Page 60 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
oving every two to three years in
the Foreign Service is a rather
nontraditional way of life, unless
you are a nomad. However, recently it
occurred to me that this life is very sim-
ilar to something a little more prosaic—
going to college. The main difference is
that in the transient expat life, instead of
going to university once, we do it over and
over again.
There aremany similarities, both social
and academic, between the Foreign
Service life and university. Whenwe went
off to college, we often didn’t know a soul.
The same can be said for almost every
post. There may be a few people we
encountered earlier in our careers; but
most likely, we arrive not knowing any-
Despite having done our homework,
we arrive without much of a clue. Al-
thoughwemay have read about the place
and what it has to offer, it is only when
our boots hit the ground that we
are able to figure out how every-
thing fits together.
As the years at post pass, just as
they do at university, we move
from being clueless, disconnected
freshmen into the ranks of upper-
classmen, where we generally have
the situation down pat and are
woven into a tapestry of commu-
nity and social life.
Being at post is comparable to
university academically, as well.
Just as we had to select a major at
school, something on which to
focus our intellectual attention,
many of us do something similar
at post. For Foreign Service
members, their major is pro-
scribed for themby their jobs. But
many familymembers actually get
to choose their majors.
For example, here in Brussels,
Robbin Zeff Warner is well on her
way to graduating magna cum
laude in chocolate. Belgium is the
perfect place for such amajor, as it
boasts three of the world’s largest
chocolate manufacturers, and is
home to more than 10,000 artisan
chocolate shops dotted around
the country.
Warner spent her first couple of
years exploring Brussels before
settling on learning all she could
about making chocolates. Now she
has moved on to offering courses
teaching others how to take raw
chocolate, temper it and mold it
into a variety of shapes.
“Finding out I loved working
with chocolate was a process of dis-
covery,” says Robbin. “I’d been
dabbling in this, sampling a little of
that, until I took a professional
chocolate-making course at the
Chocolate Academy at Callebaut
and was officially hooked. When
we go back to the States, I am seri-
The University of (fill in the blank)
Peter Barbarich, a family member in Brussels, finds his true calling chiseling sculpture from local wood.
Robbin ZeffWarner creates chocolatesmolded into a variety of shapes
when she isn’t teaching others the joy of Belgian chocolate-making.