Monday, August 13, 2012

Pre-Departure Orientation

It's been over a month since the PDO, but I thought I should still post something about it. Side note: If you can help it, try to avoid any international travel before going on an exchange. I left for a summer camp/vacation the same day that the PDO ended - it was a little stressful packing for over a month and trying to get ready for the PDO, not to mention the possibility of not getting back in time to apply for my visa! (Luckily the visa instructions from AFS arrived on the last day of my trip, so I got all the documents in by the deadline) I wouldn't have missed my trip for anything - it was amazing and so worth it - but I'm just lucky the timing worked out perfectly. (I could have ended up going to one of the countries that left right after the PDO and having to cancel my whole trip!) Anyway, back to the PDO...

The PDO was a lot of fun and a lot of sitting in a window-less room listening to people talk about culture shock, homesickness, and preparing for a year abroad. The best part was the third day, when we got to leave the hotel for a few hours and visit the State Department, our host country's embassy, and the Lincoln Memorial. At the embassy we were supposed to have lunch with the YES students from our host country and meet some of the embassy officials. Unfortunately, our appointment at the Turkish embassy couldn't be scheduled earlier than 1:15, and we had to be back at the State Department by 1:45 or they wouldn't let us inside, so we had to cut our visit a little short. We took a bus over to the embassy with the Turkish YES students, got to take some pictures, sat down and talked to some of the students for a few minutes, and then had to leave again. Then once we'd arrived back at the State Department we passed through security and were escorted into a large conference room. Here we got to meet Kevin Baker for the second time (a State Dept. employee in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs who was also at the IPSE), as well as regional experts (State Dept. employees who specialized in the regions that contain all of the YES Abroad countries) and Tara Sonenshine, the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, who answered all of our questions in a panel discussion.

After we were done with all of the official visits, we walked over to the Lincoln Memorial and had a little free time to see the National Mall.


P.S. I also got my host family while I was away - I'll post about it soon!