Friday, January 2, 2015

Flag Day Nostalgia

For the first time in many months I find myself getting through my blogroll quickly, easily catching up with the new postings most days. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I spend some days in yoga pants and don't leave the house (hey, it's cold outside, and I'm on Congressionally-mandated home leave, which I sometimes interpret literally).

Anyway, I've been branching out to new blogs thanks to Life After Jerusalem and Subject Verb Object and their amazingly comprehensive blog lists. A few of the new ones I'm reading are from newly-minted FSOs and EFMs, just out of A-100 and Flag Day and still in training for their first posts. (The two today are Adventures in the Foreign Service and a B, C, D Adventure - you can tell I'm going in alphabetical order.) Reading them has me reminiscing back to those heady first days in the FS when there were so many unknowns, and everything was shiny and new. I like to think I'm not completely jaded these days and still find a lot about the FS shiny and exciting, but I definitely have lost some of that initial OMG-ness that comes with A-100.

I'm preparing to give a presentation on my FS life and travels at my grandmother's senior living community next week, which is also getting me to do research on places I've been and remember stories I've not thought or talked about in a while. Which gives me pause to remember how amazing the FS really is and how much I've seen/done/accomplished in almost five and a half years.

I spoke on the phone today to a college senior who is considering a career in international affairs and possibly the FS, connected by her aunt who works at the aforementioned senior living community. She had great questions and clearly had given a lot of thought to what to ask me that would help guide her next steps. I'll tell you what I told her - and what I tell everyone who asks, and some who don't: take the Foreign Service Officer Test. It's free, you can take it once a year, and one of two things will happen: you'll pass and get a chance to move forward in the process, or you won't pass but will learn what the test looks and feels like and be better prepared to retake it next year.

A lot of people put a lot of effort into preparing for the test, and for some that works. For me, though, I do much better when I don't over prepare. Read up on current events, brush up on international history and U.S. pop culture references through the years. If you need to study, study the thirteen dimensions that guide the selection process and what your chosen cone looks like. And be able to match your own experiences to the thirteen dimensions and your cone and be able to give specific examples. Careers.state.gov is among the best study guides out there.

All right, back to nostalgia. I like it. I can remember my own Flag Day and how much I was sweating in my suit on that hot August day in the FSI Fieldhouse (I believe Flag Days are now held in the newer, better-cooled K building). Never in a million years did I think I'd be assigned to Jeddah, though when I look back at it there was a moment in my CDO interview early on when my CDO asked if Jeddah met my preferences. I said it did and that I wouldn't mind it, but I never really thought that would translate into getting the Saudi flag a few weeks later. In an example of the small FS world, my first CDO is now a CON chief in NEA and someone I will be working with closely in my next job.

I love reading Flag Day stories because they're all unique but all so much the same as well. Most people are excited - either because they got a top choice and/or because they finally know where they're going after so much uncertainty. It's a bonding experience for an A-100 class (as is every other moment of those six weeks, but still). And it's something that every FS generalist and specialist (I think?) has in common. If nothing else, you can make small talk about Flag Day. There are few moments in life with such complete, but highly anticipated, surprise (maybe finding out the gender of a baby at birth, though few are able to resist the temptation to find out earlier these days, or where a medical student matches for residency) that have such a profound impact on your life. And for that reason I think the Flag Day tradition is pretty darn cool. I, for one, never get tired of reading/hearing about the stories. What about you?

1 comment:

girlfawkes said...

Thanks for reading my blog!