...because I must be dreaming. For the past three weeks I have listened to policy briefings from high ranking officials, become acquainted with some of my fellow classmates and learned about what life entails in the Foreign Service. It's hard to believe that I will soon be a diplomat. Really. Pinch me.
The intensive 6-week orientation course known as A-100 has been everything advertised and more. People often liken A-100 to drinking from a fire hose. The information has come fast and furious from day one. I'm not permitted to divulge its contents but I can elaborate on one of the central objectives: how to navigate the government bureaucracy. The first step often involves deciphering the many acronyms for agencies, bureaus and figures. Some days I feel like I am swimming in alphabet soup.
I will become close friends with some of these acronyms though. Working in the Foreign Service has a number of employee benefits, or "bennies" as they are affectionately referred to on occasion. I've already endeared myself to terms such as Overseas Comparability Pay (OCP), Language Incentive Pay (LIP) and Living Quarter Allowance (LQA). One day I might even collect a wardrobe allowance going from one extreme climate to another. These "bennies" are just a drop in the bucket though. The biggest benefit of serving as a U.S. diplomat comes in the power and prestige associated with the official duties of the job. I readily admit that distinguished titles and diplomatic credentials can be intoxicating. For this reason, Foreign Service Officers are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity. I never thought I would take quote from a Marvel superhero movie but, as Uncle Ben tells young Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility."
On a lighter note, A-100 is much more than a tally of perks and prerequisites. A second major component of the class is socializing with fellow classmates and developing an esprit d'corp. In my capacity-filled class of 98 entry level officers (shout out to the Fightin' Fire Code!), I have met fascinating individuals who come from all walks of life. There are former lawyers, teachers, peace corps volunteers and even a few recovering academics like me. Some are only few years or straight out of grad school but they draw from a wealth of experience. During many of the interactive sessions, it has become readily apparent that everyone is extremely well spoken. In fact, many speak multiple languages to boot. My Arabic and Spanish doesn't even bat an eye with this group. In short, I feel lucky to be serving with the best and the brightest and am looking forward to making lasting friendships in the weeks to come and beyond.
Speaking of which, I will find out my first assignment in less than two weeks! I've already discussed my bidding strategy so now all I can do is wait. Watch for the big announcement on August 19!
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