Language Training

Language Training

After you get your assignment, it’s often time to learn a new language. In my case, that means 24 weeks of Brazilian Portuguese.

Coming in with Japanese, I was both a little concerned and cautiously optimistic about this process. Portuguese is supposedly much easier than Japanese, but it’s not a romance language, so the grammar will be completely new to me. I won’t have the step up that French, Italian, and Spanish speakers have.

So how does it go? Continue reading

Brasilia!

There’s a reason so many foreign service blogs end somewhere in the middle of A-100. First of all, it’s intense. You’re putting in a lot of hours, and it’s hard to absorb all the information being thrown at you. Literally, you’re in for 6 weeks of full time enculturation and job familiarization. Extremely important, but also overwhelming.

Second, you realize how hard it is to talk about the foreign service with people who aren’t already exposed to it in some way. So the above 6 weeks of enculturation…there’s so much ground to cover.

The six weeks of A-100 fly by, and at the end of the 5th, I found out where I’ll be spending my first two year tour: Brasilia, Brazil!

Am I surprised? Yes
Am I excited? Yes

Honestly, I didn’t know much about Brazil when I was assigned it, and it hadn’t been expecting it, but I think I got so lucky. It’ll be a great post for my dog, I get to learn the language, and I’m going to see a part of the world I’ve never been before. And Brazil looks beautiful!

Immediately following A-100 I had two weeks of Area Studies, when I looked intensely at the Western Hemisphere, and then, after a few weeks of online classes, I began Portuguese! The Foreign Service prides itself on its language programs, and I am excited to get to take advantage of them this early inĀ  my career. Updates on Portuguese to come!

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