Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dropping a Truth Bomb

Recently I was asked to write a guest post on a blog for people considering joining the Foreign Service. Specifically, a post about what this career and lifestyle are like when you do it solo. Here is the introduction to my guest post:

This week, Heather, from the blog Adventures Around the World, shares her perspective as a single “solo” Foreign Service Officer. Her story is one shared by many in the Service, but not one readily discussed because of its hard truths. A career in the Foreign Service has many perks: the profession, the chance to visit and live in new and beautiful places, the opportunity to meet cultures and people you normally would not be able to, and much more. However, there are many drawbacks, and it is critical that you be made aware of them, and understand them.

Read the full blog post at Path to Foreign Service.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Recently I've been thinking a lot about the word "service." With all the talk surrounding the transition of presidential administrations, it's important to understand that Foreign Service Officers are professionals, many have served through multiple administrations, both Democratic and Republican. Federal employees are sometimes easy targets for directing frustration toward "the government." Especially when what we do is not widely understood or is considered irrelevant. Here are a few examples of how FSOs serve our country:

  • We represent America; we are often the only Americans foreign audiences have ever met
  • We protect and assist American citizens abroad
  • We advance U.S. interests and build alliances
  • We engage with foreign governments, businesses, and the general public about U.S. policies & culture
  • We advocate for U.S. companies doing business in foreign countries
  • We inform DC policymakers about current events in foreign countries

FSOs deliberately use the word "service" when talking about their work. I didn't just live and work in Lithuania, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iraq, and Romania. I served in those countries. There are many ways people can serve their country. I would make a terrible soldier, but representing the U.S. as a public diplomacy officer in the Foreign Service is how I can serve my country. I take it seriously.

FSOs come in different shapes, with various backgrounds and political affiliations.  And while there are channels for expressing disagreement with policy, we are required to conduct our work professionally even when we find it personally challenging to do so. If a Congressman slams the State Department in a speech one week and the following week requests embassy assistance for an official visit to a foreign country, embassy staff will make sure that Congressman gets what he needs. That's what it means to serve.