Post 4: Learning About the Foreign Service

When working for an agency as diverse as the Department of State, it is important to learn as much as possible about job opportunities within the Department. In hopes of gaining an understanding of the range of different positions people hold within the Department, the intern supervisor in my office encouraged me and the other interns to reach out to full-time employees from other bureaus and offices to carry out “informational interviews.” I was able to locate the email addresses of several individuals who currently hold positions that sounded interesting to me. I then reached out to them in order to learn about what they do and how they got there, in hopes of learning what I can do now to start working towards a similar career. I was also generally interested in how they were able to get their current position.

Hannah in the “Flag Hall” at the Department of State which holds flags from all countries that host diplomatic missions.

This lesson has taught me the importance of reaching out and arranging meetings as a way of networking with professionals, and that it’s not necessary to have a certain purpose for meeting, but rather, being curious about someone’s work is a good enough reason. I also realized that this initial “informational interview” meeting is only the first step of networking and it is important to follow up and keep in touch with people so that a relationship can be fostered, which will be important for years to come. You never know where contacts might be able to land you a job!

I am happy to say that this internship has successfully catered towards my “Career Goal” of observing how diplomacy works in the realm of official foreign policy. Within my first week at the Department of State I had the chance to speak with a Foreign Service officer who was stationed in my office. In the following weeks, I have met many more individuals from the Department of State who serve in the Foreign Service (working for the U.S. government while being stationed abroad, promoting peace, supporting prosperity, and protecting American citizens).

In addition to networking, I have also had the chance to attend panels and presentations devoted to the discussion of the Foreign Service. The panels have been catered towards different target audiences: some for interns in particular, as well as others for Civil Service Staff (employees based in Washington, D.C.) who may be interested in serving in the Foreign Service in the future, and even one for women who were interested in a variety of different government jobs (including the Foreign Service). It has been a great experience learning about this specific career path and I feel more informed than ever before about the job options available in the realm of foreign policy!


-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 3: Measuring Progress

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has the mission to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.” The work that I am doing this summer in the Office of Global Educational Programs helps achieve this goal. In this post I will focus on two of the branches within our office–the EducationUSA network and USA StudyAbroad–and explain how progress is measured for these groups.

EducationUSA, as you may recall from my first post, is an advising network that consists of more than four hundred advising centers around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC and in close contact with Regional Educational Advising Coordinators (REACs) located around the world, this group facilitates events and provides resources for international students who wish to study in the U.S., whether it be at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, or PhD level.

One of the ways success is measured is through the Open Doors report, published by one of our cooperative partners, the Institute for International Education (IIE). This extensive report shows facts and figures regarding which countries international students are coming to the U.S. from, where their destination is in the U.S., which fields of study they choose, etc. Here is an image from the 2017 report that shows the five states that have the highest percentage of international students as a proportion of all higher education. Massachusetts is ranked at number two!

USA StudyAbroad helps provide resources for Americans wishing to go abroad. Progress is also measured for USA StudyAbroad through the Open Doors report. However, the data reported is on American citizens going abroad instead of international students coming to the U.S. This infographic shows that the vast majority of U.S. students who study abroad choose countries in Europe as their destination of choice:

In addition to reports, another way progress is measured is through stories. Hearing personal accounts about how programs influenced people show that they have been positively impactful. There are a wide variety of videos posted on the USA StudyAbroad website that showcase the positive impact study abroad programs have had. Although there are countless stories from alumni about their study abroad experiences, one that was exceptionally compelling is Ryan’s journey learning Chinese through the Critical Language Scholarship program by doing an immersive study abroad program in China. Watch the video here.

The data from the Open Doors report and alumni stories show that each individual experience contributes to achieving peace and mutual understanding through interactions with people from a different country and culture. The positive impact of student exchange proves to be farther reaching than the individual level, and the results are exceptional!

-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 1: On the Second Day at the U.S. Department of State

This summer, I am interning at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The Bureau’s mission is to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.” One way in which peaceful relations are created is through student exchanges: allowing students from around the world, regardless of background, the ability to come to the U.S. in hopes of furthering their academic pursuits.

In efforts to assist foreign students in learning about the breadth of programs available to them in the U.S., a network of advising centers has been established under the brand “EducationUSA.”

Headquartered in Washington, DC at the Department of State, this summer I will have the opportunity to work alongside a group of staff members who oversee the 400+ advising centers around the world. So far I have had the chance to join calls with advisers from a plethora of various countries and regions. I have also had the unique opportunity to experience one of the EducationUSA projects in action. Recently, the Bureau of International Information Programs’ video production team live-streamed a student visa chat using Facebook Live, part of a regular series of what are called “Interactives.”  The “interactive” part comes from students asking questions and receiving answers in real time.  Visa expert Laura Stein joined the EducationUSA branch chief Alfred Boll as a speaker on the Interactive and shared her expertise with students who wish to acquire student visas to study in the U.S. Watch the full Interactive on Facebook here.

The Interactives are a key example of social justice in action because their purpose is to make information about life in the U.S. available to those who might not otherwise have access to that information. The professionals who conduct the Interactives devote time and expertise to educating individuals through innovative use of the far-reaching capabilities of the Internet. The student visa Interactive was highly successful, and we are already planning future Interactives which will be on topics such as admissions to U.S. universities. Past topics have included a program in Spanish about the U.S. campus experience, and navigating college in the U.S. as a student with a disability.

When not busy with Interactive planning, I have also been helping the EducationUSA team gear up for their annual conference — the EducationUSA Forum — which will take place July 30-August 1 in Washington, DC.  Nearly six hundred professionals from accredited U.S. colleges and universities come together with approximately fifty EducationUSA advisers and 14 Regional Education Advising Coordinators who fly in from all over the world for several days of sharing best practice strategies and networking.  The goal of the event is to increase the effectiveness in recruiting, enrolling, and supporting international students who come to the U.S.

It is going to be a busy summer here in D.C. and I am incredibly excited to see the impact of our work as we prepare to welcome the incoming international students this fall!

-Hannah Cook, ‘20