Recently, I had the opportunity to travel home and share my new career as a diplomat with a group of Korean American high school students, who much like me at their age knew little about the U.S. Foreign Service. As an entry-level Foreign Service Officer, I was grateful for the opportunity to serve as a Hometown Diplomat and practice the art of diplomacy before I even went out on my first overseas assignment.
The Secretary's Hometown Diplomats Program is designed to explain to America what we do and why it matters. As part of the program, State Department employees volunteer time on scheduled trips back home, during home leave and hometown visits, to talk to local organizations, elementary and high schools, and college alma maters, or to meet with state and local elected officials and participate in media interviews. The Hometown Diplomats Program helps the U.S. Department of State establish and maintain important relationships with individuals and local communities.
My opportunity to serve as a Hometown Diplomat arose from a simple invite within my local network in Houston. A family friend organizes a program for the Korean American Association of Houston called the Grassroots Internship Program. This initiative is designed to help Korean-American high school students in Houston become the next leaders in the community by exposing them to civic affairs and engagement. Students accepted into this program have the opportunity to meet community leaders in small group settings and to receive career advice from public service professionals at a local, national, and international level. So when the organizer asked me to speak with the students I was happy to share my experience.
I held my career talk at the Houston Korean Community Center with a small group of students and their parents. I began by introducing myself as a Houston native heading out to my first tour to be a consular officer in Jakarta, Indonesia and explaining how I chose a career in the Foreign Service. Thanks to support from our Diplomat in Residence, Floyd Cable, as well as Hometown Diplomats and my mentor, Eric Meyer, I had lots of guidance and advice on how to approach this event. The Bureau of Public Affairs Office of Public Outreach also provided me with useful materials to share with the group. Using my knowledge of State and these tools, I was able to describe State Department’s role as the United State’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explain the process for joining the Foreign Service, and speak to the various internship and fellowship opportunities available to students.
As a Korean-American who grew up in Houston, it was my pleasure to be able to raise awareness about the Foreign Service to students from similar backgrounds. Although the discussion topics were about issues that might seem far off to a group of young students, my hope is that this information will stick with them and that they will consider the Foreign Service as a possible career path. I was extremely proud to return to my hometown and represent the Foreign Service as an exciting opportunity for public service.
About the Author: Douglas Choi serves as a Consular Officer in Jakarta for the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.
For more information:
- Learn more about the Hometown Diplomat Program.
- Learn more about the Foreign Service at careers.state.gov.
- Bureau of Public Affairs: Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs.