The Foreign Service Journal - June 2014 - page 21

JUNE 2014
A Transatlantic Diplomatic Exchange Fellow from Ankara discovers more similarities
than he expected when he spends a year in Foggy Bottom.
owever long my career as a Turkish
diplomat lasts, I will always cher-
ish my year (2011-2012) at the U.S.
Department of State with the Trans-
atlantic Diplomatic Exchange Fel-
lowship Program. This unique pro-
gram allows diplomats fromNATO
and the European Union to work at
State for a year. The Turkish Foreign
Ministry highly values this opportunity for its diplomats to expe-
rience the U.S. foreign policymaking process from the inside, and
to facilitate better relations between our two countries.
Excited as I was to be assigned to such an important program,
I must confess that I had no real idea just how challenging—
and rewarding—an experience it would be. It took longer than
I expected to overcome a difficult-to-explain sense that I was
some sort of impostor—a feeling exacerbated whenever I met
someone who treated me as one of his or her “ordinary” Ameri-
can colleagues. In fact, many of my State Department colleagues
were genuinely surprised to learn I am a Turkish diplomat,
Working at State As
a Turkish Diplomat
Ömer Murat is a counselor at the Turkish Embassy inWashington, D.C.
Since joining the Turkish Foreign Service in 2001, he has also served
in Tripoli, Brasilia and Baku. He wishes to thank Ambassador Bonnie
Jenkins, Margo Squire and Mahvash Siddiqui for their support during
his time at the State Department.
especially those who had never before met a Transatlantic Dip-
lomatic Fellow.
Stumbling into Insights
I quickly realized that the Harry S Truman Building is a very
serious and complicated place—even more so than Americans
themselves. I was on the verge of having a surreal experience
every time I roamed its long corridors trying to find a room. I kept
wondering, “Where are all the people?”
Once I realized I’d lost my way, I had to ask other people how
to get back to my suite, without letting on my concern that they
thought I was a stranger or not meant to be here. And I had to do
this with proper manners.
Of course, they were never, ever suspicious of me, but always
smiling and helpful. Some told me it was a more gruesome feel-
ing to walk around the building before the posters of world cities
were mounted on the walls. I salute those who had this brilliant
idea, which makes the experience of navigating the building
much less claustrophobic.
After these initial “stumblings,” it did not take long to see that
there are more striking similarities than differences between
the Turkish Foreign Ministry and State Department, and also
between American and Turkish diplomats. Chief among these
are never-ending clearances, and the use of acronyms that are
only meaningful to those within the building. (As a graduate of
a State Department program, I am proud to announce that I will
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