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A Woman of the World

Featured Photo from A Woman of the World

This local grad is a U.S. diplomat who calls the far reaches of the globe her home

Lake Mary High School graduate Dawn Bruno had never stepped foot outside the United States until she traveled to Italy at age 20. She immediately developed a powerful case of wanderlust, which she would parlay into a globetrotting diplomatic career.

“That singular experience changed my life – I fell in love with Rome,” says Dawn. “I realized that I wanted to spend my professional life working overseas and immersing myself in foreign cultures.”

That is exactly what she has done as a Foreign Service Officer and diplomat with the U.S. Department of Commerce, where her job is to promote American business, commercial, and trade interests abroad.

“It is not always easy,” says Dawn, now 42, who is currently posted at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. But it’s an interesting life.”

In addition to extended stays in Italy and shorter assignments in Ghana, Croatia, and Chile, Dawn has traveled to some 50 nations over the years. From time to time, she gets an earful about United States government and policies.

“They call it diplomacy for a reason,” she says. Fortunately for Dawn, folks around the world seem genuinely fond of the American people and their culture. “It’s the personal connection that’s important,” she says.

After her first trip to Rome, Dawn returned to the University of Florida and began taking international affairs courses. Upon graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue jobs in international trade, marketing, and human rights. Dawn eventually landed at the Department of Commerce, leading her to where she is today. Her hometown is now New York City, while her parents remain in Seminole County.

One of Dawn’s most personally satisfying experiences was a volunteer project with a nonprofit group in Ghana, West Africa, that supported women-owned small businesses and promoted literacy. At times, she found herself in villages with sporadic electricity.

Today, Dawn is fascinated with the many paradoxes of Mexico, where the pace of life can come to a crawl and waiting an hour for lunch to be served is not considered unusual.

“Coming from New York, it felt like the brakes were put on,” she says.

And yet, teeming Mexico City, the second-most crowded city in the Western Hemisphere, provides a daily burst of colorful sights and sounds that Dawn calls “sensory overload.”

Her daily soundtrack includes scrap metal trucks with loudspeakers, organ grinders, and bike vendors who use steam whistles to advertise tamales, sweet potatoes, and other goods.

Dawn has never seen such a contrast of the wealthiest of the wealthy living alongside the extremely poor.
“It’s stark, the difference of haves and have-nots,” she says.

Because of drug-related violence, there are some parts of the country Dawn is prohibited from visiting. Nevertheless, she encourages Americans to visit Mexico and see the vibrant nation for themselves.

“Mexico is a huge beautiful country with many safe areas that boast incredible things to experience,” she says.
Foreign Service officers have little say in where they are assigned.

“When you sign up for the Foreign Service you designate yourself as ‘worldwide available,’” Dawn explains.

But she cannot think of a single world destination that proved regrettable.

Diplomats must master a certain fluency of language, especially for long-term assignments. For more complex languages, this training can take as long as a year, Dawn says.

The other great challenge of her career is family life. Dawn’s husband, Benjamin Murphy, a teacher and writer, must find a new job whenever she is relocated. Their five-year-old daughter, Adelina, was born in Rome. When the young family was then transferred to Mexico, the transition from English and Italian to an all-Spanish preschool was difficult. A year later, Adelina is fluent in Spanish and on her way to becoming an international citizen like her mom.

While initially unnerved by the skeleton imagery so common in Mexican culture, Adelina is now a huge fan of artist Frida Kahlo and her often magically morbid paintings. She has already been to 12 countries and counting.

“We take pride in knowing that this lifestyle will leave her with friends from all over the world,” Dawn says.

Dawn could remain assigned to Mexico for another year or even two, and there is no telling where she may be dispatched next.

Such is the nomadic nature of being a diplomat.

“It’s permanent,” she says of any given assignment, “until it’s not.”

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