One of the many unique aspects of the Foreign Service life is the constant change. Every 2-3 years you pick up and start over, new place, new job. Which means that every 2-3 years at least you will be the new kid in the office. I hate being the new kid. For me it’s one of the hardest things about the FS. I really like feeling competent in my job, and it hurts me to show up in a new place and be suddenly at sea. Where’s the bathroom? How do I get more pens? Who are all of these strange new people and how will I ever remember all of their names? It’s completely normal and expected, I know, but it still makes me feel stupid sometimes. I hate feeling stupid.
Even having done consular work before only buffers this effect slightly, because every embassy has slightly different procedures and conditions. The workload here is very different from my last post: in a day Dublin does more visas than Conakry does in a week, more passports than Conakry does in a month, and more emergency passports than Conakry does in a year. You get different kinds of clients too. Ireland is on the Visa Waiver program, so most people don’t need to apply for tourist visas. This means that you end up processing a much higher percentage of other kinds of visas I didn’t see as many of, like student and work visas. On the ACS side, you see a lot more American tourists here, whose consular needs are very different from people living permanently overseas. My previous experience is certainly coming in handy, but there’s still a lot to learn.
After two weeks I’m starting to find my footing, which is reassuring. I know that in a few months I’ll have fewer questions and more answers, and feel like I’m at least halfway competent in my job. But in the meantime I still have a lot of questions to ask.