With tomorrow off for a mid-week Veteran’s Day break, the 149th has officially completed 1/2 of the A-100 orientation course. Never have I felt more taxed by an 8:30 to 4:30ish schedule. I confess to not quite understanding why it’s has been so tiring, but I’m confident I’m not alone. Perhaps I am just out-of-practice. I haven’t been in a regular classroom setting since the first half of 1992 (and let’s face it, the last semester of law school did not involve that much classroom time).
Each day has had a completely different schedule so the time definitely doesn’t crawl. After announcements and a quick overview of the day’s agenda at 8:30 sharp, we typically cover 2 or 3 topics before lunch, and then another 2 or 3 topics in the afternoon. Often we will have 15 minutes to grab something to eat before a “brown bag” lunch discussion with a visiting dignitary.
The class segments cover a wide range of issues, from procedural (e.g., how to submit travel and per diem vouchers) to substantive (e.g., 18th and 19th century diplomatic history). With very few exceptions, the segments have been interesting and well-presented by an energetic staff. In addition to the orientation staff, we hear from an ever-changing cast of guest speakers including Ambassadors, Assistant Secretaries, specialists, and historians.
It’s been great stuff, but a lot of sitting and listening in an exceedingly crowded room. With the diplomatic hiring surge, the limitation for our class size does not come from the State Department budget or a dearth of qualified candidates. Rather, it’s the room’s fire code restriction that limits the number of new officers.
I find myself taking notes for no reason other than to force myself to stay 100% engaged. Although there are no tests or quizzes, note-taking precludes my mind from wandering to my bid list, what my kids are doing, or what I should do for dinner. By the end of the day, I’m done. That is, until it’s time to meet everyone at a bar for happy hour, or some other event. I’ve hit about half of the social committee’s events so far, typically those on a Friday night and/or close by my apartment.
The 149th is an impressive group and I’m looking forward to hearing about everyone’s exploits for years to come. In the meantime, we are counting the days until Flag Day on Nov. 23rd.