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Inside a U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America 2nd Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0964948822
ISBN-10: 0964948826
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Shawn Dorman is Associate Editor of the Foreign Service Journal and runs the book program for the American Foreign Service Association. She has written extensively on issues related to the diplomatic career. A former U.S. Foreign Service officer, she has served in Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia and Russia, and in the State Department Operations Center in Washington, D.C. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.; 2 edition (August 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964948826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964948822
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Inside a U.S. Embassy" is a great start in learning more about the Foreign Service, focusing on the individuals who serve the United States from abroad. It covers a diverse group of people and is quite easy to read. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 consists of profiles of Foreign Service employees in "each type of position in a typical U.S. embassy," including Ambassador, Political Officer, Consular Officer, Office Management Specialist, and Foreign Service National. The profiles included are of both men and women who have served in different parts of the world. However, like a previous reviewer, I wonder if they could have chosen to do a profile of a Junior Officer that is more consistent with what Junior Officers are expected to do. She didn't seem so "junior" to me! Part 2 consists of one-day hour-by-hour journals from embassy staff around the world. I liked the fact that they included the journal of a Foreign Service spouse, since families also play a large role in the Foreign Service. The most personal, and fascinating, part was Part 3, which has "tales from the field" from Foreign Service staff with experiences including the evacuation of an embassy (Pakistan), the assassination of an ambassador (Afghanistan), a coup (Guinea-Bissau), and organizing a Little League in the Ukraine. Also included in the book are a map of Department of State locations and a list of foreign affairs and Foreign Service resources.
Being curious about what the Public Diplomacy section does, I was a little confused about finding the term "Public Diplomacy" in only one place in the book (in the "Embassy Flow Chart") and instead finding a profile of a "Public Affairs Officer.
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By A Customer on January 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books on the Foreign Service, and I would recommend this book to any prospective FSOs or to anyone remotely related to one. Part I provides various profiles of the different embassy jobs available. Not only does it include profiles of the standard career tracks (political, economic, etc.) but it also discusses other positions, such as environmental officers. Before I read this book, I had no idea that there even were environmental officers. There are many more people working in an embassy than is evident from initial research into the foreign service, and this section is particularly helpful in demonstrating the variety of jobs one can hold. It also gives a brief bio of each person it profiles, which was very helpful because you can see the varied backgrounds that FSOs have. There are also bios on USAID and other government officials that work abroad in there. Part II provides daily journals of people in various positions, which is helpful both to see what these officers really do and to see what kinds of hours they keep. This section (and Part III) also lets people get glimpses of life in other countries. Finally, Part III contains short essays that cover both the good points and the bad points of Foreign Service life. I agree with another reviewer in that the junior officer position was not typical (possibly because they profiled someone who had received a State Department fellowship), but I believe the rest of the profiles are. Overall, a very helpful book!
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Format: Paperback
While "Inside A U.S. Embassy" is essentially a recruiting tool intended to offer foreign service applicants a look at what they're in for, it's also useful for anyone curious as to what the people from the US State Department actually do behind embassy walls in their far-off and often exotic postings.

The book is constructed as a series of short essays by foreign service personnel. Part 1 has them describing what they actually do, from Ambassador (Colombia) and Deputy Chief of Mission (Cyprus) down to Environmental Officer (Cote d'Ivoire) Junior Officer (South Africa) and even Marine Security Guard (Armenia).

More specifically, Part 2 is set up as day-in-the-life diaries from people like a Consular Officer (visiting Americans in a jail in the Phillipines), USAID Mission Director (economic development meetings in Mongolia), and even spouse (packing up and saying goodbye from yet another move, this time from Armenia).

The tone overall is positive without being pollyannish (an FS employee based in Nigeria gripes about how post-9/11 security scanning of his mail delays it and turns it "crispy). They even discuss the dark side of the job: the stories in Part 3 ("Tales from the Field") include in it the story of the kidnapping and death of Ambassador Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979, the bombing of the Kenya and Tanzania embassies in 1998, and, of course, the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1980.

If you're considering joining the US Foreign Service (if you pass their tests, which are next set to begin in April 2004) or just want to know what embassy people do other than push cookies, this is a very useful and interesting book.
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By A Customer on August 31, 2003
Format: Paperback
Finally, a book that explains what diplomats really do! This is a really good read, and a welcome departure from the usual staid, academic studies of the Foreign Service. Using first-hand accounts from diplomats and other embassy staff, this book sheds some light on a livelihood that's utterly foreign to most of us, and usually misunderstood. It should be read not only by those considering taking the very difficult foreign service exam, but by every taxpayer interested in what our government is doing to protect us in these dangerous times.
The book has its share of heroes -- from the guy who bucks the system to expose a brutal Latin American junta to the Ambassador who puts his body between an angry mob and some terrified gypsies. But to its credit, it also deals with the mundane -- giving voice to those who make the appointments, procure the pencils, and ensure the embassy cars run on time. Tight editing weaves these disparate accounts into a whole that's compelling. One gets the sense that these are folks who signed onto public service because they want to do more with their lives than chase a buck. There's plenty of adventure in their lives, but not always glamor.
One small quibble -- the portrait of a junior officer serving as the deputy spokesperson of a major embassy struck me as not very representative of the experience of most junior officers, who are more often assigned to visa work for their first couple of jobs. That said, I still found her story interesting. On balance, I found this to be a very educational and entertaining book that deserves to be widely read.
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