Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find websites and information, upcoming webinars, programs and events. FLO does not endorse organizations or companies linked-to in this blog, the views they express, or the products/services they offer. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How to Improve Resilience in Midlife
By TARA PARKER-POPEJULY 25, 2017 in the New York Times

Photo by Sarah Williamson

Much of the scientific research on resilience — our ability to bounce back from adversity — has focused on how to build resilience in children. But what about the grown-ups?
While resilience is an essential skill for healthy childhood development, science shows that adults also can take steps to boost resilience in middle age, which is often the time we need it most. Midlife can bring all kinds of stressors, including divorce, the death of a parent, career setbacks and retirement worries, yet many of us don’t build the coping skills we need to meet these challenges.
The good news is that some of the qualities of middle age — a better ability to regulate emotions, perspective gained from life experiences and concern for future generations — may give older people an advantage over the young when it comes to developing resilience, said Adam Grant, a management and psychology professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“There is a naturally learnable set of behaviors that contribute to resilience,” said Dr. Grant, who, with Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, wrote the book “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.” “Those are the behaviors that we gravitate to more and more as we age.”
Scientists who study stress and resilience say it’s important to think of resilience as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened at any time. While it’s useful to build up resilience before a big or small crisis hits, there still are active steps you can take during and after a crisis to speed your emotional recovery.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Did You Earn NCE? Organize Your Paperwork Before Leaving Post

If you have earned Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) and plan to seek federal employment when you return to the U.S., it is important to ensure that you have the correct documentation. Before you leave post, download copies of your documents from HR Online while you still have access to OpenNet. You will need the following: 
  • Standard Form 50 (SF-50) – You need your first and last SF-50s to confirm the length of your appointment, your last pay grade, and that you have worked the minimum 52 weeks on a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or 2,087 hours on a TEMP assignment.
  • Performance Review (JF 57) – A copy of your most recent, signed performance review.
  • NCE Verification Letter – Provided by the Human Resources office at post, the letter outlines the regulations from CFR 315.608, which can be useful for other federal agencies who may not be familiar with NCE. 
These three documents should be scanned into one document when applying for federal vacancies on USAJOBS. For more information on family member employment, go to www.state.gov/flo/employment. Email questions to FLOAskEmployment@state.gov.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Virtual Work Opportunities: Portable Career Employment Options Webinar (MQ708)

Hosted by the Transition Center at the Foreign Service Institute, this tuition-based webinar is designed to help family members consider virtual employment as a portable career option. The course will cover trends in telework, an overview of key considerations when choosing virtual work options, and where to look for telework opportunities. 

Who May Attend: Open to all Foreign Affairs adult Eligible Family Members (EFMs)

When: August 10, 2017 from 8:00 am- 9:15am ET and again from 4:00pm - 5:15pm ET

How to Register: State Department EFMs register through the employee’s CDO/Training Officer or on OpenNet. All other EFMs must submit an SF-182

Questions: Email questions to FSITCTraining@state.gov

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Virtual Internship Opportunity with the Federal Government

U.S. college students around the world may be interested in applying for the 2017-18 Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) program. Real experience is waiting for students across the federal government, including the Department of State, NASA, Smithsonian, CIA, National Parks Service, and others. For a list of projects and information on how to apply, go to vsfs.state.gov. Apply by July 26.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Visit the OBC and Watch Your Post Video

Are you in Washington, DC this summer? Stop by the OBC to check out the post videos to learn about the realities of embassy/consulate life and culture at overseas posts. They are created by members of the foreign affairs community who are living at posts around the world and provide first-hand perspectives. There are currently 120 post videos available for viewing at the OBC and on Post Info to Go on the Department of State intranet.

Create a video for your post—see the Comprehensive Guidelines for OBC Post Videos webpage. Read the April 2016 State Magazine article, Video Views, by Maureen Johnston, Resource Specialist at the OBC, which includes tips for creating the videos. Email FSIOBCInfoCenter@state.gov with questions.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Latest Worldwide FAMER Overview Report Now Available

Published twice a year by FLO, the Family Member Employment Report (FAMER) tracks Foreign Service family member employment worldwide and is an important tool in the bidding process, helping employees and family members make informed employment decisions. FAMERs provide a snapshot of the overseas employment situation for family members, offering both an overview and specific statistics on employment inside the mission and on the local economy. Note: This snapshot reflects information as of April 2017; check with post for the latest employment information.

