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Thread: Consulates and foreign service

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Consulates and foreign service

    Ever wonder what it'd be like to be a foreign service officer and work in an embassy or consulate in another country?

    What country would you choose?

    I wonder what a typical work day is like for people that work in embassies? (yeah yeah, it depends on which job) Based on what you see in movies and hear in the news, it seems like the lion's share of work would revolve around dealing with nationals that get themselves into legal trouble overseas - crazy college kids that get themselves busted for posession in Turkey or Mexico and the like.
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    Last edited by Maister; 27 Jun 2013 at 11:21 AM.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Are you reading them or doing the audio versions?



    Pfff... let me know when the Prince of Darkness is 666 posts from the Clubbe.
    I'm reading them, slowly. I never seem to follow as well with audio books.

    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Ever wonder what it'd be like to be a foreign service officer and work in an embassy or consulate in another country?

    What country would you choose?

    I wonder what a typical work day is like for people that work in embassies? (yeah yeah, it depends on which job) Based on what you see in movies and hear in the news, it seems like the lion's share of work would revolve around dealing with nationals that get themselves into legal trouble overseas - crazy college kids that get themselves busted for posession in Turkey or Mexico and the like.
    If I can only pick one, I'd go for Greece, lot's of fun there. I'd also have to go for a stint in one of the French Caribbean islands and of course any country in Europe (except Angola) would be fun, but those are obvious and I can't forget Ausie land. I wouldn't mind Turkey, although I think it would be a harder job, it's a fun country and the Turks know how to party (long story). The Black Sea countries are fun too, another trip to Bulgaria would be nice.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    If I can only pick one, I'd go for Greece, lot's of fun there. I'd also have to go for a stint in one of the French Caribbean islands and of course any country in Europe (except Angola) would be fun, but those are obvious and I can't forget Ausie land. I wouldn't mind Turkey, although I think it would be a harder job, it's a fun country and the Turks know how to party (long story). The Black Sea countries are fun too, another trip to Bulgaria would be nice.
    I wonder if it is still fun times in Greece now that they're going through an economic crisis with austerity measures imposed upon them by the EU.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    I'm reading them, slowly. I never seem to follow as well with audio books.



    If I can only pick one, I'd go for Greece, lot's of fun there. I'd also have to go for a stint in one of the French Caribbean islands and of course any country in Europe (except Angola) would be fun, but those are obvious and I can't forget Ausie land. I wouldn't mind Turkey, although I think it would be a harder job, it's a fun country and the Turks know how to party (long story). The Black Sea countries are fun too, another trip to Bulgaria would be nice.
    Plus, they make great Coneys.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Ever wonder what it'd be like to be a foreign service officer and work in an embassy or consulate in another country?

    What country would you choose?

    I wonder what a typical work day is like for people that work in embassies? (yeah yeah, it depends on which job) Based on what you see in movies and hear in the news, it seems like the lion's share of work would revolve around dealing with nationals that get themselves into legal trouble overseas - crazy college kids that get themselves busted for posession in Turkey or Mexico and the like.
    When I was a Lance Corporal in the Marines in Okinawa I worked on what was called the "Admin Assist" team traveling to U.S. embassies in eastern Asia and auditing service record books and working on personnel issues of the Marines in those embassies. The Marine Corps detachments at big embassies like Seoul, Tokyo, or Manila could be more than 100 possibly with a couple admin folks while places like Kuala Lumpur, Yangoon, Vientiane, or Port Moresby may have a dozen permanent Marines and no real administrative staff. After traveling to various embassies for about a week each month for almost a year, I decided I wanted to go on to Marine Security Guard duty and work at the embassies. The life of the Marines seemed pretty relatively easy with the main role being the provision of security inside the building and just roving around the grounds and occasionally doing some drills (security at the gates (if there were proper gates) was generally done by local police or private security firms). I filled out the appropriate paperwork, passed the physicals and background checks, but after thinking about it a bit more, backed out before I had to report to training.

    You have to take the bad before you get the opportunity to even think about the good with Marine Security Guard duty. Once the duty begins, it is for a minimum of three years and your first year and a half and, unless you have some special foreign language skills, it is always hardship station (think poor and isolated: Sana'a, Tashkent, Ouagadougou, Male, Nouakchott, Kolonia...). Unless you are at least a Staff Sergeant you are forbidden to bring family with you or even be married, and opportunities for leave are very limited if you are at a station with only a few Marines. The allure of coming back to the States beat out the fear of getting sent to Ulaanbaatar for 18 months and I decided to pass up working at the embassies.

    I never really had much interaction with the foreign service folks at the embassies except at places like Port Moresby where there was NEVER anything going on and not many people in general. Those foreign service agents seemed to be living the good life... they had their families and they were in a relatively peaceful place at a relatively peaceful time. No spy stuff going on and not many American tourists to deal with. Bigger places like Bangkok and Tokyo seemed to be busy 24/7 and the staff didn't seem to have much time to hang out a few Marines who were only going to be there a couple of days anyway.

