Saturday, April 08, 2006

The foreign service exam

Got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. 'Cause I wanted to look like the all-American kid ...
- Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree"
I've never been one of those terribly driven people with focused career goals. While some kids begin college (or, in extreme cases, kindergarten) with a future job in mind, I settled on language teaching within three months of my college graduation. That said, public diplomacy is pretty much my dream job. Whenever I've been dissatisfied with my job for some reason, I've always been able to go to the State Department website, daydream a sugar-coated fairy tale of foreign service life, and make myself feel even worse. Well, today I finally did something about it: I took the Foreign Service Written Exam, a five-hour standardized test that is the first requirement for all aspiring diplomats. The exam started at 8:00 this morning, so rather than catch the 5:30 AM bus I stayed over last night with Andreja, Our Man in Belgrade. (You may have already read about him here.) He said he was busy studying for an exam of his own, on international criminal law, but I was welcome to crash in his spare room. So we had a quick dinner and he left me with a cup of coffee and the panorama of cable television to keep me company. I should have known that wouldn't last. Andreja is a party guy. Around 10 PM he came in and said, "I can't study any more. Want to go out for a beer?" Well, one beer turned into two, and then three*, and I got to witness the most impressive pinball playing I've ever seen in my life (on a machine with basically no "tilt" response, so this guy really whacked the hell out of it), and I finally got to sleep around 2. I was up again before my alarm went off at 6, and out of the house with over an hour to take a 20-minute walk to the U.S. Embassy. I took my time, got pastry and coffee, and enjoyed the misty emptiness of Tasmajdan park at 6:45 on a cool Saturday morning. I enjoyed it more knowing it was my final moment to relax in nature before hours and hours of filling in tiny circles with a #2 pencil. As for the test itself, it consists of four parts, and before each of these parts I had to sign a loyalty oath swearing not to reveal its contents. I think I can tell you this much, though: there were seven of us taking the test, including four who work at the Embassy in some non-FSO capacity and one other English teacher. The first part is job knowledge questions (history, politics, geography, economics) that, for me, involved a lot of educated guessing. Second we had to write an essay. I got about 65% into mine when time was called, so I'm hoping that they're grading on clear expression rather than actually completing one's arguments. (I had just finished proving why everyone who disagrees with me about the assigned topic is wrong, and hadn't yet explained why I'm right.) The third part was basically a personality test, and the final section was English grammar (that is, a chance to breathe). I have no idea how I did. Results will be released in late July. * It concerns me that in this blog, I'm presenting a picture of myself as an irresponsible lush. I assure you, I'm really the quiet domestic type. Really. That one night I didn't have anything to drink at all, I was just having a good time. Go back


bg anon said...

Interesting Daniel I wonder if I could take the test myself

bg anon said...

Hmm are non US citizens allowed to take the test? I have an EU passport too :)

No, I've just read that link you posted :(((