Find the April 2017 Worldwide Family Member Employment Overview on FLO’s website. Find post specific FAMERs on the intranet or by emailing FLOAskEmployment@state.gov.

Thank you to the CLOs, Management, HR Officers, and others at embassies and consulates worldwide who worked on this year’s updates!

Monday, July 3, 2017

FLO Global Webinars: Watch Them Online Today! 

FLO hosts a variety of webinars through its FLO Global Webinar series. You can watch past webinars online; check out the list below (click on the webinar title to watch).

Overseas Consular Opportunities for EFMS—Learn about the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) and Consular Fellows programs.
Changing Careers—Job search strategist Hanna Morgan talks about how companies are using different strategies to find their next great hire. Learn what you can do to better position yourself.
Find and Create Opportunities for Yourself Anywhere—Colleen Reichrath-Smith, co-author of A Career in Your Suitcase, explains how to find and create opportunities for yourself anywhere.
LinkedIn Made Easy—Viveka von Rosen, one of Forbes’ Top Twenty Most Influential Women in Social Media, offers strategies for how best to use LinkedIn. Find the people you need in your network, whether transitioning to a new career or building your own business.
Parents with Adult Children—Learn about current trends and behaviors associated with adult children living at home including the differences between empowering vs. enabling and guidelines for successful coexistence and launching.
Managing the Stress of Change—Learn effective ways to manage change, including the challenges of change, identifying various aspects of the change process, and describing different ways to modify your stress responses to change.

Reintegration After a Separation—Learn strategies for reintegration after a separation and the support services available to employees and family members. This webinar discusses many aspects of reintegration including relationships, family life issues, and work issues that often arise following a separation.

Parenting During Separation—A discussion on successful parenting during times of separation.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Check Out the OBC's CultureGrams

Did you know that the Transition Center’s Overseas Briefing Center at the Foreign Service Institute provides online access to CultureGrams? This database of cultural information is available for use by all foreign affairs community members associated with a U.S. Mission overseas. CultureGrams houses cultural reports, information for kids, recipes, interviews with locals, and more. Email FSIOBCInfoCenter@state.gov for the username and password. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Be prepared to travel with your pet. The Transition Center has the resources and information to help plan your next transfer. Learn more at: https://goo.gl/ZuzY9O

Monday, June 12, 2017

Recertification for Members of the FSFRC in Reserve Status 

  • Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) members in categories 1 and 2 who are not actively working in a local TEMP or FMA assignment are required to recertify their eligibility to remain in the FSFRC on an annual basis.
  • Approximately two months prior to the anniversary date of your appointment to the FSFRC, the Bureau of Human Resource’s Office of Shared Services (HR/SS) will contact you with instructions via the personal email address that you provided on your membership application form.
  • If your personal email address has changed, contact HR/SS with the correct address at FSFRC@state.gov.
  • Completion and submission of your recertification package in a timely manner is critical in allowing HR/SS adequate time to adjudicate your submission prior to your annual recertification date.
  • If you are not actively working in a local TEMP or FMA assignment and have not received a recertification request two months prior to the anniversary of your membership, contact HR/SS at FSFRC@state.gov.
  • Failure to respond to recertification requests in a timely manner will lead to termination of your membership in the FSFRC.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Facts and Updates: Making Sense of the Department of State Education Allowance:
An understanding of education allowances is crucial for Foreign Service families. Here is an introduction.  
To read the article in full, please click here:    Foreign Service Journal

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Prepare for an Emergency: Go-Bag and 72-Hour Kit

Every day there is a possibility of a sudden departure from an overseas post due to political unrest, natural disaster, a death in the family, divorce, a family member in crisis, or a medical emergency.

There are many ways to prepare for the unexpected and a good place to start is by reading FLO’s Personal Preparedness Plan for tips on creating your plan. FLO also provides a checklist for preparing a Go-Bag and a 72 Hour Emergency Kit.

Visit the Crisis Management Services webpage for more information. Email questions to FLOAskSupportServices@state.gov

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FSI/TC Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation

If yo
u are in the DC area, the Transition Center at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI/TC) is offering a FREE 2-day Summer Youth Program for children of all foreign affairs agencies in grades 2-12. The program is an interactive exploration into the world of diplomacy, the realities of living overseas as an American, and safety and security threats overseas. Children are divided by age and all information is shared using age-appropriate activities. A parent or guardian is required to be on campus (consider registering for MQ911 Security Overseas Seminar which runs concurrently with the Youth Program).

