Katie Garay, SSP '19
Foreign Service Officer
While Katie Garay awaits her first posting as a Foreign Service Officer to Bangkok, we found some time to connect with her about her experience in intensive Thai language training and her reflections on SSP, one year after commencement.
As a Rangel Graduate Fellow, Katie joined SSP with a clear path to the Foreign Service, but she wasn’t always so sure that diplomacy was the right fit for her. However, as an undergraduate at George Mason University, Katie spent a summer interning at the US Embassy in Panama, where she saw “diplomacy in action,” and her peers noticed that she had the skills to be a successful diplomat.
The School of Foreign Service at Georgetown attracts many potential FSO candidates, and for any student thinking about the field, Katie believes you should stay authentic. “Don’t tell the story you think they want to hear; tell the story you want to tell. Authenticity is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
In terms of language learning, Katie found that strong foundations are key. Katie had to learn English as a child and grew up bilingual, but learning a non-Latin language like Thai was different—if students don’t have strong foundations with the letters, they struggle to progress. Her advice: Don’t rely on crutches. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t transliterate.
Her favorite memory of SSP is of the course “Women, Peace, and Security” SEST-703, which was taught by Dr. Ellen Haring. With family from El Salvador, Katie was able to combine family anecdotes with academics in this course. This was a unique opportunity for her to use the information she'd collected over the years from family members who had experienced the Salvadoran Civil War.
For new students joining SSP in the Fall, Katie says, “Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back. We all got here; we all belong here. While it’s easier said than done, imposter syndrome is something to acknowledge.” For Katie, who grew up across the Potomac in Alexandria, Georgetown was always in the background but seemed out of reach. “Anyone who has a place at SSP has demonstrated they’re capable of being here.’’