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Becoming an U.S. Foreign Service Officer

Posted on Friday, August 15, 2014

Just three hours after graduation, David Luna '14 headed to Rochester International Airport and boarded a plane to Washington, D.C., where he would begin his multi-year journey as a Rangel Fellow.

Luna, who graduated with a B.A. in political science magna cum laude from Hobart, earned the prestigious Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship for his dedication and determination to foster political and global awareness among fellow students, and desire to pursue a career in public service. He is the first HWS student to receive the honor and, as such, is taking part in a program of mentoring, internships and graduate studies, at the end of which he will join the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service officer.

After a week-long Orientation program that began the day after graduation, Luna spent the summer as the Rangel Fellow in the office of U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano of New York, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee. This gave Luna the opportunity to conduct research and write memos for funding hearings and write foreign policy related constitutional letters, among other duties.

"State Department writing is very different from any other kind of style of writing. It's short and clear," says Luna. "Writing meeting reports and the like was very good practice; I had to condense a lot of info into a couple of lines."

This was Luna's second summer in D.C. participating in a prestigious and competitive program. Last year, he participated in the internship program of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and "was eager to learn anything and look at all the issues," while in the Capitol, he says. This year, he decided to hone in on foreign policy-related experiences and education. He spent as much time out of the office as possible, attending hearings dealing with the State Department's funding, ambassador nomination hearings, think tanks and other events. All Fellows also took part in visits, speakers and other programming every other Saturday.

"Among the more interesting things I learned was how much Congress influences foreign policy every day, particularly how Congressional funding of the State Department influences the key directive of the State Department and the responsibilities of the Foreign Service Officers," says Luna.

His experiences this summer also have enabled him to narrow down which focus area he'd like to pursue within the State Department. With options to become a  political, economic, consular or diplomacy foreign service officer, Luna would like to become a political officer whose role is advising, analyzing and influencing the host country's policies to align with the U.S. government's ideals.

After spending a few weeks home in the Greater New York City area, Luna will begin his graduate studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver on Sept. 1, where he will pursue a master's in international security. Next summer, he will take his foreign policy knowledge overseas to intern with a U.S. Embassy. As his first choice is the East Asia Pacific region, he is hoping to land in Tokyo, Beijing or Hong Kong, but it is too soon to know for sure where he will be assigned.

He will then return to complete his master's program before spending another summer in the State Department's crash course for future employees. Upon its completion, Luna will take part in the traditional "flag day" celebration where he will be handed a flag representing the country to which he will be assigned for his first two-year tour as an entry-level officer doing consular work.

"These are the people on the front lines, those whom the locals have the most contact with. I'll be doing all the Visas and seeing to all of the needs of the American citizens in that country," explains Luna.

As a Rangel Fellow, Luna is guaranteed two tours and hopes to then continue on with the State Department.

"If anyone told me in my first year at HWS - or even at the beginning of my senior year - that I'd have this career, I would have laughed," says Luna. "I still have to pinch myself sometimes."

 


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