(Still in recap mode)
Diplowife started her A-100 class a couple of months ago, which was very exciting for both of us. But more exciting for me was Spouse Orientation, on the Thursday of her first week at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). Spouse Orientation was a day-long event where spouses of the officers-in-training come to FSI to learn all about our role in the foreign service, and how this new lifestyle works.
We drove to FSI together, even though there’s a free shuttle from the nearby Metro station. I recommend not driving there, as traffic in Arlington is really bad, especially at rush hour. Your spouse basically walks right in, but the spouses have to go through security like at the airport, and get a flimsy visitor’s badge. Once in, you have the run of the place, but there’s not much time to wander. FSI resembles a small college campus, park-like with brick buildings dotting the landscape. It’s easy to get lost.
Once inside FSI with my visitor’s badge, I went to the orientation classroom and joined about 25 or so spouses there. Surprisingly small group, given Diplowife’s A-100 class had nearly a 100 people, but I think a lot of spouses were still living back home, wherever that may be. I forget sometimes that “local hires” like ourselves are the exception, not the norm. We spent an hour or so getting to know each other and breaking the ice. There were a large number of foreign-born spouses in the group, which is apparently pretty common in the foreign service. There were more husbands than wives in my class, and most of us were child-free. I expected a lot more wives, and more people with kids, but again, they might be too busy to come to orientation.
The day consisted of a series of talks given by various foreign service officers, FSI employees, EFM’s and foreign service specialists. They covered a lot of interesting and important topics. We learned about how to research where we’re going, how to get there, how to find work (or not), and how to go to the doctor once there. We got to visit the Overseas Briefing Center, kind of a mini library where officers and EFM’s can research different posts they might be assigned to. I read up on Chinese and Mexican posts, because those were the most likely places we would go.
Orientation exposed us to a lot of important info, so I’m glad I went. It was good to meet the other EFM’s, we have our own community, alongside the officers’, and it’s a good idea to get started early. The orientation was run by some terrific people, EFM’s mostly, and it helped ease my anxiety about joining the foreign service.
Plus, it was fun to see the place Diplowife spends most of her waking hours, and the people she works with.