Day 5: Registering for the Foreign Service?

Today was just one of those days where I thought to myself, “Wow Justin, you should really evaluate your future again because this sounds like the ideal job for you.” To be fair I always do this, but something about what they said this time pulled me in. Let me explain.

To gain a greater understanding of the relationship between the United States and Vietnam, we got the opportunity to visit the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City—well not exactly. Since the process of being approved access to the Consulate is complicated and lengthy, we had to settle for the next best thing, the American Center.

The American Center is a public media library in Ho Chi Minh City that is a part of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy. They provide ample resources to anybody who seeks to learn more about America and get educated about topics banned from the Vietnamese government. For example, the American Center has a huge collection of videos that anyone can watch, such as on the Vietnam War that the government doesn’t want you to see. It also carries out interactive discussions for the public about current events in America and Vietnam. Not to mention, the center even provides aid to Vietnamese  who want to get an education in the U.S. by providing college prep books and college admission advice. I was baffled to learn that any Vietnamese had these resources at their feet and could just walk into the center and learn about prohibited topics that the government has deemed too sensitive or unpatriotic.

Media room in the American Center

We also got the chance to talk to U.S. foreign workers in the State Department of the U.S. Embassy stationed here in Ho Chi Minh City. I originally had no idea what being a foreign worker entailed, but after they explained what their duties were, I was highly impressed.

The main tasks of a U.S. foreign worker are as followed: guaranteeing  the communication between the United States’ government and the government they are posted at, and assisting in the request of visas. Communication between two countries is vital for building a secure and healthy relationship between one another. As a foreign worker, he or she has to ensure that any message the U.S. government transmits to them gets passed on to the Ministry of Communication then to the Vietnamese government in an appropriate timely manner. It is an extremely important job because if a message fails to be sent or is delayed, the two countries may administer potentially dangerous countermeasures that could have been preventable.

As for visas, the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City gets thousands of applications constantly. The foreign workers have to scope through all of the applications and check whether the intentions of each individual are acceptable or not. if everything checks out, the Vietnamese person is given the green light and allowed permission to enter the United States. If something appears wrong or may be suspicious, the foreign worker will reject the application and the Vietnamese person would have to apply again at a later time. It is a tricky process and can be stressful for any Vietnamese applying for a visa, but the foreign worker has to positively identify that the person is coming to America to “visit Disneyland, not to find a job as an illegal worker or something else that is not sanctioned by the United States,” as stated by Charles, one of the U.S. foreign workers we interacted with. But as mentioned, the process is certainly not easy and any one who applies for a visa will have to go through many steps: fill out an application, answer some personal questions, and get tested through an interview. For that reason, the process can take from a few weeks to a month depending on the circumstances.

Again as mentioned before, the U.S. Consulate is very helpful to the Vietnamese people such as the resources provided in the American Center. If any Vietnamese has concerns about their government or wishes to learn more about the United States, they can come into the Consulate and seek aid from any of the foreign workers. Even Americans can benefit from the Consulate because if anyone gets hurt or loses their passport, they can give a call to the Consulate and have any of their issues addressed. Doing all of this, the U.S. Consulate has truly established a long lasting standing relationship between the United States and Vietnam. With all of the work they’ve put in to secure this tie, the majority of Vietnamese finally view Americans favorably. As a matter of fact, the economies of the two are now dependent on each other to the point that both countries will happily do business with each other and benefit from it. We obviously can’t say this for every country we’ve interacted with.

So why was I sold on being a foreign worker? Aside from the brutal application process, the opportunity to travel to countries all over the world has always been my dream. For most foreign workers, you are stationed at a foreign country to work at for a few years—typically 3 years—then assigned a new country to work at. This cycle continues repeatedly until the next thing you know, you have visited countries all over the world, some you may have never heard of. What is great about being a foreign worker is that you have little say on which country you get to to work at and in a way are forced to work wherever you are chosen for by the U.S. State Department. Yet it doesn’t sound as bad when you look at the big picture, because you get to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and learn the country’s language everyday. By the end of each term, you will be an expert of the country.

The hardest part of working abroad as a foreign worker is the distance from loved ones of course as you will rarely have time to come back home. Yet there’s something attractive to this job that I can’t seem to put my finger on. Maybe it’s the travel. Maybe it’s the knowledge attained. Maybe it’s even the chance to wake up each morning in a foreign country. The prospects of being a foreign worker are exciting and I will definitely consider it as I contemplate what I want to do with my life.


Until next time friends



P.S. For lunch, we stopped by HUTECH University to enjoy a fabulous five course meal. Imagine the rivalry between Penn State and Pitt, and you get HUTECH and UEF. Still love UEF more though.


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