Saturday, January 29, 2011


I am shocked, stunned, flabbergasted, surprised, but mostly thrilled to report that I am officially on the register!

Yes, I am still in disbelief that it could have happened so fast, but according to a letter I received today, I was added on to the political register on January 26th. And this whole week I was losing it as I made myself be patient and not call to check up on my security clearance. But apparently I am cleared, suitable, and an official candidate for a Foreign Service Officer position.

It's the weekend so I won't be able to get in touch with the office at State until Monday to find out my rank, so stay tuned.

A May class invite maybe? OMG.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's Next

Dear parents,

In order to avoid having this same conversation multiple times a week, I've decided to write up for you a handy guide on what will be happening next on my way to becoming a Foreign Service Officer.

1) Receive a top-secret security clearance: My file is currently in the adjudications stage, meaning that Diplomatic Security has uncovered all the raw information about me they need, and are now evaluating what they learned to decide whether they will grant me clearance.

2) Pass the final suitability review (FSR): After being cleared, my file is reviewed once more by State to allow them to make sure that I am, in fact, someone they want to be an FSO.

3) The register: Once it's determined that I am, in fact, suitable, I will be placed on the "register", or list of all other candidates seeking to be appointed to the FS as a political officer (all other 'cones' have separate registers, so I'm not competing directly against Public Diplomacy, Management, Economic, or Consular candidates). Place on the register is determined by score at the Oral Assessment (OA, mine = 5.5) and any bonus points (0.5 for Arabic). My best guess at the moment is that I will be in the top 10 people on the register.

4) The Call: Approximately two months before each training/orientation session for new FSOs (called A-100), invitations go out - this is called 'getting the call'.  This is the formal job offer from the Department of State.

5) A-100: Training begins! On the first day, I'll be sworn in and will technically become a State employee. A-100 lasts for 5 weeks.

6) Bidding: In the first or second week of A-100, all members of the class are given an identical list of all the posts that are available for our first tour. Using guidance from a career development officer, the language restrictions (I need to use my Arabic in one of my first two tours), and other considerations, I will 'bid' on the posts, ranking each as a high, medium, or low.

7) Flag day: Near the end of A-100 is the all-exciting Flag Day, the day on which first-tour assignments are given out.

8) And the training continues: Based on the results of flag day, I will be assigned to more technical and linguistic training following the official end of A-100.

9) Serve abroad as a Foreign Service Officer of the U.S. Department of State. 

Wow, that's a lot to do! I have no idea how long it will take to get to step 9, or even to step 2 at this point, but I know I'm ready to be there already!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Woot woot!

No more patience required (at least on the language test front)!!

"You passed the BEX Arabic (formal Std) language test on January 18, 2011."

Holler at my 6.0 on the register (when I get there)!!!

I will learn to be patient

Because apparently I suck at it. Despite the fact that my test wasn't a week ago until today, yesterday I e-mailed BEX in hopes of getting my results, and when that didn't turn fruitfull by lunch time I got on the phone. The person at FSI was out of the office, so I gave up on that for the day.

Today, I was back on the phone with FSI before 9am. No results yet, but they said that it usually takes a week, so I should try back again this afternoon. It's been 2 hours since I made that call, and I want to check back in already.

Yeah, I suck at this patience thing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

atakalam alugha alarabiya jayidan - insh'allah

(I speak Arabic well - I hope)

Today was Arabic test day, and all-in-all, I feel good.

I did some good prep over the weekend with my tutors, and felt much more comfortable, fluid, and ready to go. Good nights sleep was in order before the 9am test time.

Oh, if only it had been that easy. I wake up this morning to a blanket of snow and ice outside, and the news that the OPM has called a 2-hour delay for the federal government. So if the government usually opens at 8 and would today open at 10, I assume that my test will be canceled or delayed. Right? Unfortunately, there wasn't much I could figure out at 6:30 in the morning with no one yet in the offices to answer my calls. Do I go into work, prepare there, and try to call in at 9? Or stay at home, lazy relaxing morning, with some preping of course, for an 11?

So while I enjoyed my breakfast and some early morning talk TV, I repeatedly called FSI until Steve finally got into work. He was clearly flustered, trying to deal with all the chaos the weather had caused for them, and told me at 8:30 that he didn't know if my testers would be in or not. With the possibility that it would take place, I turn on some BBC Arabic to set the mood and get ready to go.

9am rolls around and what do you know, testers are in, set to go. I still don't really get why they came in when the rest of State and FSI was shut all morning, but I guess it has something to do with the fact that the people who are being tested aren't necessarily in DC, and changing the time last minute on a test-taker in Nairobi ain't so easy.

Anyways, the test itself was FAST. I couldn't believe it was already done when they said thanks, bye. We jumped into Arabic directly after some formalities & explanations, and it went from "hi how are you" to discussing the political crisis in Lebanon in about 60 seconds. Thank goodness for my tutors, who really helped me out by practicing discussing current events over the past few weeks. After we conversed about political events for a few minutes, the English speaking observer informed me that I would now be asked to speak "at length" on a topic. That's fine, except for instead of choosing a nice easy topic like Sudanese refugees or climate change, I get asked about a certain domestic issue for which I don't have the most essential vocabulary. After explaining in Arabic that I unfortunately did not know the word for said topic, and was told to try my best, I went off on a bit of a ramble, substituting the "this issue" in for the specific words that I lacked. I managed to quickly divert my monologue down a path that let me talk about something I felt more comfortable with, but was still related. Hopefully this won't count against me, because I was still speaking about a larger issue related to what they wanted to hear, was using Arabic, and had clearly explained that I lacked a few words that had led to the diversion.

So I feel good about the test overall. I think I spoke coherently and relatively fluently, and got to use a lot of advanced vocabulary to express some interesting ideas on relatively specific topics. Insh'allah they were happy with it- but I have to wait a week to find out!

I'm really feel like I'm getting to be an expert in the art of waiting (I didn't say patiently...)

Ila liqa (Till next time...)

Monday, January 10, 2011


Called up customer service for DS today and sometime between the 27th of December and now my case entered adjudication. While I know that adjudicationville can be a bit of a black hole, I'm really glad to hear that I'm on to the next step. I'm sure this process will take some time as they'll have to look at my red flags, but at least they're finally looking at those issues and not just compiling information.

As always, trying not to get my hopes too high about how fast this might get done, but I like the chance to be a little optimistic with news like this!