Today, DLI day camp took a group field trip to the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington. Spouses were invited, so I took the day off work to act as group bus driver err attend the presentations. At FSI, we heard from the State Department's medical officer, an overseas counselor, someone from the overseas transition office, an advisor on embassy protocol, and a representative from the family liason office. Obviously, some of these presentations were less helpful than others. For example, we already went through our medical clearances and one woman forgot to bring some of her handouts, although she was nice enough to guarantee that she would remember them for the next class. That being said, some of the presentations were incredibly helpful. We learned about programs at the Family Liasion Office, including jobs programs for eligible family members, i. e. me. Although the jobs within the mission were mostly clerical, they are still government jobs that count towards your vacation accrual, thrift savings plan contribution, and allow you to remain in the noncompetitive service for jobs upon your return to Washington at the end of the tour. That means that you don't have to start from scratch on USAJobs.gov, and it should be easier to at least get an interview.
By far the most helpful part of the day was learning about the overseas transition office. That office collects valuable resources for those bidding on posts or accepting their fates at assigned posts. Some of these included surveys on life in the mission and country, advice on looking for jobs, and descriptions of housing. After the presentations, we went down to the office to watch some videos that they encourage foreign service officers to make in order to show future foreign service officers what life is like in their countries. Since we have no clue where we're going, we chose a few to watch at random - Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo; Dakar, Senegal (since Ben and Julia loved it so much); and Santiago, Chile. Granted, these were mostly propaganda videos, but I was instantly struck by how nice the housing situations could be. All three missions provided houses much bigger than ours with huge yards and/or outdoor patios. Also, in Brazzaville, the embassy has two boats that you can take out, and the employees were water skiing on the Congo River and taking day trips to Kanchasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The USAID mission in Senegal is a bit of a way from Dakar, they said about 45 minutes, but had the added benefit of being on a beautiful beach - ok, not jersey shore beautiful, but still pretty nice. Santiago was a major urban city that the video described as similar to Northern California. Again, it had very nice accomodations that were close to shopping, dining, and tourist attractions.
So, while the day was very informative, it felt a bit premature. It was a lot of information to absorb, but I feel like we'll be asking the same questions again once we're assigned to a mission. At the very least, we at least now have a better idea about where to go for the answers to those questions and the resources that are available to us.