Monday, December 27, 2010

"Your investigation is currently pending in the investigative stage"

Today is target completion day, and it seems that DS has missed the mark. C'est la vie. Honestly, I'll be happy if my investigation is done by January 27th. It's just hard not to want things to move quickly and be foolishly optimistic about it getting done soon.

I've also probably managed to really slow things down. Part of the process requires you list all of your international travel, including dates, companions, itinerary, etc. I've done a lot of traveling in my life- so recalling on the trips, while a fun walk down memory lane, was a bit more difficult than I had expected. A couple days after my interview with DS, I realized I had forgotten about my Christmas visit to Ireland last year. Today, I realized that a friend and I had gone up to Vancouver for a few days in college. Despite the amount I enjoy calling that country up there "America Junior", it is, technically, not part of our country and therefore should have been on my international trips list. I just emailed my investigator to let him know, and who knows how much delay this has caused. Luckily, the friend that I went up there with was one of my contacts and was interviewed by DC already. My only worry is inconsistency: either she told them about it months ago and it seems like I was hiding it, or now I've told them about something she didn't mention and it reduces her credibility. I hope they realized that "Canada" just really isn't that exciting to two girls who spent high school in Europe and, therefore, they are perfectly justified in forgetting about it entirely, honestly.

So we'll see. Hopefully it doesn't add tooo much time to the investigation. Updates will continue to follow!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

La atakalam alugha alarabiya

My Arabic phone test is officially scheduled: January 18th.

While I've always been quite confident in my Arabic abilities for daily communication, this test is going to me in Modern Standard dialect, which I haven't used orally since my 4 weeks of language classes in Damascus in 2008. While my Syrian dialect will of course be helpful (and, I've heard that using bits of it where my standard fails will be okay), I'm still worried about being able to perform at the level required for a pass.

I've decided to hunt for a tutor to get some refresher practice before the big day. I've been doing some online research about tutors over skype: not only would this be cost-effective, but its would be the best simulation of the actual test day environment being over the phone without any visual cues. I'm also considering asking the husband of a work colleague of mine to help me out; apparently, he speaks excellent formal Arabic.

So the next few weeks will be busy work work, holidays, and Arabic. I'm glad, because I think I'm into a holding pattern in terms of clearance now. I have been getting some questions about clarifying information, but all in all it seems like my role in the process is done. I'm hoping that it goes smoothly. The target clearance date of 12/27 is fast approaching, inshallah they will meet it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Worldwide Available

It's official: I'm medically worldwide available as of 12/7/2010.

Baghdad here I come.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vicarious blog life

To help the wait to FS land go faster, I've started following several blogs of present and future FSOs. (Hi guys!). It's made it incredibly exciting to hear about the life I could be living in the future, and fun to hear about the journeys others have taken to get there.

Found a good post today about the world of security clearances here. Well said!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Your case is in the queue and will be assigned for review today

I've finally been able to turn in everything required for my medical clearance, and according the them my case will be assigned for review today. What in the world that means I can't say, but it sounds like progress, right?

In other news, I have an MA! That's going to make interning at NDI that much better, since now I can get a raise!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I'm especially thankful for all my wonderful friends that have been giving their time to Diplomatic Security interviews recently!

Two months to the day after my OA, I finally had my personal interview with diplomatic security on Tuesday. Had lots of homework afterwords-- that's my fault for doing a pretty crappy job of my SF-86. Need to get lots of contact information for acquaintances sent to the investigator, provide explanations of certain things, etc. Hopefully it'll all go quickly from here-- I would be incredibly thankful for that!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

And the investigation continues

The security investigation is clearly well underway now. Several more of my contacts have done interviews and finally, finally, I heard from my investigator regarding the personal interview I have to do. It's going to be held on Tuesday at a location in Northern Virginia. I'm so glad to be getting there, it'll be nice to be past another hurdle and get that done!

I've been pretty unimpressed with the coordination among everyone doing my investigation, however. A few days ago, I received a call from an investigator working in my college's town. He seemed to have a tough time understanding the information I had on my SF-86 pertaining to that era in my life, and in the end I had to google the various departments at the school with which I was affiliated to give him the phone numbers. You would think that if a grant was from a specific office, he could as well google the office's name and look it up. Granted, I did a pretty haphazard job with my SF-86 (didn't realize how long it was when I started it a day before my OA and was so sure I wouldn't pass that I thought it sort of irrelevant), so I may have not provided sufficient contact details which were originally my responsibility.

