Category: Academics, Student Experience

Title: Why I Chose Georgetown as an Aspiring Foreign Service Officer

Author: Kathryn Lytkowski (SFS ‘24)
Date Published: April 23, 2024
Kat Lytkowski (SFS’24)

I knew I wanted to join the U.S. Foreign Service in high school. Growing up, I struggled to imagine how I could integrate my many different interests into a solid career path. I liked history, social studies and English, but I best enjoyed them when I could bring current events into the classroom. I also loved my Spanish language courses. I found that the expression of language, in conversation, art or media, was a way to get to know someone more intimately. When I voiced my concerns to my dad about potential jobs, he told me to look up the Foreign Service, the diplomatic corps of the U.S.

Upon researching, I was immediately struck by the wide variety of work foreign service officers, or FSOs, do. Whether it was facilitating media for an American leader’s event, negotiating aid packages with allies or managing logistics for embassies, FSOs are active in improving international relationships. Above all else, FSOs are deeply involved in work on human rights. Discovering how FSOs work to make the world a better place sparked my professional journey toward diplomacy and service

Exploring My Interests and Values on the Hilltop

When I applied to universities, I searched for communities that reflected the values of the Foreign Service. I desired a larger and internationally oriented environment that would encourage growth within and outside the classroom. This search naturally led me to Georgetown’s Jesuit values. The sentiment of cura personalis, care for the whole person, echoed through every aspect of my experience with Georgetown, from student mentorship to academic curiosity. The decision to attend was easy to make.

My first time experiencing the Cherry Blossoms.

While I started my first year online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, my life changed when I took my first Polish language class as a way to connect with my heritage. Georgetown’s immense language offerings were a selling point in my decision to attend; the foreign language proficiency requirement emphasized the importance of international cooperation and communication. After my first class, I was hooked. I loved the complexity and intentionality of the Polish language and committed myself to learning as much Polish as possible.

I found my interests slowly shifting as a by-product of the pandemic. The shutdown revealed the vulnerabilities of our health systems and how healthcare intersects with national security. Since this realization, I desired to work in a more hands-on degree program that integrates modern challenges like technology and health with traditional diplomacy. The Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) gateway course was the perfect fit and demonstrated the degree’s utility for a foreign service career.

Polish remained a steady force in my college experience as I began to explore the country’s history and politics in other classes. But with few people in DC who speak Polish, I was afraid of not becoming proficient in the language. 

That’s why through Georgetown I applied and secured the David L. Boren Scholarship from the Department of Defense, which provides financial support to students looking to pursue the study of critical languages spoken in non-Western countries. 

A Taste of Life Abroad

On February 1st, 2023, I left the U.S. for the first time and landed in Warsaw, Poland. I was in a self-planned program and found myself alone in a country where I was moderately comfortable with the local language. I worried that my initial troubles with cultural acclimation would dissuade me from continuing my career path. 

From when President Biden spoke in Warsaw that February on the importance of U.S.-Polish relations to defend Ukraine.

Instead, I found beauty in the unknown. Being in an unfamiliar environment allowed me to grow into a more independent and capable individual. Whether learning about Polish traditions, navigating travel in a culturally rich country, or learning to communicate without fear, these moments helped me feel even more sure about my professional path.

Rooftop view of the Polish coast in Sopot, which borders the Baltic Sea.

Outside of academics, I also interned at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. Department of State, working on diversity, equity and inclusion projects. I also interned at a NGO in DC covering issues related to democracy. The small size of the NGO allowed me to take on more responsibility and develop my skills, an opportunity not afforded at other internship choices.

As I prepare to graduate next month, I’m confident that my path to the Foreign Service has never been clearer. While I’m not certain of what comes next, I plan to take the Foreign Service Officer Assessment in 2025, the first step to joining the ranks of the Foreign Service. I know that the challenges, opportunities and mentorship Georgetown has provided me have prepared me for this next step in my professional journey.

Looking back, I’ve accomplished more than I ever could have dreamed because of my decision to attend Georgetown. I will continue to be grateful for every opportunity this community has given me as I enter into the professional world. 

Kathryn Lytkowski (SFS ‘24) is a senior in the SFS studying Science, Technology, and International Affairs and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is originally from Burlington County, New Jersey.