Monday, February 6, 2017

So You Want to Learn About the State Department...

I've heard from enough loved ones and strangers who are interested in the Department of State (and especially the Foreign Service) to know that most Americans aren't aware of what State does or how it's relevant to them or what their representatives abroad are doing.

This is a problem. After all, diplomats serve the American people! I thought I'd contribute a small part and offer some recommendations for further learning on the State Department and the Foreign Service (not designed just for interested applicants). Here are a few of my favorite resources:

  • State by State: I was blown away by how my home state (Virginia) benefitted so directly in so many ways from the State Department's work (for only about a 1% federal budget investment). Find out what State is doing for your state here:
  • America's Other Army by Nicholas Kralev: This book is simply fantastic. It's written by a journalist and expert on international affairs, who writes fairly and candidly about the positives and negatives of the Foreign Service using the real stories of American diplomats.
  • Inside a U.S. Embassy by Shawn Dorman (Ed.): I love how this book introduces a wider range of Foreign Service roles that the average citizen might not think of when hearing the word "diplomat." It also includes day-in-the-life accounts, crisis stories, and details about the Foreign Service application process. All of these can help you understand what your taxpayer dollars are supporting and what (insanely) varied responsibilities all fall under the umbrella of American embassies and consulates.
  • Discover Diplomacy: State now has a cute web portal for "Diplomacy 101" on its "Discover Diplomacy" site. You can get short answers to FAQs about diplomacy and the State Department here:
  • U.S. Diplomacy Center: Okay, this one is kind of cheating, because technically the U.S. Diplomacy Center is not yet open. Nevertheless, the Diplomacy Center will be a museum and education center housed in the Department of State in Washington, DC where visitors can learn all about American diplomacy through interactive exhibits, artifacts, roleplays, and more. If you're a museum nerd like me, this will probably make you giddy! (Hence, I included it in the list even though it's not quite open yet.) You can get Diplomacy Center updates and access to online resources here:

I know those things helped me before starting this crazy journey, but I also love to share them with family and friends. I hope that quick list was useful for you, too. :)

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