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Where Am I From?




“Where do you live?”

“I live in India.”

“No, where are you from? I

mean, where were you born?”

“I was born in Abu Dhabi.”

The reaction is confused

looks and more questions.

“Where are you from


That is a complicated


Being a Foreign Service

child has allowed me to grow

up around the world and has

offered me many different


While in Romania, I was

quite disturbed by the fact

that my mother and I were

the only women wearing tops

at the waterpark. This was a

huge culture shock to 7-year-

old me. Having to change

slippers depending upon

which room of the house I was

in required a cultural under-

standing on my part. Romania

taught me acceptance of

different cultural norms.

Indonesia has this great

atmosphere; easygoing and

calm. Jakarta was highly

polluted and congested; yet

it still had a lively feeling. If

things went wrong, there was

a solution, no need to stress.

At times this was wonderful,

at others it was frustrating. I

would be trying to get home,

beat the traffic and start my

homework before swim prac-

tice, and all the buses would

be late.

Neither the drivers nor the

school saw this as an issue,

just a typical occurrence. I

had to learn to let go of what I

could not control and come to

terms with the “rubber time”

attitude. Indonesia taught me


The majority of Jordan’s

population is Muslim;

because of this, Jordan is very

conservative. It was hard for

me to adjust. I had to cover

my legs and shoulders and

stomach. Walking around

alone was not allowed. Talking

about politics or negatively

of the king was forbidden.

Losing some of my indepen-

dence was a struggle. I had to

learn to respect the culture

even when I did not agree

with it. Once I got past this, I

could appreciate Jordan. The

history and culture are rich,

the architecture is amazing,

and the food, oh the food, is

to die for. After swim practice

I would buy shawarma for

three dollars on the side of

the street. Jordan taught me


India is the most unique

place I have lived. There are

wild monkeys that destroy our

garden once a week. I have

been stuck in traffic behind an

elephant and next to a cow.

I have seen people using the

sidewalk as a bathroom. This

is all unheard of in the States,

but here it’s daily life. The

poverty is heart-wrenching.

India’s wealth comes from its

culture. Despite the poverty

many live in, they are very

resilient. India has an incred-

ible atmosphere because its

people strive to make things

work. It is humbling to see.

India taught me humility.

This lifestyle gave me the

As in years past, AFSA

is collaborating with

the Thursday Luncheon

Group to support a

minority college student

during a 10-week intern-

ship at the Department

of State. Established

in 1992, this program

has since brought 25

students toWashington,

D.C., for the summer for

an enriching professional


Candace Johnson, this year’s TLG intern, is a gradu-

ate student at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New

York. She is studying public diplomacy as a dual mas-

ter’s degree student at both the S.I. Newhouse School

of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of

Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has a strong interest

in public diplomacy, and hopes to join the Department of

State one day. Candace earned an undergraduate degree

in journalism and English from Howard University in

Washington, D.C.

Similarly, this summer marks AFSA’s second year of

collaboration with the Hispanic Employees Council of the

Foreign Affairs Agencies, which is modeled on the TLG

program. This endeavor supports a deserving Hispanic-

American college student during an internship at the

State Department.

AFSA greatly appreciates its strong relationship with

both HECFAA and TLG. Special thanks go to their leaders,

Francisco Palmieri and Stacy Williams, as well as the

very supportive staff in the Bureau of Human Resources’

Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment. We

look forward to providing similar opportunities for many

more students in the future.


—Ásgeir Sigfússon, Director of New Media


opportunity to develop as a

global person. Each place has

contributed to who I am. I

could not give up a place with-

out giving up a part of myself.

So, where am I from? I guess

I’m from everywhere.