My name is Tiana, and I am a government contractor and work as a program analyst at the U.S. Department of State.
I work on the (J-1) Exchange Visitor Program in the academic program categories. Approximately 300,000 foreigners from over 200 countries come to the U.S. each year on J-1 visas. Foreigners who are interested in the Exchange Visitor Program must have a designated sponsor.
My office reviews new applications for designation and re-designates current sponsors to administer the Exchange Visitor Program. There are over 1,000 designated sponsors in the academic program categories (short-term scholar, professor, research scholar, college/university student, and specialist). I’m assigned NAFSA Regions VI & VII, which are mostly southern states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I review various applications and requests (designation, re-designation, allotments, reinstatements, amendments, change of category, etc) from sponsors in my regions and approve or deny based on program regulations.
I also analyze annual reports, assist sponsors with J-1 visa inquiries, and provide outreach.
Two years ago, I was working as a management analyst at another bureau at the Department of State (for another contracting company). I left my job in Consular Training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and decided to give this new job a shot. I worked in this position for less than six months when a new opportunity came up.
A contracting position opened at the Department of State’s Bureau Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA), where I previously interned. I enjoyed my time in ECA and knew I wanted to come back, so I jumped on the opportunity.
I interviewed and got an offer the very next day! My new position was to be a Junior Program Analyst for the (J-1) Exchange Visitor Program.
I assisted four Program Analysts in the Trainee, Intern, Au Pair, Alien Physician, Teacher, and G-1 (government funded) programs categories. It was a lot of work, and I juggled many different tasks and roles, but I gained so much experience within the 14 months that I was there.
I also got to travel to Florida, Boston, and Myrtle Beach to interview exchange visitors about their program experience.
Upon returning from my Boston trip, I got an email from my contracting company about a promotional opportunity to be a program analyst within my larger office, but in a different division. I was excited to be presented with such an opportunity because I had been a junior program analyst for over a year. I was ready for something new. I agreed to the offer and two weeks later, I started the promotion with the biggest salary increase I’ve ever received.
Yes! I always knew I’d end up becoming a program analyst. I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to be an analyst.
Yes, I work 9-5. But lucky for me, I only have to go to the office three days a week and telework for two days.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a Master of Arts in Global Affairs & Human Security. I also interned at the ECA Bureau, and World Learning (a D.C. nonprofit) for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
I got to see the government side of the IVLP program and the nonprofit side. My internships definitely helped me land my previous job as a junior program analyst. This led me to become a full program analyst.
I studied Spanish in school (middle school-college) for about six years. I also studied French, German, and Portuguese. I’m not fluent in any, but I know Spanish the most.
In college, I was an international student ambassador, English language partner to international students, and a resident assistant for the international floor.
Having knowledge and interests in other languages and cultures definitely helped me be able to get my internships for the International Visitor Leadership Program, which ultimately led me to where I am today.
A bachelor’s degree is required for my position.
I don’t have a single favorite part about my job. I enjoy pretty much everything. I love that I can telework twice a week, I get along well with my supervisor and coworkers, and I get to travel often. The work I do is challenging but rewarding. Getting to meet sponsors and exchange visitors all across the country and seeing the impact of this program is the ultimate reward.
Getting used to my new program categories and remembering the regulations and rules for each have been somewhat challenging. I’ve only been at my new job for a month, but I know with practice and time it’ll get much easier.
Explore your options! International affairs is such a big field! There is so much you could do. I originally wanted to get into international development when I picked my major in college. Then, I thought I wanted to work with refugees. Now, I’m working in international exchanges, and I absolutely love it! You never know what you may like until you explore it, and I found my love for international exchanges when I interned. I would suggest doing as many different internships or volunteer opportunities as you can. Apply for jobs you’re interested in, even if you don’t meet all of the requirements. Take a chance! Apply and see what happens. Networking is also an excellent way to put yourself out there, meet people, and learn about what they do. Young Professionals in International Affairs and Black Professionals in International Affairs are two great groups for that!
Over two years ago, when I worked at FSI as a program assistant, I went to Ecuador to assist a diplomatic course. That was an amazing opportunity! I got to experience more in-depth insight into the Foreign Service, put my Spanish skills to good use, and even experienced earthquake aftershocks! I will never forget that trip. My dream destination would be Tahiti!
Go after what you want! If you are unsure what that is, explore until you find it. If you feel unhappy or stuck at a job, know that you’re not, and it won’t last forever unless you allow it to. You have the power to move yourself and your career forward, but you’ve got to make a move! I love my new job. Take chances, you never know where you’ll end up! I know if I hadn’t accepted my previous job of a junior program analyst, which had a slight pay cut, I wouldn’t be a program analyst today with a pay raise! Explore, network, seek new opportunities, work hard, keep a positive attitude, and I promise you will get to where you want to be.