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In Service of a Nation

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Photo credit: Zachary Seitz

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Written by: Communicator StaffMarch 18, 2015

Written By: Monica Young
As students enjoyed their spring break, diplomat and Indiana native Ryan Feeback and his family packed their belongings while preparing to relocate hundreds of miles away for the second time in a year. Although moving is an infrequent hassle for most, it is a common occurrence in the life of a foreign service officer.

Feeback, who is in the US while between assignments in Nigeria and Peru, presents on “Life and Work in the US Foreign Service” before the Fort Wayne International Affairs Forum (FWIAF) March 16. He hopes his presentation will draw attention to the importance of diplomacy, inspiring other Hoosiers to follow a similar career path–one he finds tremendously rewarding.

In April Feeback, his wife and two young children are scheduled to set off for Lima, Peru, where he will be stationed for two years. Although relocating to a different country with his family can be stressful, Feeback considers working for the State Department as a diplomat his “dream job.” It is an exciting and worthwhile career. One he believes is worth the challenges it brings.

“There is a lot of stress. Imagine the most stressful things in life . . . and [foreign service officers] voluntarily put ourselves through them every two or three years: moving, new job, new friends, new country, new language,” he explained.

In addition to the stress of relocating, Feeback and his family also cope with the possibility of entering dangerous situations overseas. After two years in conflict- ridden Nigeria, Feeback is very familiar with the risks that accompany being a foreign service officer.

“Nigeria was an especially tricky place because there was a lot of terrorism. We had three bombings in Abouja, which was the city we were in, that final year. One of them like a mile from our house,” Feeback said. “[Being a foreign service officer] is risky and there are challenges to it. But that’s also part of the reward of the job and why we go out and do it.”

Foreign service officers employed by the US State Department are tasked with fostering peace and prosperity while protecting American citizens and interests overseas. Their work spans the globe, from the Americas to South Asia and every place in between. The job is one of public service and entails a wide variety of responsibilities. Diplomats not only assist Americans abroad, but also represent their country to the rest of the world.

In preparation for his work in Peru, Feeback underwent six months of intensive Spanish training. Once there, he will use this training to interview individuals seeking to temporarily migrate to the U.S. Feeback’s service will also include aiding and protecting American citizens in Peru. He is particularly interested in this part of the job as it aligns with his education and employment history.

Feeback earned his master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in 2007. From there, he spent five years working for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Manhattan as an inpatient psychiatric social worker. He initially became interested in becoming a diplomat because of the similarities between social work and American citizen services that foreign service workers provide to Americans abroad. These include a variety of responsibilities.

“You visit Americans that are in jail to make sure that their rights are being upheld, visit sick people in the hospital to make sure that they’re getting adequate care if possible, you take care of passport and visa issues for visiting tourists,” Feeback explained.

Becoming a diplomat takes some work. According to Feeback, foreign service officers undergo a grueling application process, and his own lasted 13 months. Those who are accepted find themselves in a unique and fulfilling position, one that enables them to have a meaningful impact on the world.

FWIAF hosts speaker(s) in the all-ages family room of JK O’Donnell’s every month. The forum aims to foster a wide variety of discussion pertaining to international affairs. Visit facebook.com/FWIAF for more information.