One of the requirements for a Foreign Service Officer to achieve tenure is to become proficient in a foreign language. There are many who enter into the Foreign Service already knowing a language, and then there are those of us who must attain proficiency in their first two posts.
I've been in Portuguese Language Training for the past 24 weeks. It's been wonderful and difficult and challenging and fun. I am so lucky to not only get to learn a language as part of my job, but to be able to learn such a beautiful language that's spoken by so many wonderful people and used in so many cultures. With this language, I'll be able to visit many continents and regions all over the world.
But it's been very hard, really hard. I've written about how challenging it's been for me here and here. The last 8 weeks, I've been in major boot-camp mode in preparation for my language exam. At my previous progress report, I wasn't quite at the level I wanted to be at and knew I really needed to kick everything up a notch. So in addition to my time in class, language lab and homework, I started meeting regularly with native Portuguese speakers to really boost my confidence. My entire being became focused on Portuguese. My language skills really improved and I began to feel much more confident.
The last few days before the big test day it's important to be in the right mind-set. At that point, you're not going to learn anything new - you already know it. You just need to make sure you're in the right head space for the exam. I reviewed some other people's preparations for the test, and then I crafted my own version: N. and I went to SpaWorld!
For those of you who don't know - SpaWorld is a Korean Spa located in the DC area. It is an amazing place! There are special pools with water jets that work every part of your body. There are poultice rooms that are super hot and equipped with various minerals that have healing properties. There are people who will scrub your body rendering your skin baby fresh. It is completely relaxing!
After SpaWorld, I felt well prepared for my test. I got a good nights sleep and went to my test rested and calm. Of course, I didn't stay calm long - but I got through my test and thanks to the wonderful language instructors at FSI - I passed!!!! I now have a "professional level of fluency in Portuguese" and can head off to post on schedule!