Preparing for the Foreign Service (without studying)

So you want to be a Foreign Service Officer? You’ve read the news, you’ve learned a foreign language, you’ve purchased FSOT study guides? Great! You’re heading in the right direction. But being in the foreign service is much more than just a matter of perfecting your writing abilities and mastering your interview answers: the foreign service is a lifestyle. Those who are serious about joining should extend their preparations beyond the professional world; they should prepare their personal lives as well.

How do you do that? I’m here to tell you a few salient things I’ve picked up from the almost two year journey of joining the foreign service. Continue reading

How Bidding is Like Picking Jam

How Bidding is Like Picking Jam

There is this famous jam study. In it participants in a grocery store were presented with a selection of jams to sample, and then were given a $1 off coupon. Here’s the catch, there were two stands: one was very large with 24 samples of gourmet jam; the other was small and had only 6 samples of more generic jams. Yet, the shoppers who went to the stand with only 6 kinds of jam were 10 times more likely to purchase a jar of jam than those who tried the 24 kinds.

Choice is paralyzing…and I’m feeling that pretty acutely now as I prepare to submit my first bid list. Continue reading

The First Pack-out!

The First Pack-out!

Yesterday was my first pack-out for the foreign service. I was lucky: instead of a whole apartment to box up, I had a relatively small number of items. A bike, a birdcage, a desk, dressers, and chair, lots of books, lots of clothing, a few kitchen knick-knacks, and that’s about it. The rest of the furnishing belongs to Peter, and will be going to New York with him. 

I’d already packed up all my personal luggage and hid it in the car/coat closet. My movers arrived towards the end of their two hour window. It was a father/son crew which has fantastic comedic potential jsyk. 

While the son got to work on my books, his dad helped me with my UAB. He had a scale and we weighed things as we went. 

A few things I learned: 1. Liquids can’t go in air baggage, even domestically; 2. No lighters anywhere; 3. Candles and storage don’t mix. 

These were all questionable items, I knew, but I decided to try and get my questions answered. So now I know, and now so do you!

Four hours later and my apartment was empty. I was happy to learn that 250 lbs goes much further than I thought. I was able to fit all my clothing and shoes, two pillows, a dozen books, board games, organizing supplies, nice kitchen knives, some (carefully packaged) electronics, and some other random things I of course now can’t remember into them. I even had 15 lbs left over at the end!

All in all, the stress about the move was way worse than the actual process, and now I can enjoy my last few days in Boston in a hotel without having to try and live without everything I’ve packed!

The Freetime Paradox

Have you ever noticed how when you have more time you get less done?

I’m not sure if that’s a universal thing, but for me, I’m waaaaay more productive when I’m working within time constraints. While I was still in school and had classes all the time? I was a get stuff done machine. Now that I’ve graduated and have spent the last three weeks with nothing on the schedule? Complete lump of uselessness.

Continue reading

T minus 12 days to A-100

It’s hard to believe that there are less than two weeks until I begin A-100. Less than one week before movers come and put everything into boxes and I move into a hotel. 10 days until I begin the drive from Boston to Arlington. 11 days until I move into my new apartment. In some ways these past few weeks, while I’ve been floating in the amorphous time between school ending and work beginning, have seem interminable; in others they’ve flown. The magnitude of this is still sinking in. I could be starting my career; this could be the last weird transition time I have in decades (with the exception of home leave, which is a lovely perk of Foreign Service life I’ll discuss in a few years when I get to take benefit of it).

So, with so little time remaining, am I ready? Let’s see… Continue reading

The First FS Challenge: Packing

With 19 days until I move to Arlington for my A-100, I’m preparing for my first challenge as a Foreign Service Officer (obviously not counting the application process): packing for my move.

So here’s the deal. Most of the time when I move I’ll get four categories of luggage 1) the stuff I bring on the plane with me, 2) the stuff that gets put on a plane to follow me ASAP (250 lbs, arriving ~2 weeks after I do), 3) the stuff that gets put on a boat to follow me (up to 7,200 lbs (WOW), arriving 1-3 months after I do), and 4) the stuff that stays in storage (whatever brings my personal possessions up to 18,000 lbs…the official cap on my consumerism). I’ll also have a good idea of how long I’m going to be wherever I’m going.

This first move is the one big exception from this rule. Continue reading

Graduation

Last Thursday, I graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), ending an intense year of study, and walking across the stage to get my Masters of Education. I can now officially use the title Ed.M (but I’m not going to, because how pretentious is that).

Which means that my time in Cambridge is officially drawing to a close. With my last Harvard thing checked off, I can now redirect my focus towards my impending move to Arlington, Virginia, and my onboarding with the Foreign Service. Over the next few weeks, I’ll write to fill you in on what all is going on with that process. And believe me, it’s a bit of a process.

Updates on Pack Out, Moving In, and the start of my sojourn as a Foreign Service Officer impending! Anything in particular that you want to know