For more information, visit the Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation webpage. Email FSITCTraining@state.gov with questions.

Remaining 2017 Dates (click on dates below to register)
August 7-8

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Unaccompanied Tours Decision Tree

As you are preparing for or thinking about bidding on an Unaccompanied Tour (UT) post, check out FLO’s Decision Tree. It is a guide to help you decide where your family will live while you are serving on an unaccompanied tour.

Email FLOAskUT@state.gov with questions and visit www.state.gov/flo/ut for information on all of FLO’s UT support services. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Leaving Post in 2017? You May Be Eligible to Apply for the FSFRC

During the hiring freeze, family members can apply to join the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) if they meet all of the below criteria. Those eligible should apply now and not wait until closer to their departure date.

Family Members Working Overseas
  • Currently employed at post under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary (TEMP) appointment and will be departing from the current position between now and December 31, 2017.
  • Employed on an FMA or TEMP appointment with a sponsoring employee who has an upcoming Transfer Eligibility Date (TED) between now and December 31, 2017.
  • Currently in Intermittent No Work Scheduled (INWS) status at the time of application, with a Not to Exceed (NTE) date between now and December 31, 2017.
Family Members Working in the Civil Service

  • Due to the hiring freeze currently in effect at the Department of State, family members who are working in Civil Service positions who will be accompanying their sponsoring employees abroad may not join the FSFRC at this time. Going from the Civil Service to the FSFRC would require a hiring action which is not possible at this time. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Summer 2017 Distance Language Courses

Summer 2017 Distance Language Courses

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI)'s Summer 2017 semester of online distance language learning courses are starting on or around May 15, 2017. FSI’s School of Language Studies offers 65 courses in 17 different languages. Enroll now as courses fill up quickly and the late enrollment deadline is approaching (May 26).

Enrollment is free to direct-hire Department of State employees and their family members on a space available basis. Other agency personnel and their family members may enroll through their DC office on a reimbursable basis with a fully funded SF-182 to be sent to FSIRegistrar@state.gov. Employees can enroll via their Career Development Officer (CDO) or on the FSI Registrar’s Course Catalog on OpenNet. Family members can enroll via their sponsor’s CDO.

Email OnlineLanguage@state.gov for more information. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great Resource for separated families

Never Miss A Moment With Caribu

Caribu lets you video call and read no matter where you are, so you never miss another story time.   This beautiful app is designed for children.

Get it free on your iPad or iPhone.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Time is Choice

Posted by Beth Payne, Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience in her Resilience blog and re-posted here.

Almost every time I give a presentation on resilience, someone mentions that a major barrier to   engaging in activities that foster resilience is that they do not have the time. For example, people know that enjoying a hobby or socializing with colleagues will benefit them, but they struggle to find the time. We know we should exercise regularly but the day goes by and there never seems to be enough time. We start the day planning to go to bed at 10PM to get 8 hours of sleep and before we know it, it is midnight. How many of us feel like we’ve lost control of our time and therefore aren’t engaging in activities that improve our resilience and therefore our effectiveness and productivity?
If you struggle to control your time, you might find Laura Vanderkam’s TED talk useful. Instead of giving tips on how to “find extra hours in the day” or searching for ways to “save bits of time,” she advocates first building the lives we want and then managing time around these lives. She explains that time is a choice. We can’t make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we chose to put into it. The key to time management is to focus on our priorities. Instead of saying I don’t have time to do X, Y, or Z it is better to say I won’t do X, Y, or Z because they are not a priority.

She recommends that on Friday afternoon, make a list with the following three categories: work, relationships and self. Identify two/three items for each category. Then look over the next few weeks and plan these items in your calendar. She recommends looking at the whole of your time and looking for where the good stuff can go. She concludes that when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want with the time we’ve got.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New FSI Webinar: Financial Planning/TSP and FSPS Annuity Benefits

This condensed retirement planning seminar is designed as an alternative for overseas employees who are unable to attend the two-day Early/Mid-Career Retirement Planning seminar (RV105) or the four-day Retirement Planning seminar (RV101) at FSI.

