Written by Miles, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for JSA Diplomat Program in Beijing, Summer 2018*
As we walked to the embassy in the rain, it almost seemed to be hidden away—it was barely in plain view, but as soon as we arrived we knew we were in the right place. There was a long line that stretched all the way down the block; it was immediately clear that the US embassy in Beijing was in significantly more demand than any embassy we’d ever been to. Luckily, we bypassed the line and were led to the most intense security line we’ve seen since the airport. After security, we were led through the embassy to a small room off to the side that looked like a normal library, but this one was filled with American books, movies, and magazines, including an updated English slang dictionary that impressed us all. Soon enough, a representative from the embassy came to meet with us. We all introduced ourselves, and she began her presentation by explaining her job to us.
She told us she was a foreign service officer working in the public diplomacy sector of the US embassy in Beijing, which meant that on a day-to-day level she mostly dealt with visa applications. She told us about her journey to her current position, which included the rigorous path to foreign service, a difficult system that included multiple written tests and a personal interview that lasted a day. Also, she spoke about one of her most meaningful memories from her time in Beijing. Once, she had helped an elderly man whose wife had passed away on a plane, assisting the man in procuring the ashes of his deceased partner while still in Beijing. She did say that working in the state department took a fairly big toll on her life, though, as it’s long, grueling work that takes a lot of dedication (she even moved her family from the states to China).
On the other hand, she told us about the camaraderie that she shared with her fellow foreign service workers, as being in such a foreign location created a close-knit community of people all focused on a similar goal. In all, I really enjoyed our trip to the embassy. I thought the dedication of the representative we met was inspiring, and it’s always interesting to hear about foreign relations on a more personal level. It was also good to feel the comfort of US soil for a couple hours, even if we were across the world.