I spoke to a group of high school students today, as part of an Embassy educational program called International Education Week.
Several of us were asked to go to local high schools to talk about our experiences overseas as well as any other questions they had. I went to St. Scholastica's College for girls in Manila. In the Philippines, high school ends at age 16, so these were all 15-16-year-olds. It took a little while to get them to open up and ask questions, but it turned out to be a good two hours. Thankfully, only about a third of the questions were visa-related.
Here are some of the questions they asked:
-- How do you get a tourist visa? (Of course, the first question..)
-- Why can't the Philippines finish an election in a day like the U.S.? (I turned this around and used it to explain the electoral college and the effect of media projections on election night, saying that it actually does take many days to complete an official U.S. election.)
-- How can I go to college in the U.S.? How can I get a scholarship?
-- Why did I become a Government Official? (Because I have no personality and like dark suits... But really, this turned out to be a good discussion, where I talked about the differences we have with most people who live in the U.S., and why "Living here is more important to us than basketball." (They oohed and aahed at that line. It was really quite profound, but the set-up is important.)
-- Where do my children go to school?
-- Where am I going next? (Inevitable follow-ups: Where is Togo? What is in Togo?)
-- What have you noticed about Filipinos, and Filipino teenagers?
-- Who did you vote for?
And some stranger questions...
-- What is in Area 57? (They meant Area 51... sorry ma'am, that's classified.)
-- Are Americans selling rights to the moon? (Huh?)