Financial Planning/TSP and FSPS Annuity Benefits (RV106) provides critical information on financial planning, TSP options, investing, estate planning, and the Foreign Service Pension System (FSPS) annuity program, including health benefits, which any Foreign Service employee at any stage in their career will find beneficial to their retirement planning. The Financial Planning/TSP segment is a three-hour seminar delivered live via Adobe Connect during Washington, DC business hours. The FSPS Annuity Benefits segment is a two-hour recorded presentation designed to be viewed before the Financial Planning/TSP segment via the Learn Center.

Upcoming 2017 Course Dates: June 28 and September 21

Visit the course website for details on how to register and for information on eligibility. Email questions to FSICTC@state.gov.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Consular Opportunities for EFMs Webinar Now Online

The Family Liaison Office (FLO) recently hosted a webinar with representatives from Consular Affairs, the Foreign Service Institute, and Human Resources. The webinar covers the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) and Consular Fellows programs. Both programs recruit and train candidates to work as Vice Consuls overseas. Applications are currently being accepted for both programs. You will also learn about Consular Assistant and Consular Associate positions at posts and FSI consular training opportunities. Watch it online today

Monday, May 1, 2017

WorkLife4You resource

5 Tips to Feel Good as a Parent - Log into WorkLife4You for more resources on parenting

Feel Good Parent
With all of the debate about work/family balance lately, it's hard not to wonder whether your personal solution is the "best" one. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to parenting, and there are many paths to feeling successful as moms and dads.

That being said, there's one clear route to feeling lousy about your parenting: adopting someone else's definition of success. Parenting is personal, and a plan that works beautifully for your neighbor or colleague might leave you feeling sad, depressed or inadequate.

While there are many ways to be a good parent, it all starts with creating an atmosphere that feels right to you. Here are five things to try to make you feel good about the job you're doing as a parent:

1) Focus on Your Role of the Moment -- Parenting takes plenty of multitasking as it is, so it helps to just focus on one task at a time. When you need to be focused on work, do so, but when you don't need to check email or browse your phone, stop and focus on the kids. Undivided attention, even in smaller quantities, feels so much better than giving them short shrift.

2) Create Memories Through Rituals -- A tradition of eating dinner together at night, even if you don't accomplish this goal every single night, can give you an opportunity to talk, create bonds, and cherish the time you spend together.

3) Laugh -- Break into song or dance, tell jokes, make light of serious situations, and soon everyone feels a little bit better. Even if it doesn't come naturally to you, it always makes for a mood lightener.

4) Give Your Kids a Little Space -- You want to keep your kids close and safe, but there is something so refreshing about watching them spread their wings. Case in point: When we moved to San Diego, I decided it was time to let my 10- and 8-year-old kids walk up to the bagel shop on their own. I was holding my breath the entire eight minutes they were gone, but loved seeing their sense of accomplishment when they returned.

5) Show Unconditional Love -- Make sure your kids know that you always have their backs. When they're discussing what's important to them and they feel supported, they'll beam from feeling love and there's no better feeling than that.

Source: Learning Care Group, www.learningcaregroup.com

WorkLife4You (formerly known as Information Quest) is a resource and referral service contracted by the Department of State for employees and their family members.  You can go through WorkLife4You and get a free initial legal consultation to have a simple will prepared.  You may also use the “legal documents’ section on the website, to download legal forms such as Wills, POA, Living Wills, etc.  Help is available in many areas including settling into your home, medical referrals, counseling, school information, legal consultations and more.  E-mail Specialist@LifeCare.com  or if you want to schedule a free legal consultation please call 1-866-552-IQ4U (4748) or TTY/TDD 800-873-1322. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Foggy What?!

The name “Foggy Bottom” arose from the fact that the area where the Department of the State is located is at the bottom of the Potomac waterfront (i.e, marshy banks + river water = prone to fog). Back in the day, this environment, combined with the poor air circulation made the area prone to fog. The Potomac’s shoreline was defined by the escarpment, or steep hills, which trapped air in this low-lying area – Washingtonians still experience this on hot, summer nights. Just ask us about the humidity!

Foggy Bottom got its name before the Department of State headquarters called it home in 1941, after initial construction on the building began in 1939. 

Some facts:
· Other aliases: HST or Harry S. Truman Building, Main State, Foggy Bottom.
· There is over 1.5 million square feet of usable space.
· Over 4,000 windows surround the building.

Craving more historical info? Check out the Department of State’s Office of the Historian’s website to learn about the historical documentary record of U.S. foreign policy.