Thursday, February 19, 2015

CES Study Abroad Information Session

by Ena Barisic

The Center for European Studies held a summer study abroad informational session for students interested in visiting either Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, or Belgium. These programs can count for the required summer term, and as classes for Political Science, European Union Studies, Eastern-Central European Studies and International Studies. The purpose for the session was to informally give information regarding each individual program, with regards to important details such as costs, transportation, classes offered, housing, and entertainment. Each program’s advisor joined the group of students in order to further explain the program. The general gist of applying is similar to all four programs: send an application, letter(s) of recommendation, said college application, minimum of 2.0/2.5 GPA and a non-refundable fee. Scholarships are offered for students to apply in order to fund the costs.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Coffee with a Diplomat: Informal Session with Michael Thurston

by Ena Barisic

A room of interested students had the pleasure of engaging in an intimate discussion foreign affairs positions with Michael Thurston, Senior Foreign Service Officer (SFSO) of the U.S. Department of State. The event was arranged by the Center for European Studies at UF. Thurston has visited the University of Florida campus previously in Fall of 2014.  The purpose of this year’s informal session was to recruit and inform students about career options at the State Department, including jobs as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO). The Department seeks increased representation from the Southeast to bolster diversity and promote equal regional participation.

Thurston began the session with an account of his experiences, his service, and the impact of the State Department on his life.  Thurston served in Afghanistan as the advisor and senior civilian to the Special Operations Joint Task Force/NATO Special Operations Command and as the acting ambassador in Burma. His previous posts include Australia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Mexico, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

Thurston discussed the application process in detail. As an FSO, you represent the United States overseas, thereby playing a vital role in foreign affairs, a role that the U.S. Department of State does not take lightly. Applying for the FSO position consists of multiple rounds of pass/fail assessments: qualification/registration for the FSO test, passing the FSO test, submission of a personal narrative to the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP), passing an oral test, and passing the medical and security clearance. Lastly, the QEP will do a final review of your file before offering acceptance. Once accepted, candidates must select one of five tracks: Consular, Economic, Management, Political, or Public Diplomacy. Thurston advised listeners to carefully consider this decision, because although it can be done, the process to switch tracks is highly complicated.

Thurston’s enthusiasm for the position allowed him to express the personal benefits of the job in an enticing way. When he applied, he was originally attracted to the prospect of travelling, while serving his country. As an experienced diplomat, he is now humbled by the relationship he makes with diverse groups around the globe. He says that this appreciation for people “can’t be taught in textbooks.”

This Czech and American Life: Community, Nature, and the Future

            Dobrý den! (Hello!) I’m Veronica Cinibulk (that’s the Americanized version, it’s really Cinibulková), and I am from the Czech Republic. *Fast Fact* The –ová (or –á) is used at the end of females’ surnames to indicate their gender, though a very small number of surnames don’t change, and are the same in masculine and feminine form. *Another Fast Fact* It’s the Czech Republic now, though people seem to have trouble letting go of the word “Czechoslovakia.” It’s alright, I understand. It was Czechoslovakia until January 1, 1993—just 22 years ago! I know. Crazy.

We’re two countries now! Though we still have joint TV shows…

            My family and I moved from the Czech Republic to America when I was three and a half years old, but we continue to go back each summer, sometimes for three or four months, and later for one or two. Just for fun, I decided to count how many times I have sat sleeplessly through the nine, twelve, or fifteen hour flights across the Atlantic, and the answer is…34. Thirty-four times. Yes, I love traveling, and I love airports. But I have grown quite a strong dislike for the actual flying aspect.

My doggy at the airport, ready to travel. She’s not too fond of the flights either…Fifteen hours in a bag can get tiresome, you know.