Assignment: “Federal Republic of the Hill”

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State Department Foreign Service Officer Dorothy Shea just wrapped up a year’s assignment as a Pearson Fellow to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She took the time to pen some advice for incoming diplomats seeking to mix with the natives in the Federal Republic of the Hill:

Develop Language Skills: “As with any foreign posting, the State Department officer assigned to the Hill must develop proficiency in the local language to succeed. While the language spoken on the Hill bears a certain resemblance to English, one should not try to coast on English alone.”

Immerse Yourself in Hill Culture: “Spend some quality time in the House and Senate Office Buildings. Observe the groups of constituents coming through to see their elected officials. Take in the lobbyists working the corridors. See the staffers sprinting to meetings. Attend some hearings. Watch some floor debate. Hang out in one of the many fine eating establishments on site. Be absolutely glued to your Blackberry. Take a ride on the Capitol subway. Just don’t ride in a Members Only elevator!”

Network: “When one arrives at a foreign posting, it is critical to get out there and start making contacts. …Thankfully, Congressional staffers are used to being cold-called, and I’ve found most to be quite approachable and happy to share their wisdom.”

Sound advice for any visitor.


  1. Joseph Lubcott says:

    I can’t find one redeeming factor for an FSO to spend time on the Hill… seems counterproductive, unless you consider the spectacle that is our congress these days actually viable.

    • Michael says:

      If you don’t speak the language, you are rlaely limited in the type of jobs you can find. Some jobs that are open to foreigners are mainly cleaning jobs offices, hotels, etc. Or if you have kitchen experience you can try getting a job as a prep cook.When I first moved to Scandinavia, I worked cleaning hotel rooms because that’s all I could find until I learned Danish.

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