On to the next phase

Last Friday, our initial orientation class ended. There was a ceremony at the State Department main building, where we ceremoniously took the oath of office again. It was a lot more glamorous than our initial swearing in, which took place on the very first day that we reported for duty.

Why did we have to get sworn in twice? Well, we didn’t. It was necessary that we get sworn in on the very first day, because according to the Constitution, we could not officially be employees of the government until we took the oath. In other words, we could not get paid until we took the oath. It made a lot more sense for us to get sworn in right away. Completing the orientation training program was a milestone, so it also made sense to have a ceremony marking the occasion. That’s why we took the oath a second time.

Incidentally, the oath that we took is the same one that the President and members of the military take. It is constitutionally required, so the oath is largely the same for every federal government employee.

To be perfectly honest, the ceremony was really more of a photo op than anything else. Still, it was a lot of fun, the venue was very nice, and I’m glad that we did it.

From now on, the 87 people in my cohort are going in different directions. Some people are going to posts that have language requirements, and they don’t yet speak the languages. They will begin language training on Monday. The length of their language training depends on the difficulty of the language. Some will be in language training for six months, some 10 months, some people will be in training for 11 months. While they are in language training, their job is to learn language. They will be in class for six hours a day, plus homework. Very intensive language training. The requirement is that they will be able to conduct business in the language when they arrive at post. Gone are the days that we demanded everybody speak English, and relied on interpreters to help us interact with the host country government. Modern American diplomats conduct diplomacy in the language of the country where they are posted. This is a very very very good policy, in my opinion.

A few people are going to posts in English speaking countries. They obviously do not need language training. Several other people, myself included, are going to posts where we already speak the language. Since we do not need language training, we will begin the next phase of training. This phase will train us to be consular officers. To be honest, I am not yet sure what this training will entail. I know that it is a six-week program, so there must be a lot to learn. Beyond that, I am not at all sure I know what to expect. As usual, I will have to be flexible, and expect the unexpected.

This has been a very interesting adventure so far. There is much more to come, I’m sure.

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