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Alumna on her second tour with the U.S. Foreign Service

Emmania Blum, SSH’09, is on her second tour as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in Guadalajara, Mexico. Here, she talks about her experiences at Northeastern, her Rangel Fellowship, and her experiences with the U.S. Department of State.

Why did you choose to attend Northeastern?

I chose to attend Northeastern because of its focus on experiential education and its co-op offering. As a person from a disadvantaged social-economic background, I was so worried about finding work upon graduation that I focused on a school that not just prepared me academically, but also gave me the opportunities necessary to attain meaningful work in my field.

Where did you complete your co-ops?

I did a co-op at the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce where, upon graduation, I subsequently worked for three years. While I was an intern there, I worked with their Small Business Development Manager on their Latin American trade roundtables (or missions) and financial literacy programs for small- and mid-sized businesses.

What was your immediate post-grad experience like?

I had a job! Not many people of my generation could say that at the time—or even now. The student experience at Northeastern made me competitive in the job market, and is what I believe led to me being named a 2011 Rangel fellow.

When did you find out that you were awarded the Rangel Fellowship?

I found out I was awarded the Rangel Fellowship in the spring of 2011. It was actually a very emotionally charged experience for me as initially I was called to be told that funding was being cut and only 15 fellows would be funded. I was number 17. At that time I was devastated but trusted that if I was meant to enter the Department of State I would do so in some way, shape or form. Surprisingly, I got a call two weeks later that the funding had been secured for those five additional spots. I jumped for joy, got a huge hug from my boss and overnighted that contract!

What opportunities were you awarded through this fellowship?

This fellowship was life changing. As a result of the fellowship I not only had funding for graduate studies but got to experience so many things I may not have otherwise. I interned in Congress with Rep. Serrano, from my home district. I also interned at the U.S. Embassy Jakarta and, due to timing and luck, ended up doing a significant job! I was the Housing Coordinator during that time and assisted with housing assignments for our fellow American colleagues and their families. I also got to work in the warehouse, did customs and shipping and human resources. This experience ultimately helped me decide what “cone” I wanted to pursue within the department. Hence, why I am a Management “coned” officer in the generalist class.

Tell us about your first tour with the U.S. Department of State.

My first tour was in Sofia, Bulgaria. In those two years I was the Non-Immigrant Visas Chief, the Fraud Prevention Manager and the Immigrant Visas Chief. I found it very rewarding to represent my country and alsp help create a stronger relationship with Bulgaria. As the Immigrant Visas Chief, my staff and I collaborated with our Australian counterparts who were trying to establish an adoption program with Bulgaria. This program was initiated by the end of the tour, giving more Bulgarian children the opportunity to have a loving home.

While I had fulfilled my contract with the Department by the end of my tour by serving for three years, I never questioned staying on.

What is one of the most exciting things about being a U.S. Foreign Service Officer?

Every day and week is different. One day you’re adjudicating visas, the next day you could be assisting a destitute American, or giving a talk to students who would like to work or study in the U.S. It has been such a joy to wake up every morning and to look forward to what I will be doing. I really do love my job and feel this is my calling.

Looking back on your experiences since graduating, what are some pieces of advice you would give current Northeastern students?

While at Northeastern, take advantage of co-op, study abroad, service learning opportunities, club activities, research, and ALSO the amazing professors and staff. Thanks to International Affairs Professor Denise Garcia and her connections with the United Nations, I was able to travel to Denmark as an alumna to observe and partake in CO-15. On that trip, I got a rare firsthand look into the diplomatic world and it was fascinating!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am proud to be a Northeastern Husky and a part of this vibrant community of world changers. I am happy to share my experiences and to be a mentor to those of you who would like to pursue a career in diplomacy!

If you would like to be connected with Emmania, please contact Jordana Torres at j.torres@northeastern.edu.

Click here to read more Alumni stories.

published November 2017