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Foreign service officer speaks at CU

U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer Kristin M. Stewart, who has served for 15 years, gave a firsthand look at foreign service careers and current U.S. foreign policy to Cameron students, staff and some visitors Wednesday afternoon.

"I think it (Foreign Service) is the best named career," she said. "You spend the majority of your time overseas, with six-years max in the U.S., although there is more choice than the military has on where a person is sent." 

In her current assignment as Diplomat-in-Residence, Stewart, is responsible for visiting universities and colleges throughout a five-state area  Oklahoma, Missouri, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska  to provide information and answer questions about careers, internships and fellowships. She was invited to Cameron by its Social Studies Department to speak to students and other attendees as part of the university's current academic festival "American Identities in the 21st Century."

Stewart shared some of her unique experiences.

When a hurricane hit the east coast of Central America in 2007, the indigenous people "were most affected," she said, explaining that they were so desperate for water that when a relief helicopter from the USS WASP, which was nearby, tried to put down with water, they crowded around and the helicopter couldn't land.  Thanks to her Spanish skills, she was able to record a public service announcement that was translated into the local language for the Voice of America to warn them of the helicopter and to stay away so the water could be delivered. 

"I knew that I was able to make a difference and help people," she said. "You (will) have experiences in the Foreign Services that you can't get anywhere else."

Career positions 

What the U.S. Foreign Service does around the world with just 1 percent of the federal budget is extensive, she said, explaining, "we are responsible for 307 U.S. embassies, consulates and missions around the world. ... the consulates tend to be in garden spots where people lose their passports." 

Mexico, with 19, has the most U.S. consulates, Stewart said. 

Before her current post, Stewart  who is married and the mother of three daughters  served in six different countries, with her last post being at the U.S. Consulate in Basrah, Iraq. Her other postings included Panama City, Panama; Dakar, Senegal; Managua, Nicaragua; Mexico City, Mexico; and, her first posting, Bogota, Columbia. Temporary duty assignments have taken her to Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Mali, South Africa and Suriname.

Using a slide show with pictures from many of her past postings, Stewarts showed "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" situations that foreign service officers can come up against.

Under "The Good," Stewart showed pictures from Basrah, which is in southern Iraq.

"They are known for their hospitality and food," she said, adding that she learned how to say she had three daughters in Arabic, which started many conversations about how honored they were to have her take time away from her family to work in Iraq.

Under "The Bad," she showed pictures of a Beijing, China, with the air so polluted that a person could barely make out outlines of a building. She also showed a photo of a street somewhere in the world that was so overcrowded with people and vehicles, it was a wonder that anyone could move.

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