    If I could have picked a country to work in, it probably would have been something in Europe like Belgium or Switzerland. There is a lot of history, good beer, pretty scenery, and many other places nearby to travel to.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  6. #6
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Most folks I suspect would choose to serve in countries where they would otherwise be tourists but I'm doubtful the experience would quite meet expectations.

    Expectation of places where one spends their time during foreign service:



    more likely reality:

    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    You have to take the bad before you get the opportunity to even think about the good with Marine Security Guard duty. Once the duty begins, it is for a minimum of three years and your first year and a half and, unless you have some special foreign language skills, it is always hardship station (think poor and isolated: Sana'a, Tashkent, Ouagadougou, Male, Nouakchott, Kolonia...). Unless you are at least a Staff Sergeant you are forbidden to bring family with you or even be married, and opportunities for leave are very limited if you are at a station with only a few Marines. The allure of coming back to the States beat out the fear of getting sent to Ulaanbaatar for 18 months and I decided to pass up working at the embassies.
    One of my cousins was a Marine Security Guard at the embassy in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) when the U.S. went into Afghanistan...as he put it, "the pucker factor was kinda high for a few days."
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    I looked into taking the foreign service exam before I finished my masters and after reading a few books on where you go and what you do I passed. Too many posts are hardship so your family has to stay back in the states or their is no proper school so you have to send your child to a boarding school. Some of the work seemed very interesting but dealing with disgruntled tourists who lost their passport or got in trouble with the locals did not seem I would enjoy.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  9. #9
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I looked into and took the first round of exams for the Foreign Service a few years ago. While I passed the written exam, I was not asked to move forward to the next round. In the interim (as I was anticipating applying again – many people apply numerous times before advancing), my local career took some unexpected turns and so I am pretty ensconced here at this point.

    I read a LOT of information about what this experience is like and certainly had no illusions about the hardships involved before applying. Currently, every new Foreign Service Officer can expect to do at least one stint in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq. Because of the instability of these areas, these are usually 1 year assignments. Probably wouldn’t be your first assignment, but maybe the second. After that, you have more latitude in deciding where to go apparently. But prior to that, THEY decide where you go and, generally, officers move to a new country every 2 years. Unless you get promoted to being an Ambassador or other higher level position where you may stay in one country for a longer time.

    I have a friend from high school who is a Foreign Service Specialist. In fact, he was recently in charge of embassy security in Pakistan which was a pretty intense experience. I had a nice phone chat with him about all of this and it was all very enlightening. I recommend trying to have a personal frank discussion with an FS Officer if you are considering this. Its not for everyone.

    Foreign Service also seems to be more dangerous right now than it has been in past eras. That definitely gave me pause, but I was strangely patriotic about it all as I was applying. There are different tracks (or “cones”) one applies for as well and anyone considering applying should research carefully what each entails. For me, though the Public Diplomacy arena was attractive, I ultimately felt that it would really take me away from my family more (and already its taxing on the family experience). So, I applied within the Consular track. Day to day, these folks deal with a lot of applications to come to the US and also provide support to Americans travelling abroad (including things like what happens when someone dies abroad? What if an American is arrested abroad?) But they also get to interact more with regular local people and its more or less 9-5, special emergencies and arrests by Turkish prisons notwithstanding. This means more time with the family and more time out and about. Also, the diplomatic folks are much more in the public eye and so they have to more careful about what they do and say when out and about. But this is the pool from which Ambassadors are sometimes chosen, so if that is one’s objective, it’s the way to go. The other cones are: Economic Affairs, Management Affairs and Political Affairs.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmmm Good Question......

    This One can barely speak English.....strike one......I don't have an Ivy League Degree...Strike Two.....I don't have "connections" at the State Department.....strike three......so it won't happen....

    Little known fact, this ONE use to work in the Office of Foreign Missions with the US State Department back during the summers of 89 and 90 as a summer Admin. Asst. Got to meet ambassadors, DCM's and many diplomats from Japan, Saudi Arabia and Central African Republic (because they wouldn't pay for auto insurance for their diplomats). Had a nice lunch at the Saudi embassy too. I heard so many great stories about defections and diplomatic postings all over the world.

    BUT IF IT DID:

    As ambassador- Australia
    As a diplomat- Kenya or Brazil

    Oh and I took the Foreign Service Exam twice......both times I scored somewhere between a monkey and a genius!
    Skilled Adoxographer

  11. #11
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    My best friend works for the IRS in DC and helps negotiate tax treaties with foreign countries. He says that in DC a lot of the foreign embassies host networking events and mixers for their young, single foreign nationals working in the DC area. Apparently Canada and Germany are always throwing the best parties and the Danish embassy always has the best looking girls at the parties.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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