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Alumna on diplomatic mission through Foreign Service

November 8, 2012 | Alumni

Wading up to her thighs in water, speaking in Urdu to a camera, Andie De Arment ’07 was in the thick of Pakistan at the most sacred Sikh shrine in the world. The United States Foreign Service officer was filming a TV show for Pakistanis named Hamari Andie, which translates from Urdu to English as Our Andie.

The show, which aired similar to a reality show, gave her the opportunity to travel to every province of the country multiple times and show Pakistanis the gist of her job, something she said is important to her as a diplomat.

“You really feel connections to the countries you’re serving because you live with the people. You literally are completely a part of that country for however long you’re there. You have this innate connection with that country and with those people,” De Arment said. “I love that I got to see such a different side of Pakistan … the beautiful culture, the beautiful landscapes, the amazing historical sights.”

De Arment didn’t get into Foreign Service for the glam of being on TV, though. It purely fit her interests.

“To be a diplomat you really have to enjoy being overseas,” she said. “The majority of your career is overseas. You have to enjoy traveling and experiencing other cultures.”

De Arment initially pursued a career as a physicist, attending Boston University. After traveling in her undergraduate career to Venezuela and later Shanghai, China for an internship, she developed a love for international travel. “It’s been a busy, busy 13 years since,” she said, laughing.

She transferred to The Ohio State University, where she earned a degree in international relations. She started the application process to become a diplomat, taking the Foreign Service exam, even before entering The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

”Going to law school, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t actually practice law,” she said, with mention she was the only person in her class to get a certificate in international trade and development. “I think I took every single international law course that was offered.”

Between her first and second year of law school, De Arment gave birth to her daughter Eva. The now 7-year-old jokes with her, “Mama, I think I should have a law degree, too.” She went to class with De Arment as a baby.

De Arment joined the Foreign Service in 2008 and in 2009 received her first year-and-a-half assignment in Indonesia, working in public affairs. De Arment has traveled to around 40 countries and knows about five languages, excluding different dialects. Eva travels with her on her assignments and has been to eight countries so far.

“My daughter is so used to living this life. She gets to see and experience so many new things and she loves that. She is very open to new customs, new cultures, new food, new everything.” De Arment jokingly remarked, “I don’t know where she got that from.”

After serving in Indonesia, De Arment received a one-year assignment in Pakistan that was “unaccompanied,” which meant she could not bring family with her, leaving Eva to stay with kin in the U.S.

It was there, however, her family expanded. She was at a social media conference and met her husband, a social media expert originally from Pakistan. “My husband always jokes that I’m more Pakistani than him because I’ve seen so much more of his country than he has,” De Arment said.

The family of three is expecting a new addition in February, and currently resides in Havana, Cuba, where De Arment is currently on a two-year assignment.

“It’s very interesting; I spent the majority of my career in Muslim majority countries and now going to Cuba it’s completely different,” De Arment said. “For me, (Cuba)’s like living in a living museum because nothing has changed in so many years – the old cars, the beautiful architecture. It’s literally like stepping through a portal back in time. You know it is 2012, but sometimes it feels like you’re still in the 1950s or ’60s.”

After Cuba, De Arment hopes to have another assignment overseas, perhaps South Asia, before returning to Washington, D.C., for a domestic assignment (officers rotate time overseas with domestic assignments). “I think serving overseas makes my pride in the United State even more pronounced,” De Arment said. “This is definitely my career, the Foreign Service. I love it.”

This article was written by Sarah Pfledderer.