Today began like most days with an early wake time for our hotel breakfast, followed by a guest lecturer and then our Vietnamese language class. At this point in the week I am going to need to try new “breakfast foods” at the hotel buffet because I have been eating the same breakfast each day and it is getting a bit old. Moving on, our guest lecturer today gave us an hour and a half lesson in an introductory Vietnamese history and culture course. It was surprisingly interesting and despite the many lessons I have had on the history of Vietnam before in High School, I learned a lot of brand new information and I am looking forward to this lecturer coming back next week. Up next, I learned in the Vietnamese language class that I am nowhere near as good at this crazy language yet as I thought I was. Today’s content was much more difficult and when I was put on the spot I did not succeed in a one on one conversation with our teach in front of the class. Alas, I learned a lot from that lesson and will continue to do so. I will say that after my mistake in that class, our professor had planned in advance to mess with me a bit, because the following slide in his powerpoint lecture was an impressive candid picture of myself that the class all had to discuss about in Vietnamese. You can see this embarrassing yet comical photo below with the others. It was certainly a good laugh!
The bulk of today’s excitement, as well as the content for which my blog prompt is about, comes from our group visit to the United States Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. We met with three of the officers of this consulate who told us all about the work that they do, not only in Vietnam but for the State Department and the United States. They made it no secret that while they were informing us all about their incredible line of work, they were also attempting to recruit students like us to join the State Department in this field of foreign affairs. To be quite honest, I am very intrigued and will certainly consider applying for a career like this at some point in my life. To make it clear why, let me explain the general career of these three officers. They are all called generalists for the state department because they do not specialize in one specific field or country. These three officers ranged from ages 26 to around late 40’s and they each have their own specific focus for the US Consulate of Ho Chi Minh City. These focuses are the public relations, economic environment and political environment of Ho Chi Minh and how they all pertain to the best interest of the United States as well as the Vietnamese people. While these 3 officers have these specific assignments here in Vietnam, when each of their tours are over here they will move on to their next country, job and possibly new language. For example, one of the officers who spoke to us was the political officer named Charlie. Charlie has spent time in four other countries before Vietnam, then he was placed here for 3 years. When his final eight months in the country are over he will move on to Kabul, Afghanistan for one year and then Athens, Greece for the following three years. At each consulate as a generalist for the State Department, he may be assigned a new focus that he must learn all about with respect to his new country and if necessary, the new language as well. This is a line of work I have never considered, but it is unbelievably interesting to me because it satisfies the two things I want most in my career: travel and to work with people. Stay tuned, I may become a State Department official one day, they are certainly in need of young ambitious people from what I hear.
The US consulate in Vietnam is also home to an activity that most people know it by and that is Visa Applications. Every US consulate officer must spend at least one year handling the job of reviewing the hundreds of Visa applications that come across their desk. The Vietnamese citizens must line up outside the consulate with everyone else and wait while their citizenship papers, bank statements and all other documents are reviewed. This process is to ensure good intent of entry into the United States. Another interesting aspect of the US consulate in Vietnam is the economic relations with the Vietnamese government, being that they are a single party communist country. According to the foreign affairs officer that we spoke to, it can be difficult but with good communication and understanding of each others government, most issues can be resolved fairly easily and others with a little extra work. Vietnam is a more difficult environment to be a foreign affairs officer compared to somewhere like Paris or Rome, but it has its advantages too. It’s certainly a career choice that is on the table and I am very thankful for today’s visit.
Up next, the tailor is coming to our hotel for us to try on our suits!
Hope the one made you laugh!
Until next time,