FAQ: You’re doing what? Why!?

What are you doing? I’m joining the Foreign Service as a medical provider. I will work at United States embassies, providing healthcare for the other people who work at those embassies and their families, and doing my small part to advance the interests of the United States. This blog chronicles our family’s experience.

What’s the Foreign Service? It’s part of the US Department of State, which is part of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. The Foreign Service manages American diplomacy around the world – which makes our country safer and more prosperous by making the world safer and more democratic. It has a lot of acronyms.

Do what now? I’m a primary care / urgent care PA. I’m going to keep doing that, but overseas for the US government. I’ll be assigned to a new country every 2-3 years. I’ll be a diplomat, but my role will still be practicing medicine.

Diplomat? Does that mean diplomatic immunity? Yes.

What about the family? We’re all going! It will be an adventure!

Where are you going? Dunno. We agreed to “worldwide availability.” 1st assignment comes during orientation. 2nd assignment comes 2-3 years in. As I get seniority, I’ll get more say in where we go.

But where will you live? Embassies are always in the capital cities of foreign nations, so we’ll live in the capital city, close to the embassy. The housing is all taken care of by the Foreign Service. Some posts have regular apartments or houses, others have secure compounds for employees and families.

They pay for the housing? What about the travel? Yep, furnished housing and travel are all paid for. Not just paid for, but arranged for us by staff who’s job is to help families with such things. Thanks for paying your taxes! (In fact, I heard that our housing is not paid for by just any taxes, but by yours specifically, dear Reader.)

What about the kids, and school? Also paid for and arranged. Capital cities usually have international schools, and the kids will go there, with other diplomat kids from around the world. For example, in our hometown of Portland there is an American international school, a German international school, and a French international school. These are excellent private schools – frankly, our family couldn’t them afford back in the US. Our little ones will be third culture kids, and we hope it will be good for them.

So you’re leaving forever?! We’ll get lots of vacation time to use back in the US or travel outside our home country. We’ll be required to have 2-3 months of “home leave” in the US every 2 years or so, as a way to keep a strong connection to America. But yeah, we’re thinking this will be our new lifestyle for 10-20 years. This job is difficult to get, and people don’t often leave it.

Sounds dangerous. It’s really dangerous, right? Aren’t you worried about the danger? Perhaps a little, but really it won’t be so much dangerous as inconvenient. We expect to have to make some sacrifices. The embassies have the best security in the world, and if the local environment gets dangerous, the family will be evacuated. In that event, as a medical provider, I will stay behind with other essential personnel.

Does it pay well? Yes-ish? I’m taking a pay cut for this job, but the benefits are much better: free housing, free private schooling for the kids, free travel, cheap insurance, good retirement with a pension.

What about Jen? Apparently, there are lots of employment opportunities at the embassy for spouses, but not in her field of engineering. She may be able to find engineering work for a local company, or a US-based company that has local operations. TBD. Jen does what she wants.

Well shucks, that’s pretty neat! We think so! Glad you do, too!

Wait, so… why are you doing this? We love ‘Murica🗽