Monday, October 4, 2010

Welcome to the Foreign Service Life! Here's Your Apartment!

I wasn't particularly looking forward to posting this entry, but I sorta promised it HERE, so I figured I might as well pony up. I'm hesitant to do this for two reasons: One, photos of other people's apartments are rarely exciting, and two, this really feels like something I should have done seven months ago (WOW! Has it been that long?). That said, I do feel that visual aids are important in making housing decisions, and anyone that is about to join the foreign service may benefit from this post. Plus, I haven't taken ANY photos of Oakwood for myself, so this was a great opportunity. So, without further ado...

This was pretty much our first sight upon arriving at Oakwood. I almost cried. This was definitely NOT our cute little house on the lake. Our new 7 story building looked cold. Sterile. And the fact that it was buried under a couple of feet of snow didn't help matters. TJ did not speak to me as we checked in, obtained our keys, and took our first tour of what would be our apartment for the next nine months. We did not speak for almost an hour. There wasn't much to say. We were both disappointed and afraid of starting a fight.

I say none of this to discourage potential residents. I say it only to educate you. No matter what your living conditions were prior to joining the Foreign Service, they were (hopefully) conditions of your choosing. Leaving that for something chosen for you may be a bit jarring at first.

We got over our hang-ups with time, and came to realize that Oakwood isn't half bad. There are numerous amenities to choose from. One of the most convenient for State Department employees is the availability of shuttle service to and from the Foreign Service Institute, where the majority of your training will occur.

There are also shuttles servicing the closest Metro station, though it is a brisk 10-15 minute walk if you prefer to hoof it.

Oakwood offers a nice-sized pool and jacuzzi, though I don't think I ever saw an adult in the pool that wasn't accompanied by a toddler wearing arm floaties. The pool is so packed in the summertime that a common joke was that you could walk from one end of the pool to the other without getting wet.

Something of note to my southern friends...don't expect the pool to be open year-round. Pools up here are typically open Memorial Day - Labor Day only.

Behind the pool are a decent number of BBQ pits and tables.
The oddest amenity I have ever seen is located beside the pits. I've never seen an apartment complex with its own convenience store, but there you go. Good source of wine and frozen pizza. Only accepts cash though.

In addition to the gym (which I could not take photos of because it was occupied and I didn't want to look creepy), there are four tennis courts, a basketball hoop, and a sand volleyball court. The gym is merely adequate, containing old but working equipment. We haven't made much use of these amenities, as we bought a membership to the Planet Fitness next door. Of course, we haven't made much use of that, either...

As you can see, there's a playground for the little ones. We don't have children (yet), so I've yet to find much use for this...but I think one of the puppies did try to make poo here, once.

Which reminds me, pets are not allowed in the courtyard. Management's definition of what the courtyard is changes day-to-day, but there are puppy stations located throughout the property.

There's a Business Office equipped with two computers and a copy/fax machine. Brunch is served in the club house every Sunday (donuts and OJ). There are two conference rooms available if you need to host a meeting. There's an on-site dry cleaner, though off-site will be cheaper and faster. The staff lacks a certain charm but seems to be improving over time.

I'm gonna stop there, but I do invite your participation...

Have you/do you live at this, or one of the other Oakwood communities? Please feel free to post your thoughts here. Maybe your feedback will help a future Foreign Service family make a housing decision.


  1. I would just add, as a parent, that kids love it here. They have activities for children at least 5 days a week, and every Thursday is either ice cream or s'mores or Bingo or some other super fun family activity.

  2. Oakwood Falls Church is great, especially if you have kids. Lots of activities. And greatest of all, it is free. The internet, the cable television, the land line, the electricity, the water, the heat, the pool, the business office, the gym, the hot tub, the grills, the volleyball court, the tennis courts, the movie nights, the socials, the Sunday continental breakfasts, the shuttles, the weekly maid service ... all paid as part of the benefits of the position. I can't imagine how I'd not speak to my husband for an hour after being handed an expense free two bedroom home.

  3. Anonymous, I can't tell if you are an Oakwood employee or just an astonished Foreign Service officer/spouse that loves the property, but either way please understand that your mileage will vary depending on where you are in life. We had just purchased a home that we adored, only to find ourselves living in an apartment instead due to a career change. This was also pre-Oakwood renovation, which began late-2010/early-2011. We stayed there again late-2012/Early 2013 and enjoyed the experience more.