Monday, September 10, 2012

Orienteering at the State Department

Last night, there was a happy hour coordinated by the previous specialist class and they provided some insights to us. Oh, and if you remember my post from the oral assessment, the guy I nicknamed "Senegal" was at the happy hour, too. Apparently, he had his security clearance from another agency, which is why he didn't stick around with us to get processed.

Anyways, today was the first day of the 127th Foreign Service Specialist Orientation, and we shared a room at Main State with the 169th Foreign Service Generalist class also on Day 1 of their orientation. Double the lines, double the fun! Also, everyone attending orientation was excited. Since the nice folks at Diplomatic Security made it clear what we could and could not post, here are my observations about the day:
0) If you can, get a good night sleep. Most folks I talked with woke up early just because they were so eager to get started with the day.
1) Eat a good breakfast. If you're staying at Oakwood, remember to buy your breakfast supplies the night before. Oh, and their knives really are as dull as you may have heard.
2) There were shuttles from Oakwood to Main State just for the first day. It's wise to be on the first one. I say this not just because you are less likely to feel like the bus is leaving you behind on the first day, but also because I was able to knock out some of the ID badge requirements before the formal start time. This turned out to be a good move because instead of standing in line during the scheduled ID time, I was able to take a super long lunch and look at some of the various brochures instead.
3) Lunch at the cafeteria is a tad expensive, but very convenient. Also, there's a State Department logo store in the building that you can get some mementos from your first day or gifts for friends. I saw one coffee mug that said "Someone at the State Department loves me" which could be applicable in a number of situations.
4) Have a pen and something to write on with you, you'll probably want to take notes about something.
5) If you haven't sent in all of your paperwork, the registrar will get you to fill it out today (even if the paperwork you'd originally got said you didn't have to fill it out for whatever reason). The only exceptions were for
  a) Life Insurance: You're automatically enrolled in Basic, so if you're cool with that, no paperwork is needed.
  b) Health Plan: You have 60 days to elect it, and the brief the first day goes into a good bit of detail about what questions to ask that you probably haven't even thought of yet. Also, there are several representatives from various health plans here handing out those brochures I mentioned earlier.
6) After the day ends, you're on your own for getting home. Make sure you have that MetroCard you should have already purchased earlier. There are various shuttles from the station to the Oakwood apartments, but you might have to wait a couple of minutes for them if you don't feel like walking back from the station.
7) Once you're back at home, relax. Exercise. Get your stuff ready for tomorrow & go to the store to get whatever it was you realized during the orientation that you had forgotten to buy yesterday (and wrote down with that pen and paper you brought).

All in all, a good day as first days go, but the paperwork and procedural information did quell folks' excitement as the day went on. I think tomorrow is "how to file a travel voucher." Now, where are those hotel receipts...
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