It’s student season again

Over 150 people came to hear me blather on.


Vietnamese version of my talk


I love to talk.  And I love talking with students.  They’re idealistic and full of dreams and their futures are full of promise.  I love hearing about their big plans for their future.  So I love student season.  That’s the time of year students decide on which school to attend in America, and to prepare to apply for their student visas.  To prepare for the upcoming rush, we do a lot of outreach.

This weekend I had two opportunities to diplomat about applying for a student visa. There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths about getting a visa.  A lot of students think that the visa interview is the hardest part of studying abroad.  Our outreach is intended to give them accurate information.  I try to tell them that this should be the easiest step in the process.  They usually don’t believe me, though.

On Friday night, I helped to staff the Consulate’s booth at a big study abroad fair in a downtown hotel.  I was scheduled to be there for an hour.  I stayed almost two hours.  I had a lot of great conversations, and heard about a lot students’ plans.  Afterwards, I had to go back to the office, and I wound up working there for another two hours, before the energy wore down enough to go home.

On Saturday I returned to give a formal presentation to students and parents.  There were over 150 people in the audience.  They asked really good questions that showed that they are already knowledgeable about the process and the regulations.

Talking with people about America, especially about studying in America, is one of my favorite parts of this job.

Trying to dispel the myths about getting a visa.

221 pages of pain

I finished reading my second book in Vietnamese today. It was, without a doubt, the hardest book I have ever read.  With the exception of classical Chinese, maybe. It took over four months to get through this skinny little book that only has only 221 pages.

Even the name of the book is confusing.

The book is a collection of essays, social criticism of modern Vietnam. The author has a PhD from a University in Austria, and is clearly very, very educated. He returned to Vietnam after living abroad for many years, and writes essays about his impressions of Vietnamese society.  My teacher says he publishes online.  Probably because the newspapers (they’re all state-owned here, and very un-free) would never publish his stuff.

All of these notes, and I still can barely understand what I’m reading.

As I was reading, I had to look up a lot of words that I didn’t know. It was not unusual for me to have to look up 20 or 30 different words on every page. It would take me about an hour to read one short essay.

We’ve been going over the essays in my one-on-one Vietnamese class. My teacher, who has the patience of a saint, explains the author’s prose, and the events that the author writes about. It’s a great way to learn, and I did learn a lot from the book, but it was also a very humbling experience. If you want to feel stupid, try reading something way above your reading level in a foreign language.

Happy women’s Day!

March 8 is the international women’s day. Vietnam has jumped on the bandwagon.

However, there’s a little problem with the wording. That sign actually says “happy day of the international woman.”

So, for all of the international women out there, this is your day! Make the best of it.