Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back at Hogwarts!

Let me first give full credit to my OMS pal for naming FSI "Hogwarts" (and you know who you are, Foreign Obsession!). She got it exactly right. I'm back at FSI for a one-week course for Front Office OMSes and it's just like when I left it. Except that it's 35 degrees and there is half the population here and absolutely no one having lunch out on the patios. The same cafeteria, same cashiers, same shuttle buses, same jockeying for an open computer before class - yet so much has changed in my life in these past six months.

When I was here last I was all questions about what my first post would be like: the job, the office, the coworkers, the boss, the apartment, the city, the country, how Tim would like it, how the cats would adapt etc... and now I have the answers, the images, the memories already beginning to be stored. I have the names and faces of new friends and an idea about what the heck they're talking about during training.

I'm very excited to be here, however. While I still am hoping for a chance at switching over to being a Consular Officer, if that doesn't come to pass, I really want to do the best job I can as an OMS and that will probably involve Front Office assignments or at least subbing when needed. (Oh - I should explain - Front Office refers to the Chief of Mission's office, which means the Ambassador, the Deputy Chief of Mission or the Consul General if one is not in an embassy.) It's a very different assignment from my current one, and so I am excited to have this chance to learn about it.

But also being here lets me do a few other things: meet other OMSes (and for the first time I'm one of the youngest in the group!) and hear about their assignments from Florida to DC to Where-ever-istan. It also lets me refill my enthusiasm for the job. Not that I'm unenthusiastic IN the actual job, but I find that learning about the possibilities - of which they seem to be limitless - helps me stay motivated and excited about what's coming next. It's not just me; it's endemic in the life and the career. I'm only six months in to my first post and already catch myself thinking about what this summer's bid list will look like. My next assignment will be "directed" as this first one was, and so extra training to boost my skills may help me land a good one.

Or... there's always the Consular Officer option. That excites me even more, and to make that a reality I just need to boost my standing on the hiring register by passing a Spanish language test. "Just" is a light word for a Really Big Deal (for me that is). My language skills have, well, changed. I can't say they're worse, as I've added vocabulary for sure, but they are not moving at the speed they were when I was in dedicated language training. It'll be quite a stretch to pass the language phone test at this point.

Which brings me back to FSI:
I've seen a few familiar faces in the hallways, people I've been seeing since March. Which means I'm seeing people who have dedicated nearly a year to their language training. January seems to be full of folks who over-winter in Chinese or Russian, or other languages that take that long to learn. (Maybe it's just that everyone is bundled up that makes me think they're not here to learn Spanish or Portuguese?) By possibly making the switch to Consular, I'd be sent to the back of the line and back to taking two more directed assignments and the very real chance of being sent to somewhere where I'd need ten months of Arabic or Estonian or Tajik or whatever. And then I'd be here to watch the seasons change and the new faces come and go, come and go. Meeting people only to watch them ship out to post and then come back for a week of training, as I have done.

It's an interesting life, this. Opportunites abound and I'm happy to be here for ride.


  1. I have heard that it is hard to get approved for training that you have to travel for. Since you have been chosen, do you have any tips on getting approved for OMS training. Especially in your first tour and first post! Congrats!!

  2. Hello JKO,
    Yes, I believe I was very fortunate to have training and travel approved; however, it's not rare. Many of my classmates have been approved for training either back at FSI or at regional conferences, like the OMS Conference in Bangkok this past summer/fall. I think it depends on how much travel funds post has, or if FSI can help with the per diem costs. The Career Development Officer is a good resource on this topic, too. My supervisor is supportive and encouraging and the timing worked out well. Often you will be asked to tie the training to your R&R so they only pay one airfare, which makes sense. And they would rather send you to training that is required for your position, rather than just "nice to have" (like MS certification training that my friends have taken advantage of).