On joining the Foreign Service

Last week I had lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in several months, and I mentioned that Nate joined the Foreign Service.  She gave a knowing laugh and said, “Nate didn’t join the Foreign Service– you both joined the Foreign Service.”

I’m coming to realize how true this is.  It’s also a little frustrating, and difficult to put into words.

We both (well, ideally both of us) are going to go live where ever the State Dept decides we should go.  We both will be packing our belongings, uprooting our lives, leaving friends and family, and starting a new life someplace else.  And this is going to happen every 2 years or so for the foreseeable future.  It’s going to be exciting, challenging, fun, and also a little frustrating.

The thing is, while we both are living this lifestyle, very much together, Nate is the one who’s an FSO.  I am an EFM, “Nate’s wife,” or, even worse, a trailing spouse.  But that is not me.  I feel like my identity is getting lost in the shuffle.

At the FSI and during A-100, they do a good job of including EFMs.  There are EFM trainings, we are invited to happy hours and social events, I was included in Nate’s meeting with the Career Development Officer, and we even get some happy hours that are specifically for us.  There seems to be a strong understanding of the fact that us EFMs are important in our own right, and without our support the whole moving-around-the-world-every-2-years thing wouldn’t happen.  But even so, it’s like we’re support staff for the main act.

Initially I was excited by the idea that I might not be able to work full time, depending on our post.  It would give me an opportunity to focus on photography or to tackle all those kitchen projects I’ve been dying to try but haven’t had the time (like making croissants and bagels).  Now I’m worried that won’t be enough.

I don’t want to lose myself to the grandiosity of the FSO, because we are both in the Foreign Service.  We are doing this together.



2 thoughts on “On joining the Foreign Service

  1. Hi Kathryn, I just want to thank you for this post and let you know that it really helped me. My husband just passed the OA. He has not been invited to an A-100 but my mind races with excitement and a bit of anxiety thinking about what could/might happen. I start to think, “Well what about me and my career?” Maybe it’s too early to start worrying about questions like, “Where will I work? What will I do?” But your blog calmed me and helped me realize that it’s natural to have these feelings. If he gets invited to an A-100 class, this will be a career change for the both of us. He will be leaving behind 15 years as a government consultant and I have been a public school teacher for 15 years. I’m hoping that if he gets that far, then I will be able to teach abroad. Right now we’re trying to keep our heads contemplating whether his OA score is high enough to place him on “the register” and guessing how many FSOs will be invited in 2016. Whether I become an EFM or not, the lesson seems to be….PATIENCE.

    • Hi Brian! Thanks for your comment; I think it is never too early to start coming up with a plan for how to keep your own career alive. Most posts have an American School or other international schools, and luckily teaching is a portable career. Joining the FS is a big adjustment, but as long as you communicate openly and are ready for anything, it’s a wonderful adventure! Good luck!!

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