Adaptability and Open-Mindedness Key to Foreign Service

Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin hosted representatives from the State Department and Peace Corps to discuss careers in U.S. foreign service and diplomacy. At the Feb. 13 event, UCLA’s diplomat-in-residence, Cecilia Choi of the U.S. State Department, and the Peace Corps’ Jeffrey Janis recounted their paths to foreign service and shared stories with students in attendance. The enduring theme of the discussion was the need for international public servants to remain adaptable and open-minded. Janis recounted his experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine for over two years. “You need to be a proactive self-starter. You’ll show up to your site and might be told they don’t need you for two or three weeks. Things like that happen all the time.” He advised those considering a foreign service career, “Take what you’re given and make something from it. I was planning on working with nonprofits in Ukraine. Never did I think I would be teaching sign language, but an opportunity presented itself and I took full advantage.” Choi said the diversity of opportunities in the foreign service not only demands adaptability but also makes it hard to leave because there are so many interesting types of work. “I go into every post thinking it may be my last but always commit to one more because an interesting opportunity presents itself,” she said. “After concluding my time here and finishing language training, I’m headed to Beijing to represent the U.S. on trade. Maybe that’ll be my last post…” — John Danly