Sarah Sanderson Doyle

Sarah grew up in Holland and graduated from Holland High School. She started to be interested internationally when her family hosted an exchange student. When she was a student at Hope College, she intentionally took international courses in Africa and the Caribbean and studied for a year abroad. After graduating she worked in many different countries, including Ecuador, China, Japan, and Mozambique.
After studying with two Fulbright Scholarships, Sarah applied for the Rotary Peace Scholarship program. She received a Master's Degree in public policy and peace and reconciliation from International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. While working on this degree, she did an internship with the US State Department. This helped secure a diplomatic position with the State Department after graduation.
Sarah's first assignment with the State Department was in China and she is currently stationed in Sweden. She is in Holland on maternity leave and has just learned that her next assignment will be in Papua New Guinea. Her specialty is consular work. This means that she deals with immigration interviews, visa applications, and citizen services. In New Guinea, Sarah will be working as the Public Affairs Officer.

Observations on Living in Sweden

Sarah and her husband Sean live in Stockholm. Sean originally planned to work during this assignment. However, since each Swedish parent gets a year of family leave when a child is born there is no daycare for children under 2 years old. So, Sean has been the caregiver for their (now) 2 children. At the US Embassy, there are 60 US Citizens and 160 Swedish Citizens who work there. Some of Sarah's observations on life in Sweden are:
  • Coffee breaks are exceedingly important. Twice a working day employees stop to gather together and catch up.
  • Like many countries in the world, Swedes go through school in cohorts. These groups become extremely closely bound social groups. These groups form clubs and work on hobbies. It is very rare for outsiders to be included in social groups. There is also no small talk, so neighbors can seem a bit distant. However, Sarah said that they would frequently find gifts from neighbors left at their front door.
  • The balance between dark and light is celebrated. In a country that only has 4 hours of light in the middle of winter, the Swedes value coziness in the darkness. The winter festival of St Lucia is a reminder that light will come again even during the darkest days. In the summer, everyone is outside soaking up the sun.
  • Work/Life balance is very important. There is strictly no overtime or weekend work. Families with children will take 6-8 weeks of vacation and those without will take 4+ weeks all in the same months. US Embassies throughout the work throw a huge party on the 4th of July. Because Sweden is pretty much all on vacation in July the party is moved to September when everyone has returned.
  • Swedish people are very modest and will not attend awards ceremonies. When the embassy wants to thank one of their Swedish employees for a job well done, they have to surprise them with a thank you.