Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Oral Assessment

Best news! I successfully passed my Oral Assessment. What a roller coaster! After experiencing what I can only describe as the most intense nervousness I’ve felt in probably two decades (I’m looking at you, 8th grade speech class) the day before my Assessment, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself calm and collected the day of. Living relatively close to DC, I was able to commute down for the day. I took the MARC and DC Metro in arriving almost an hour early to account for any possible delays. There was another IMS hopeful being assessed in parallel to me, which ended up being a blessing, because there were a handful of waiting periods that passed much quicker with some friendly chatting, than they would have staring off into space, second guessing everything. To the interviewers’ credit, the entire OA process is well documented on the Foreign Service website, and I’d say that my experience fit into their description perfectly. Being a history major, I’m no stranger to writing assignments, and I’ve always been good at standardized tests (read: multiple choice). I hate to say the first two sections ‘breezed by’ but I was much more confident in myself for those, than for the third and final part of the test. It turns out, talking is much more ‘real-time’ than typing and clicking radio buttons. The tension built as my interview-mate and I waited… and waited… for our interviewers to come collect us. After the better part of an hour, they came for him, and about one copy of State magazine later (or 10 minutes, if you'd prefer), it was my turn. The interview was as advertised, with the slight variation that there were three people present, two to interview me, and one in training, who was ostensibly observing the interviewers, rather than myself. Having a third person didn’t really matter to me, but maybe on some subconscious level it made me less nervous (maybe it leveled the playing field, since it was back to two on two, in terms of who was observing whom!). Once back in the lobby, we awaited our judgment in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere; after all, it was out of our hands now! After a moderate wait, I was called back in and congratulated on my passing the Oral Assessment and given a number (6.2, which means little to me, other than the pass/fail value, since I have no concept of its statistical significance), a conditional offer, and a new bundle of paperwork to chew through. The rest is fairly uneventful; I emphatically thanked my interviewers, spent some time with security, and started the long trip home.
Next step, security investigations, medical exams, and paperwork, Oh My! On the one hand, I know these are serious steps and can certainly end in terminated candidacies… but the other hand is just dancing around and saying, “Psh! I’m not a terrorist, I’m in great health, and I know how to fill out forms. Piece of cake!”