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MEET AN ALUM: KRYSTLE NORMAN

Krystle Norman

Krystle Norman, a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State and 2008 Spanish Language and Literature graduate, speaks about her Maryland experience.

Why did you decide to attend the University of Maryland?

The University of Maryland at College Park was a clear choice for me because of the access to Washington, D.C.'s internship opportunities, range of majors, quality of facilities, reputation, and the dynamic student life.  I wanted a fresh start in a new place that was close to home, yet forced me to become independent.  UMD offered the perks of city life due its location in the metro area, as well as the hospitality and school spirit of a small college town.  After doing some research and visiting the campus, I was blown away by the things that the brochure couldn't truly capture - the beauty and energy of the campus.  The moment I stood in front of the iconic McKeldin Library and gazed down the picturesque lawn that students call "The Mall," I was sold.  I knew then that UMD was the full package, and I wanted to be Terp!  

Why did you select your ARHU major?

Since middle school, I've been interested in Spanish, and after spending a summer at the Virginia Governor's Spanish Academy, I realized that it was much more than a hobby - it was my passion.  I had always heard people say do what you love, but I never realized that taking that type of risk would actually pay off in the long-run.  I decided to major in Spanish Language and Literature, despite people questioning why I didn't choose a "real major."  The College of Arts and Humanities exposed me to a diverse network of support and encouragement where I thrived.  An ARHU degree was the “three F's” - fundamental, flexible, and fun.  It refined my ability to think and write critically, communicate cross-culturally, and do public speaking - skills that are essential for any career.  It was flexible because with guidance from ARHU's great academic advisors, I built into my schedule an independent study, an internship for credit, and a Certificate in African American studies - all things that gave me more specialized knowledge and practical training.  And yes, it was lots of fun; ARHU made the difference!

Tell us about what you're doing now?

While interning at the Bureau of Congressional Affairs and the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, I got a real taste of life as a diplomat, which affirmed that this career was right for me.  For the last three years, I have been a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State.  After a memorable two years working on consular and economic issues at the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, I started my current position as the Deputy Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados where I help manage the public image of the Mission and the U.S. Ambassador, use social media and the local press to inform foreign audiences, promote educational and professional exchanges, as well as organize cultural programming that support our goals in the region.  Although I travel for work frequently, I’ve already organized some effective programming on suicide prevention, performing arts, the rights of the disabled, creative writing, and most recently Black History Month.  However, as a Foreign Service Officer, my number one priority is to protect Americans overseas. 

How did your ARHU degree prepare for what you're doing now?

People who join the Foreign Service come from all sorts of professional backgrounds - from lawyers, to graphic designers, to music historians.  For some people, like myself, this is their first full-time job; for others, this is their second or third career change.  What makes the Foreign Service so unique is its ability to attract people with a variety of experiences; our strength lies in our diversity and flexibility to adapt to different languages, cultures, jobs, and challenges.  You do not need a specific degree to apply; the only requirements to apply are that you must be an American citizen, between 20 and 59 years old, and willing to be posted worldwide.  It’s a very competitive application process, and since thousands apply every year, you must bring something unique to the table to stand out.  My love for writing, traveling, language learning, and cross-cultural experiences, coupled with my diverse internship and study abroad experiences, made me a competitive candidate for the Foreign Service. 

How do you utilize your ARHU degree?

From ARHU, I learned how to adapt to different cultural norms and shape and articulate messages to foreign audiences in way that resonates with them.  During my first assignment, my ARHU degree provided a strong foundation for language learning.  While in language training at the Foreign Service Institute, I was able to quickly improve my proficiency in Spanish so that when I moved to the Dominican Republic, I could articulate important policy arguments effectively.  Strong language skills, coupled with subject matter expertise, were key to maintaining my credibility as a young diplomat overseas.  Cross-cultural communication is one of most important skills that I learned at ARHU, and in my second assignment, I use it to engage and inform the community in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean about our events, exchanges, and any other information that supports our key policy priorities in the region.  ARHU gave me the tools to understand why in foreign policy, it's as much about what you say, as how you say it.