We are one-third of the way into our six-week orientation program here at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, VA. One of my esteemed colleagues has aptly named it ‘suit camp’ (we are required to wear suits every day: all business professional, all the time).
Our suit camp is more commonly known as the A-100 course, and its purpose is to introduce new employees to the structure and function of the Department of State and its role in the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. Allegedly, the name A-100 comes from the number of the room in which the course was first conducted, in 1924. We are the 186th Generalist Class, which means we are the 186th orientation class to pass through since the Foreign Service Act of 1980.
There are nearly 100 of us in orientation right now, which is a large class. We do theoretical exercises and case studies, attend presentations by guest speakers, and will be taking tours of Capitol Hill and other agencies around DC. Those of us who already speak foreign languages are tested on those languages, and all of us wade through our new inboxes @state.gov – which are starting to fill up quickly. We have homework most nights to supplement lectures the following day.
Outside of class, we spend a lot of time with one another – many of us aren’t from DC and don’t know anyone else here. But also, it’s pretty exciting to hang out with so many talented people who have worked all over the world. We go on runs together around DC, we have dinner together, we watch movies together, we research potential future posts together, and we even have the occasional, responsible one drink together.
In just three more weeks, we will receive our first overseas assignments and departure dates! But until then, I have some more homework to do.