By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Department of State Diplomat in Residence Terry Davidson returned to the University of Mary Washington to inform students of possible careers and internships at the U.S. Department of State on March 31.
Davidson previously visited UMW on Nov. 6, 2014, when he spoke about his career in the foreign service. UMW alumna Catherine Romeo, a 2013 graduate who also works for the U.S. Department of State, also attended the November event.
Before becoming Department of State Diplomat in Residence in August 2014, Davidson was the Department of State’s recruiting outreach division chief and a foreign service officer.
Generating interest in foreign services has been an integral part of all three careers, particularly his career as State Diplomat in Residence.
“My job right now is to introduce my world to students around the region,” said Davidson before the meeting.
In his career at the Department of State, Davidson has traveled to Mexico City, Rangoon, Bogota, Quito, Brasilia, Baku and Washington, D.C. He will be traveling to Kabul, Afghanistan this summer with his wife, who is also a State Department officer, to serve as the country’s Public Affairs officer. He will be staying in Kabul for two years.
According to Davidson, representing the U.S. in foreign countries is both a challenging and rewarding experience. Davidson described what it felt like to cut a ribbon for a school in Mexico he helped build and watch more than 500 children celebrate. In Kabul, Davidson will help build dormitories for female students.
Because he moves constantly for his career, Davidson is often not able to see the full impact of foreign services in the countries he worked in.
“You don’t get to see the end of the story in most places,” said Davidson. “Social media let me see what’s happened in Mexico 25 years later.”
Because careers in the foreign services can be competitive (the fall 2015 internship for the Department of State has already closed, and the summer 2016 application ends in September) Davidson encourages students to study abroad or join the Peace Corps to gain experience. However, Davidson said foreign services hires people from all backgrounds.
“We’re an elite group, but not elitist. We hire people from all walks of life,” said Davidson.
His main goal is to familiarize students with foreign services and allow them to consider it as a possible career.
“I never heard of it when I was at university,” said Davidson. “Our job is to make sure people do hear about it.”
Holly Aleksonis, a junior psychology major, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland in the fall of 2014 as part of UMW’s study abroad program. Aleksonis heard Davidson speak about foreign services at the University of Virginia. Aleksonis said she admired Davidson’s commitment to his career.
“I liked that he got to travel a lot and got to know each country,” said Aleksonis.
Aleksonis, who is also a peer advisor for the Center for International Education, believes students can take advantage of opportunities to work or study abroad, whether that is for the foreign services, the Peace Corps or UMW’s study abroad program.
“It’s an invaluable experience, and it opens you up to different experiences and different cultures,” said Aleksonis.
The session was hosted by UMW’s Office of Academics and Career Services and took place in Lee 411.