After waiting on the register for almost a year and five months, it was on this day in 2014 that I received “the call” to join the U.S. Foreign Service. In other words, I was invited to become a diplomat. It was my favorite Cinco de Mayo ever, and one of the most exciting days of my life. Accepting the offer marked the end of my three-year quest for the professional opportunity of a lifetime – my chance to be a part of the 178th Generalist A-100 Class at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington – and the beginning of a whole new career and lifestyle. Finally, my candidacy had been successful and I was in! The last six years haven’t been perfect, but given the chance, I’d do it all again.
One year ago today, the members of the 178th Generalist Class made their way to Main State in northwest Washington, DC for the first day of A-100. Arrival time requested: 07:45. That morning kind of felt like holding onto an electric fence with both hands, for so many reasons.
Yesterday morning, before the clock had even struck 7:00 a.m., I drove to the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington to help welcome a new group of diplomats from the 180th Generalist Class to their first day at FSI.
In the Foreign Service, each class sponsors social and informational events for the group two classes behind them. For many new diplomats, their first day of A-100 orientation is likely preceded by events like a packout and move to a new city (sometimes even an international move), learning to navigate unfamiliar public transportation, making new schooling arrangements for children, dealing with pets, possibly even a spouse who has given up his or her career to join this adventure – and all of that is before even going to post!
I opened my eyes on the morning of Friday, August 8. A big smile spread across my face as I thought, “Today is the day!”
Our last day had arrived, the day when we would get up and officially swear in as diplomats during a formal ceremony. For months and even years I’d wished to join an A-100 class. Now I was smiling because, incredibly, not only had I made it in, but I’d made it through. Those six weeks of A-100 were finally about to end. A-100: I’d laughed, I’d cried, I’d graduated.
The sixth and final week of A-100 arrived suddenly on August 4 and there was a new energy in the air. The thrills of week 5 and Flag Day were finally behind us. The knowledge of where we would all be posted generated a kind of “senioritis” which I would describe as a heady blend of elation and concern. A whole new level of questions and tasks loomed ahead as we started to figure out how to get ourselves to post – some next spring and summer, and some as early as eight weeks from now.
Today I celebrate nine years of federal service to the U.S. Government.
On August 1, I started counting down the hours until our Flag Day ceremony as soon as I arrived at the Foreign Service Institute. Eight and a half hours until 15:30. Just eight and a half more hours until I find out where my first assignment as a U.S. diplomat will be. Despite my best efforts and intentions, I hadn’t slept much the night before, more out of sheer adrenaline than actual nerves.
Today I learned the location where I’ll serve my first tour as a Foreign Service Officer…
It’s Flag Day Eve. Yes, as anyone who has entered the Foreign Service knows, that’s a thing.
Tomorrow at 15:30 EDT, in front of friends, family, and classmates, each member of the 178th Generalist Class of new diplomats will be called one by one to the front of a large room and handed a flag, and a folder containing a training schedule. The flag will be that of the country where we will serve our first overseas assignment, and the training schedule will tell us whether we’re going to post in a matter of several weeks, next summer, or anytime in between.
It’s very cliche of me to start this post by saying that it’s hard to believe I’m already halfway through A-100, and yet it’s the absolute truth – both that it’s hard for me to believe, and that as of a couple of days ago, we’re only three weeks from our Swearing-In! I can totally see why new Foreign Service Officers often drop the ball on blogging during these very intense weeks of formality, responsibilities and hours of nightly homework. When I come home, the last thing I usually want to do is turn on my laptop to blog, even though I like doing it once I get into it.
My first week of orientation into the Foreign Service has already passed in a blur of exhilaration, jitters, gratitude, lack of coffee, heightened emotion and general overwhelm.
Over the last couple of years, I have spent what is cumulatively an embarrassing amount of time reading the blogs of Foreign Service Officers (FSOs). I admit that my interest – all right, let’s call it an obsession – was always geared towards whatever stage of the daunting hiring process that was ahead of me at that particular point in time.