Alumni Stories: Yuki Kondo-Shah ’07 Gives Advice and Expectations for a Career as a Foreign Service Officer

At Dartmouth, Yuki Kondo-Shah ’07 pursued a double major in Government and Asian Middle Eastern Studies and used her junior summer to intern at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo with a Dickey Center Grant. After moving on to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Policy at Harvard, she began work for the U.S. State Department in September 2012 and will be starting her first post abroad in Bolivia come July 2013. We asked Yuki what it’s like to work as a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department and how to go about obtaining a similar position. Take a look at what she has to say:

Position: Foreign Service Officer (Diplomat) at the U.S. State Department.

Two sentence description of what you do:

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I am a diplomat representing the United States. I work at Embassies and Consulates abroad in the Public Affairs Section. This means that I work to explain U.S. policies to foreign audiences and learn about foreign cultures and policies to relate it back to our government.

1. What is most satisfying about your current work?

I get up every day excited to serve my country. I know that may sound cheesy, but I have benefited so much from the educational system in this country, and I hope that I can give back in a small way. I love working and living abroad, and learning about new people, histories, and cultures. Part of my job is to publicize U.S. higher education opportunities and scholarships to foreign audiences, what a gift! I am so happy! Come and join me at the State Department!

2. What’s the best way to enter your field? Any essential elements of preparation?

The Foreign Service Officer is a generalist position, so even though I studied Government at Dartmouth and know Japanese and Mandarin, many of my colleagues come from law, science, or media. That’s the best part about working at the State Department: there are so many interesting people with different professional backgrounds. You need to take the Foreign Service test and pass an interview to enter. There are also fellowships that will pay for your graduate studies and train you to pass these tests called the Pickering and Rangel Fellowships.

3. What advice would you give to others seeking opportunities in this field?

I would pursue some other professional experiences first, and I also recommend graduate studies. It helps to have some work experience to bring into the field. Also, be open-minded because for your first two tours, the State Department tells you where to go. I was ready to work in Asia because of my language skills, but the Department decided to send me to Bolivia instead and pay me to learn Spanish. It’s been amazing so far, and I am really excited because I will work with youth and indigenous communities. I really enjoyed working with the Native American student community at Dartmouth during my undergrad years, so I am especially looking forward to working with Bolivian indigenous communities.

4. How has Dartmouth supported you in your career development?

I would not be here without Dartmouth. Professor Valentino in the Government Department helped me to secure an internship my junior summer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and I got funded through the Dickey Center. Dartmouth gave me scholarships to attend Harvard for graduate studies, and at each of my internships and jobs, Dartmouth alumni helped me as mentors. I am so thankful for my education and connections from Dartmouth.

5. Is there anything that we haven’t asked you that you think we should?

The State Department is FULL of Dartmouth grads! From the Assistant Secretary level to entry level officers, there are Dartmouth alumni at every stage of their career. We will help you and support you, so think about joining! Sure, public service doesn’t make you rich, but I know I will experience things in this career that will be impossible in other jobs. I want to encourage as many Dartmouth grads as possible to join the Foreign Service. We need you!

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