As I start my last week working at US Embassy Yerevan, I’m beginning to understand what a formative experience I’ve had. On a professional level, I could not have asked for a better view into life in the Foreign Service. I’ve met officers at all stages of their careers, and worked very closely with several of them. Over dozens of lunches, coffee breaks, and after-hours conversations, I’ve been able to get a good sense of their joys and frustrations, their past experiences and future plans. While I’m still discerning my precise career plans, these insights will be profoundly useful as I move forward.
Beyond building a better understanding of the State Department and work abroad, I also learned an important generally applicable lesson: it is difficult, but entirely possible, to be proactive in a structured environment. With a full plate of clearly defined tasks, and in an office where almost everyone knew their responsibilities and stuck to them, it took me a few weeks to realize the extent to which I could still be independent and creative. Eventually, though, I gathered the confidence to take initiative in a number of areas. I reached out to both the Public Affairs and Political sections, allowing me to give a speech at a US-funded library and meet with a new opposition party. I also developed a new method for evaluating Iranian student visa applicants, and crafted a Statement of Policy explaining it. The SOP was put into effect in the office and will be forwarded to other US Embassies around the world. More routine examples of proactivity also paid off. When I decided to fully clean out the consulate’s email backlog, this sped up several urgent visa applications; when I offered to translate for an Arabic-speaking visa applicant, he was able to understand exactly what he needed to do to reunite with his wife in the United States.
My internship has been just as personally fulfilling as it’s been professionally enriching. Working at the Embassy has given me a chance to bring together the Armenian and American spheres of my life in a uniquely complete way. This is because local Armenian staff are integral to the entire Embassy—I’ve worked just as closely with them as with Foreign Service officers. This means that I speak both English and Armenian in a professional capacity, fully engaging both sides of myself. The Embassy has come to feel like a sort of home, and I will always remember my time here.
Written by Hagop Toghramadjian, BC Class of 2017