselor/unit leader for the past month at Camp Mitre Peak, a Girl Scout Camp not far from Big Bend National Park. In my work with public diplomacy, I hope to be significantly involved with gender equality and girls empowerment- working with Girl Scouts was perfect preparation for this. I loved the girl power environment at camp and sharing my love of hiking and backpacking.

Camp Mitre Peak

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In exactly a week, I’m also leaving for a monthlong trip to Eastern and Central Europe! This trip is basically including all the countries I didn’t have time to visit during study abroad- like Poland, Slovenia, and Croatia. 3/4 of the weeks I’ll be backpacking around from hostel to hostel, then the last week I will take part in the Model NATO Youth Summit in Riga, Latvia. Model NATO was something I applied for on a whim and now have the incredible opportunity to represent the US delegation. It will involve lots of Europe policy and youth engagement, also major areas I plan to work in during my Foreign Service career. To say I’m excited for this trip is quite an understatement!!

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This summer has been a bit surreal. Honestly, I had expected to join the Peace Corps right after Rice. I certainly didn’t think I would get into the Foreign Service on my first try and as a right-out-of-college graduate. Now that it is happening much sooner than that, I am so incredibly excited and lucky.