Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Future with the Foreign Service? A Student Perspective

A Future with the Foreign Service?
Morgan Forrey is currently a graduate student at Seattle University for Student Development Administration. She is interning this Fall with Career Services in the Jackson School of International Studies.

Spring Semester of my senior year I was just back from four months in Norway studying a Scandinavian approach to democracy and development. I was a Public Relations major with a new charge to pursue all careers international. Where to go from here? Graduation loomed and life became a bit overwhelming. There were so many possibilities. I found myself asking which direction to choose and what steps would make the most sense. I battled my diverse array of interests as I investigated the possibility of the Peace Corps, teaching English, and the Foreign Service Exam. But I had trouble following through on any of these. I felt too tied down to one line of work and one life style. I chose a path through PR and surprisingly I am now pursuing a Masters in Education, but life abroad and the Foreign Service still sits at the back of my mind. I often wonder…did I miss my chance?

In November the Jackson School and the Evans School co-sponsored a panel with three accomplished Foreign Service officers to talk about their choices and experiences. Ambassador Darryl Johnson described his time as the Ambassador to the Philippines and Thailand and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Ruth Kurzbauer spoke of the breadth of positions she held from Cultural Affairs to her role as Vice Consul in Toronto, Canada. Finally, Philip Wall spoke of his educational path through the Jackson School to eventually work in Economics track for the Foreign Service. Their stories illustrated three distinctive paths to success within international government work. Not all their choices were traditional and yet their meaningful service to the international community still included the Foreign Service. It was clear that the possibility of Federal service abroad was not completely lost! Uniquely, I enjoyed hearing of Ms. Kurzbauer’s journey from musician to public servant. I realized my time as an educator could be as impactful to a career in the Foreign Service as Ms. Kurzbauer’s knowledge of the arts has been. The Foreign Service, after all, sends our most qualified representatives of American culture and society abroad.

As I am approaching yet another graduation date, I find some of those old uncertainties and fears about the next steps after school returning. The insights of our three guests have reminded me that I do not need to have the rest of my life figured out in order to make a difference in international affairs. In fact, I learned that applications for the Foreign Service are accepted for individuals between the ages of 20 and 59. I have 30 more years to consider my place as a public servant. Perhaps I am still unsure about what to do next, and perhaps my next steps will not be direct paths to the Foreign Service. What is important is that I am intentional about the work I choose to do, that I remember my interest and need to affect change through global initiatives. A career in the Foreign Service may still be around the corner!