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  • Emily 9:20 pm on April 27, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , Foreign Service, Foreign Service Officer Test, ,   

    On The Outside Looking In 

    Turning in my badge was difficult.  For the past three months, it has been my key to a door I’ve been itching to open for years.  Unlike “unsecured” workplaces, I can’t just walk in and say hi whenever I want.  I need to be invited, approved, and escorted.  Now that my internship is over, I’m an outsider.

    I know that sounds incredibly dramatic, but I was sad to leave my office.  The people are incredible, both in my office, and the foreign service officers passing through for training.  I made some great connections.  Being at the Foreign Service Institute, I learned a lot about myself and about how I proceed from here.  Although I am excited to catch up on sleep and go back to being a student for a few weeks.

    I plan to take the Foreign Service Officer Test this summer.  If I pass, my training would start shortly after graduation next year.  In the mean time, I plan to intern in the private sector and on the Hill so that I can have something to compare my first internship to.  This was an incredible experience, and I loved every minute!

  • Emily 2:37 am on April 20, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: Civil Service, Foreign Service, , , Structure   

    Wait, What is the State Department really? 

    Let me start by saying very few writers, journalists, reporters, or authors have undertaken the insane task of trying to describe the U.S. Department of State in the format of a concise and easy-to-read article.  In fact, I think it might just be impossible, and for good reason. The State Department is incredibly unique in that it is one of the largest bureaucracies in the world.  You can find people that work on the drug trade through Mexico, promoting women’s rights, and painting the walls of the embassies all over the world, and they all work for the same “company.”  There are offices within branches within divisions and they all fall under the general title of “State Department.”

    And one cannot simply draw a chart and be done with it.  For one thing, that would be a very large chart.  For another, the State Department is like a living organism.  It grows and shrinks to meet the needs of the federal government.  A few weeks ago, I went to an “intern briefing” with a handful of interns from a few different offices.  We were “briefed” on the structure of the State Department.  One of the first slides of the presentation was a chart, which the speaker quickly prefaced with, “Ok, this is out of date.  We’ve asked Administration to create another one and you would not believe the complicated responses we received.”

    The best description of the Department of State can be found in two places; on the State.gov website (yes, that chart is out of date too).

    The State.gov site provides the Department’s Official Mission Statement: “Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”

    This may not be true of all departments, but this statement definitely sets the tone for the atmosphere of where I work and the Foreign Service Institute.

    A more recent interpretation of this statement outlines the main functions of the department.  Those functions are:

    •       Advising presidents on the ends and means of U.S. foreign policy
    •       Gathering and sharing information about recent developments overseas
    •       Providing representation and services to U.S. Citizens abroad
    •       Regulating and managing foreign travel to the United States
    •       Investigating solutions to transnational problems such as environmental decay, large-scale poverty, and weapons proliferation

    These are some pretty large goals for a single organization to take on, but lead by the Secretary of State, the Department does it.

    In general, everyone falls under two categories; Civil Service and Foreign Service.  The civil service is mostly based in the US, primarily in Washington, while the foreign service is based around the world.  My office is a little unique because it falls under the Foreign Service Institute.  These people are based in Washington as civil service, but they provide direct support to the Foreign Service Officers who must attend classes and trainings periodically.  The paradox is very interesting, and it’s an incredible learning experience.  By interacting with both Civil and Foreign Service, I get a pretty good sense of how my office fits into the big picture of the State Department.

    People in the Department, and probably in Government everywhere, are very proud of what they do and the mission they serve, so I’ll finish this post with a little fact from that briefing meeting that I learned.

    When you ask the general public what percentage of the national budget goes to the State Department, the average answer is around 20%. When you ask them what it should be, they say around 10%.  The actual State Department budget is one tenth of one percent of the federal budget.  And they do some incredible things with that little sliver of a percentage.

    • John Charles 3:47 pm on April 23, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Glad that you are getting a good view of State by being at FSI, Emily. It really is incredible to think about how broad a range of activities the agency undertakes. I look forward to seeing the updated organizational chart!

  • Emily 11:45 pm on March 7, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , Foreign Service, , , U.S. Department of State   

    Let the Bureaucracy Begin! 

    Hello! My name is Emily and this is my first post for the AU Intern Blog.

    I’m a junior in SIS and this semester I am geting a sneak peak at the real world. I’m interning at the US Department of State in the Foreign Service Institute, 38 hours a week, and taking classes in the evenings. Having never had an internship before, I was a little unsure of what I had gotten myself into.

    I was supposed to attend the State Department Intern Orientation on a Monday, but they emailed us that Sunday night and told us that freezing rain was in the forecast, so Orientation was pushed to Tuesday. Of course, since this is the Federal Government, that messed everything up. Instead of one day of orientation, I had three.

    I work at the Foreign Service Campus outside of Arlington, but my Orientation was at the main building downtown. There are four entrances to the main building. We had specific instructions to go to entrence #2. The guard at entrence #2 told the crowd of interns that had gathered to go to entrence #1. When we got to entrence #1, they told us to go to entrence #2. We ended up being held in the loby of entrence #1 until someone from the orientation program came to claim us… at entrence #2. By the time we all got into the building, we were 20 minutes late. Now, I’m a pretty punctual person, so being late for my first day would have normally been very stressful. Surprisingly, the bothersome bureaucracy was very calming. I laughed at the all-too-true stereotype and relaxed.

    For information on the State Department Internship Program, click here!

    • Francine Blume 1:15 pm on March 8, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hope things go more smoothly from here on out! How did you get your internship? And what exactly will you be doing?

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