Like most students majoring in International Studies, I want to work for the State Department when I graduate. While the recent election of human Cheeto has slightly changed my outlook, I am still very much determined to work in the Foreign Service for a period of life. So, when I heard that OU’s Diplomat-In-Residence Rob Andrew was hosting a session on careers in American diplomacy for the Honors Student Association, I decided that it would be a great chance to learn more about the potential careers available to eventual graduates.
The Diplomat, as we took to calling him, talked at length about the Consular Fellows Program, which is one of the newest ways that the State Department is attempting to recruit students out of college. While the mechanics were interesting, what I found even more fascinating was the broad range of powers given to these officers. According to the Diplomat, these Fellows are primarily concerned with visa applications, which they can approve or deny entirely at their own discretion. If I’d had more time, I would’ve asked him why that was… seems like a lot of power to put in a 20-something’s hands. The Diplomat also chatted about the foreign language requirements necessary, and made a point to point out that many of the languages that we were studying (ie. French, German, etc) were actually not at all privileged in the Consular Fellows program, and that if we wanted a job in that field, we should start studying a “critical” language (Arabic, Russian, Chinese). That took the wind out of a lot of our sails.
The Diplomat concluded our hour-long conversation with a discussion of his own time as a diplomat. He had a couple particularly memorable stories… specifically, he told us a somewhat tragic and hilarious story about how he had to ship his cat to his new home in Europe during one assignment. He also talked about how tough life can be for young, and middle-aged, foreign service officers, especially with families. He emphasized that, in order to commit to a career with the State Department, especially in the early years, one needs to consider what they’re willing to give up in order to travel the world. For many of us, it was a pretty substantial sum of emotional capital.