By Sean Reid/Daily News Staff
Middletown, Rhode Island
[Reprinted with permission of Newport Daily News]
June 6, 2002, MIDDLETOWN--Would a junior in high school ever imagine that she'd be back at her alma mater almost 25 years later, talking to students about her job in the Foreign Service?
That's what Ruth M. Hall, a U.S. consular officer in Frankfurt, Germany, did this week. On Tuesday, she spoke to a group of history students at Middletown High about her job. On Wednesday, she visited Gaudet Middle School. It's part of a State Department initiative in which diplomats return to their hometowns to speak with youngsters.
"I had my drivers ed class in this same classroom almost 25 years ago," the 1978 Middletown High School graduate said Tuesday to about 40 students. "It's strange being back here, but I'm glad I can do something like this."
The Middletown native joined the American Consulate General in Frankfurt last August. Hall has had tours in Kathmandu, Nepal and New Delhi, India, doing consular and political work, handling refugee and human rights issues. She joined the foreign service in 1992.
"Basically my job is helping out Americans who get into trouble in other countries," Hall said. "I've been involved with this work for 10 years now. When you work for the United States for 10 years, you get a pin. So I'll be getting mine soon."
Hall said the events of Sept. 11 changed how she and others in the Foreign Service go about their jobs. She said people are more focused on their work and more aware of counter-terrorism.
"We're watching terrorism trials now, and prior to Sept. 11, that wouldn't be such a top priority," Hall said. "But now we are because things are different and much more complicated."
Hall showed interest in the Foreign Service after a history professor at Bates College told her about it. Hall advised any students interested in the Foreign Service to study history and political science in college. Having job experience working with people helps out as well.
"People need another job before joining foreign services," Hall said. "Some kids are coming right out of college and have no experience dealing with other people or working in groups. That's a big part of the job and people can work at a gas station to learn how to communicate with others."
Applying for the job is a long process, she said. It takes almost 2 years, starting with a written exam that's available once a year. The oral exam is next, which is given in different parts of the country, Hall said. The oral exam lasts almost a whole day and it deals with different scenarios such as negotiations and planning. Hall said Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to cut the process down to 18 months.
Hall said her process took almost 2 years because she was a student overseas and away from the United States for about 6 years. She said background checks have to be performed and there are not enough people to process clearances. But she said the job is worth the wait.
"The job provides a lot of access," she said. "I've met with the Dali Lama, with (first lady) Laura Bush, and others. You are never bored in foreign services. Sometimes you're busy and sometimes the job is long, but it's a very rewarding job and you feel as though you're serving your country and helping out in a big way."
Hall graduated from Bates College in 1982, where she studied European history, political science, Germany literature, and music. In 1982-83, she studied at the University of Bonn on a Fulbright Scholarship. She also took graduate courses at Princeton University and the University of Vienna in Austria and attended the Goethe Institutes in Gottingen and Freiburg, Germany.
In 1988, she graduated from Yale University with a master's degree in philosophy. Her previous work experience includes being an investment account executive at Dean Witter (now Morgan Stanley), a Yale University research assistant, and an editorial assistant.