ConGen (PC 530): Week 6 in Review

On Friday, May 1 I finished my sixth and final week of consular training at the Foreign Service Institute. At the beginning of the week I could clearly sense a change in the air, an upshift in gears. The renewed urgency was palpable, something I could almost taste.

The demeanor of my colleagues had changed; gone were the lunchtimes of conversation and sunshine. Any break in the schedule was filled with last immunizations, tense email checking, huddled hallway phone calls to HR, airlines or insurance companies, or dashing to the Special Issuance Agency in DC to retrieve a diplomatic passport containing a newly minted visa.

All of this energy, nervousness and exuberance was contagious and fed on itself throughout our final week. For my part, I checked another dozen things off my to-do list in any tiny space I could find that wasn’t already committed, and I got my typhoid immunization – the last I needed.

In class we finished our special consular services module, and I scored a perfect 100% on the final exam. We had a small graduation ceremony, and even though I didn’t win any awards I gave myself a mental cheer for making it all the way through without missing any sessions. I have to say that I threw myself into the material and really enjoyed it, even things like roleplays that I normally dread.

Afterwards my friend and colleague LB and I, capitalizing on our momentum, dashed to the Russian Department to get an administrative signature on our departure sheets, and just like that it was over.

When I walked out into the sunshine afterwards, I took a deep breath. It occurred to me that other than turning in some equipment and getting my final sign-off before leaving, it will probably be a couple of years before I even go to FSI again, let alone attend any courses. It has been a long 10.5 months of training, and as I raced out of the parking lot away into the sun to run yet another errand, all I let myself feel was gratitude. Thank you for picking me.

I have spent the past week at a location I won’t disclose, engaged in a security-related training. I won’t outline the subject matter here, but I have to say it was one of the best, most intense and most useful trainings I’ve had in my career. It was especially great to spend the six days with not only a dozen members of the  178th A-100 but even my husband who was able to take time off to attend. While I was there, the one year anniversary (May 5) of accepting my invitation to join the 178th A-100 class came and went.

I have now spent the last 24 hours organizing my packing between what I will fly to post with in my suitcases, what will ship via air, what will ship by sea, what will go into storage, and what will stay behind with my husband until he is ready to join me in Tashkent.

At the moment my suitcases are very underweight, but I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t last!

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Sarah W Gaer

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