I am always impressed by the ingenuity of aspiring Foreign Service Officers as they study and prepare for the Foreign Service application process. Over the years, I have seen the creation of groups, blogs, forums, and training programs from and for aspiring Officers. Today, I am pleased to showcase a new approach.
Jac and Nat have created and are producing a podcast(!) on their journey to the Foreign Service. With a clever name, “How did we not know that,” Jac and Nat delve into U.S. and world history, discussing the events and items they did not know as they study for the FSOT. The topics are varied but their approach is the same: genuine curiosity in history, a willingness to learn and share with one another and the listener, and a rapport with one another that makes listening to their show a joy.
I recently had the opportunity to interview the two of them, and it was a fun experience. I welcome you to learn a little more about them, and to check out their podcast.
Who are you and what cool fact would you like to share with others?
We’re Jac and Nat and we host ‘How Did We Not Know That’ together. A really fun fact about us is that although we both went to the same college, we actually met while teaching English in China together. We clicked so fast that everyone thought we knew each other long before the program.
Why did you start the podcast?
We wanted to make a podcast because we needed a fun way to study for the FSOT together. The podcast episodes are really similar to how we talk to each other, laid back, and full of questions with no judgment on anything we don’t know. We love a lot of history/politics/news podcasts but saw there was a lack of young colored women representation. We realized that we could fill that gap and that using the podcast as a study tool would help us increase our communication and research skills while preparing us for the Foreign Service Officer Test.
What’s the best “how did we not know that” moment you have had, and why? (e.g., not knowing Canadians burned down the White House
Jac: I would say how far behind the USA actually was in the Space Race against the Soviet Union. I had always thought the USA definitely won that race but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I had so much fun with our episode ‘Who Really Won The Space Race?’, and I learned so much about the sequence between WW2 and the Cold War which were always fuzzy topics to me in school
Nat: For me, I didn’t realize that four US presidents had been assassinated. I always heard about Abraham Lincoln and JFK but I had no idea that James Garfield and William Mckinley were also shot. I don’t know if I was absent on that day in school or we just didn’t cover it, it took me 22 years to realize that. I loved covering the events in ‘President McKinley Was Assassinated?’ and ‘How Many US Presidents Have Been Assassinated?’ so I could share their stories.
What are your goals for the podcast?
We haven’t really thought about specific goals other than eventually joining the Foreign Service. We would like to have more of our friends from other countries as guests on the show and are working towards that. Overall we really just want to have fun with what we’re doing and continue learning together. If we could podcast full-time that’d be great too but we aren’t banking on it!
What career track in the Foreign Service are you interested in pursuing?
Jac: Right now, I’m interested in the Political or Economic career tracks. My interest in economics grows every day, but we’ll see if I change my mind in the future!
Nat: I really want to do the Public Diplomacy track. I’m really interested in discussing US foreign policy with others and hearing about their perspectives on the United States.
When do you plan to take the FSOT?
We are planning to take it for the first time in February of 2021. Not expecting to pass it on the first try, but it’ll be good to experience taking the real thing!
What country, or countries, would you like to work in as a diplomat?
Jac: Such a great question! I would love to work in a Polynesian country. I knew nothing about Polynesia until I studied in New Zealand and it blew my mind how many islands with different languages and cultures exist in the world. I would love to be able to spend more time learning from communities in those countries.
Nat: I am really interested in East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, my dream is to return to either Indonesia or Japan since I’ve spent some time there and really enjoyed it. I’d really love to work around regional security issues in Asia. In regards to Japan, I’m particularly interested in US / Japanese military relations.
What do you most look forward to joining the FS?
Jac: Being able to work in an area where I am serving others and interacting with people from different backgrounds. A career in the FS would be really fulfilling in that respect.
Nat: I think it’s such a unique opportunity because you get to travel and make a difference around the world. I also want a career where I can continue learning, and joining the FS would be a blend of all my interests into one.
What do you think will be an area of challenge in joining the FS?
Jac: For me, personally, I think getting up to speed on policy, international relations, and even just English Grammar skills. Coming from a computer science background, I don’t get as much practice in those areas as I would and most people entering the FS have potentially spent a lot more time reading and writing papers related to public policy and international affairs than I have. That’s a learning gap I need to close but I remind myself that my STEM background adds to my ability to serve in the FS not reduces it.
Nat: For me, I think it will be a bit stressful knowing that the decisions I make have such a big impact on not only our country but potentially the rest of the world. But I think that pressure is also really motivating, and part of the reason why I’m so drawn to this career.
What last item(s) do you want the Path to Foreign Service community to know about your podcast?
We want our viewers to know that it is okay to not know everything. We are always learning and growing and that’s how we want our podcast to make you feel! Whatever you want to do and learn, just have fun with it!
Also please take a listen, follow us on social media, and give us a review, we really appreciate the support!
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