All Foreign Service Candidates bring a Statement of Interest (SOI) to the Foreign Service Oral Assessment, and it’s read by the examiners who asses the Structured Interview (at the very least – I don’t know who else reads it). No one knows for sure the guidelines for the SOI other than “Please us the space below to describe why you want to become a Foreign Service officer.” However, there are a few generally agreed upon guidelines in the Yahoo! Boards
- The SOI should concentrate on why you want to join the Foreign Service, not about why you’ll be an awesome FSO.
- Steer clear of “I want to travel.” This may be why you originally joined, but just wanting to travel gives the impression that you don’t completely understand the demands of the career.
- Be succinct and follow directions. You get an electronic copy of the document to ‘use the space below.’ Don’t go over a page and make sure the document is readable. There are varying opinions on whether or not the template is required – I say play it safe.
- Have several people read and give you feedback. My study group was essential for this. The document below is probably the fourth draft. I was very lucky to have the feedback from my group as well as from Chad, who is a wonderful editor.
- I’ve read of people writing their SOI the night before in the hotel (or even the morning of!), either because they left theirs at home or forgot to write it. If you can work that well under a short timeline, congrats, for the rest of us, make several copies, email the document to yourself, make sure someone else who can fax it to you is available, etc, etc. Don’t show up without it.
- Tell your own story. It doesn’t have to be something glamorous or earth shattering, but it should be about you. My SOI was very personal, and I think that made a difference.
Statement of Interest:
Please us the space below to describe why you want to become a Foreign Service officer.
I have always known that my career of choice would be one in service to my country – I have no doubt that my upbringing as a daughter of an officer in the United States Marine Corps contributed greatly to this knowledge. During a High School band trip to Europe I became more aware of the world around me and, wanting to know more, I chose International Relations as my major course of study in college. Another student first told me about the possibility of a career in the State department as a Foreign Service Officer and I immediately knew that this career path, which combined my interests in International Relations with serving the United States of America, was the one I wanted most to pursue. However, as I researched the process of becoming a Foreign Service Officer, I faced a dilemma: what cone should I choose? All of them held some appeal, but I could only choose one. I decided to delay taking the Foreign Service Exam for a few years in order to discover which would be the best fit for me.
Late in September 2007, after my wedding, I finalized my choice of cone as Consular. We were married in on the Big Island of Hawaii, and all of our guests were on vacation far from home. The next day, on their way to the airport, my friend and her three young children, my godchildren, were in a terrible car accident. The two youngest children escaped with barely a scratch, but their mother was seriously injured, and the oldest, my 8 year old godson and reluctant ring-bearer, died before the helicopter could reach the hospital. When a nurse confirmed the worst she let me grieve for two minutes, then reminded me that I had a friend worse off than I was, and two children to take care of. I did what I could for my friend. I calmed her down to the point where she could be flown to the main hospital on Oahu for surgery and arranged for my father to travel with her. My husband liaised with the police while I filled out paperwork and made difficult phone calls. The surviving children would be coming home with us. We both made sure the children ate, and when they were finally released, the nurses worked with me and arranged for us to borrow two car seats. We had rented a two bedroom condo for our honeymoon, and luckily, the second bedroom had two twin beds for the kids. Friends who were still in town from the wedding babysat while we went in to town to replace the shoes, clothes, pull-ups, toiletries and car seats that had been lost that morning in the accident. As they left us to settle in for the night, our friends told us that the kids were very lucky to have us taking care of them.
Over the next few days of phone calls, arrangements for the transportation of the remains, and changing of flight schedules, I realized that my friends were right: my goddaughter and godson were very lucky to have us take care of them, and my friend was lucky to have my husband and I make these arrangements. I briefly thought of what would have happened if they had been alone, and while I have faith in the County and State of Hawaii to see the children safely home, it would have been much more difficult for them to be taken care of by strangers. Eventually, my mind wandered back to this question of what direction I should take with the foreign service, and I understood that everything I had been doing over the past few days was ultimately the same thing an embassy’s Consular Section would do for any American abroad. I thought of some of the other duties of a Consular Officer: screening visa applications, assisting with adoptions, provide guidance with legal situations. A Consular Officer never stops providing some kind of aid or assistance to American citizens. Even under the worst of circumstances, I know that I always want to be in a position where I can help people. Realizing this, I also realized that I would best serve my country and its citizens by serving as a Consular Officer.