Also, I've spent the better part of today re-typing details of all my foreign travel and foreign contacts. After passing the OA, the diplomatic security agent with whom I met gave me some hard copy form templates to fill in with information about my foreign travel and any foreign associates I have. He also mentioned that I could digitize the form and then e-mail it in. Feeling all spiffy, I made a multi-page excel spreadsheet and filled it all out there. I e-mail it to securityclearnace[at] and was told it would be added to my file. When I heard from my investigator, however, it turns out that he has his own form/template, and I have to use that. At least it was already digital so I could do a lot of copying and pasting, but again, you'd think there would be some way to streamline this process, like State creating a digital template that all investigators would employ.

This complaining aside, I'm really happy that DS has been doing its job. Investigators in Albany, Colorado, Atlanta, and NC have all done their bits and hopefully my file is being completed as scheduled.

I'm trying not to fantasize too much about having my clearance in early spring, but it's hard not to. In the meantime, I'm continuing my internship with NDI and have agreed to stay on until May 31. In my perfect world, I have my clearance in February and get an invitation in March to a June class. Stop laughing. Yes, I know it's as fantastical as fantasies get, but I think I might just let myself dream a little bit more for now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Under investigation!

I never thought I would be happy, let alone this happy, to be under investigation by the federal government. But upon getting a voice mail from a diplomatic security investigator early in the week I *may* have done a happy jig in the office.

Knowing how long this whole process could take, I'm pumped that it's officially underway and people are doing their work on my file. So far three of my references have been contacted, two have already done their interviews.

I'm getting nervous, of course, about one little red-flag item I have on my record. It's nothing hidden, I was completely honest about my history in my file, but being completely honest means not hiding the stupidly idiotic and really minor things that may have occurred in college. Hopefully the adjudications board will be able to look at the incident in light of the bigger picture and not have a problem with it, but I'm sure it's going to add time to the process.

Can't do anything about that one now, so time to sit back and be investigated!

Friday, October 29, 2010

And so it begins

After 5 weeks of waiting since my OA, my file has officially been opened with Diplomatic Security. I'm not entirely sure what this means, or what they were doing before- you would think simply opening a file could be done immediately upon learning there's someone who will need to be investigate- but I'm glad to see some movement on that front. I was given a "target completing date" of 12/27/10, which is standard DS process: 60 days from opening the file. My scientific and thorough research of yahoo groups have led be to conclude that the chances of actually meeting this target date are incredibly slim, but at least I know that in the next couple months they will be finally working on my case.

I'm still waiting to be contacted for the first interview. Hopefully this will happen sometime in the next week or two.

I just learned that two friends of mine will be starting A-100 in January, and I'm super excited and jealous. It's fabulous to see them moving on to this stage, and both of them took about 8/9 months from OA to A-100. If I could meet that timetable I would be stoked!

So keep fingers crossed that I get a speedy clearance and follow in their footsteps!

Monday, October 11, 2010

From the A-100 yahoo group

A helpful guide for understanding the process of becoming a foreign service office. Click on the image to enlarge.

Timeline so far

So how long did it take me to get here? Months.

I decided to take the Foreign Service written exam in early March 2010. By the end of March, I had heard that I passed. Hurrah!

My personal narratives were due in April. I found out I passed this, by getting my invitation to the oral assessment, in June.

My MA dissertation was due on the 15th of September, so I made sure to schedule my OA after that. On Sept 23rd, I took and passed the OA.

Conditional offer of employment!

Now just need to wait, and wait, and wait, while my security and medical clearances get processed.

I'm hoping to be on the register by mid-2011 and called for A-100 before the end of 2011, though I know that may be a bit optimistic, given the amount of time my clearance is going to take with all the foreign travel I've done. But cross your fingers for me!
Usually I'm not much of a fan of people who use blogs as personal diaries to tell the world what they did each day. Yet here I am, about to do almost just that.

This blog is going to document my path towards becoming a Foreign Service Office for my own reference and for anyone else interested in learning what I'm going to or what to expect in their own journey to JO status.

Obviously, I am not yet a part of the Foreign Service, employed by the State Department, or in any other official capacity a part of the US government. This is a purely personal blog to reflect my own experience with this process.