The Department has been rising to meet the historic challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, every day, all over the world. A core part of these efforts has been coordinating the repatriations of thousands of citizens from each embassy and consulate general. U.S. Consular Agent Marian Nguyen shares some of her experiences helping U.S. citizen travelers in Cusco, Peru return home to the United States.
Tell us about yourself. How did you find yourself working in the Foreign Service?
My parents and siblings emigrated from Vietnam to the United States as refugees in 1975, and eventually settled in Southern California where I was later born and raised.
From 2008 to 2010, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. Then in 2012, I returned to intern at the U.S. Embassy in Lima in the economic section. In 2013, I graduated from University of California in San Diego with a master’s degree in International Relations and started work as the Consular Agent in Cusco in 2015.
Tell us about your experience helping Americans get home. What have been the greatest challenges thus far?
I am very proud to have assisted in the repatriation of over 1,300 Americans on 11 flights from Cusco because it has been a unique opportunity to highlight the dedication and hard work of Consular Agents worldwide.
The Embassy reached out to thousands of U.S. citizens through daily alerts for those enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), as well as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to facilitate these efforts. With a dedicated social media team, we continue to reach out and provide timely updates and assistance to U.S. citizens located in the Andes mountains to the Amazon jungle.
Of course, there were days that were more chaotic than others, such as days when we had to share the Cusco airport’s limited space with several countries that had programmed repatriation flights as well. Thankfully, no one boarded the wrong plane!
To succeed, I have had to manage time exceptionally well, even when time was tight and pressures were high. The greatest challenge has been balancing demands from different sources (Department of State, Congress, Embassy, and U.S. citizens). Luckily, we all have the same mission, to get Americans home!
Do you have a message that you want to share with American citizen travelers?
I would advise U.S. citizens to register in STEP, remain vigilant, and most importantly, please remember to call your mother as often as you promised.
Marian’s story was previously highlighted by Time. You can read the article here.
For more stories highlighting Department employees’ repatriation and COVID-19 response efforts, you can follow @SecPompeo and @StateDeptSpox on Twitter, like and follow @StateDept on Facebook, and watch for the hashtags #WeAreStateDept, #InThisTogether, and #AmericansHome.
For any COVID-19 inquiries related to international travel, STEP enrollment, and all State Department resources, you can visit our website here.
About the Author: Elizabeth Liu serves as the Special Coordinator for the Young African Leaders Initiative in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Liz also serves as the Secretary for the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association, an employee affinity group for the U.S. Department of State.