Mehmil Zia is the American Citizen Services Officer for East Asia Pacific at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State. She joined the Civil Service in 2019 and prior to that worked in various roles in diplomatic training, public diplomacy, and consular affairs starting in 2014. Mehmil has a Master’s degree in Security Policy Studies from the George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree from the American University School of International Service.
When did you realize you wanted an international career?
I always had an inclination towards a career in public service but an international relations elective course in my junior year of high school drove me to a career in foreign policy. Our class took a trip to the Embassy of Jordan in Washington, D.C. and learning about the work of diplomats attracted me to this career choice.
What is your current position? What did the path look like to get there?
I am an American Citizen Services Officer at the U.S. Department of State. My career at the Department started in college when I was an intern at the Foreign Service Institute in my junior year. Since then, I have worked at the Department in different capacities and offices, including as a virtual intern, contractor, and Pathways intern. I joined the civil service near the end of my Master’s program at the Elliott School.
What part of your experience at the Elliott School best prepared you for post-grad career?
One thing that was important to me for my graduate career was to be taught by and learn alongside foreign policy practitioners, so I could learn and apply real world experiences and examples. Learning from and being mentored by professors who were working in the jobs I was interested in was extremely valuable. I also appreciated the support of the Graduate Career Development Office, as they helped me prepare for networking events and interviews, and their advice was invaluable.
What advice do you have for prospective students who are considering a graduate degree in international relations?
One of the most valuable pieces of advice that I got was to join the work force before pursuing a graduate degree. This allowed me to see what gaps I had in my formal education, what my career outlook was, and select a program that was best aligned with my interest and needs.
What did you value most about living and studying in D.C.?
Working and studying full time can take up your entire day and week, not leaving much time for networking or attending events if you live away from D.C. It was convenient for me to be in the heart of D.C. and easily go from class to work to a speaker or networking event!
Describe a city/place/landmark you enjoyed visiting. Why is it significant to you?
I enjoyed my trip to Mexico City for the capstone project! I learned a lot of about Mexico, its culture, and the topic we did our paper on. It is a place that I may not have had on the top of my “to visit” list, but I was grateful for the opportunity to go because it is a vibrant city with a lot of history. That trip will always be special to me as it was the culmination of my grad school career.
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The #ElliottProud profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights graduate program alumni to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at email@example.com.
The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.