This morning, we listened to a lecture on Vietnamese history. We had our daily language lesson after, and it was exponentially harder than yesterday! Just when I gotten used to saying “My name is Kendra”, we moved on to saying “My name is Kendra and I’m from America and a student at the University of Pittsburgh and I can speak English and Chinese!” A large jump from introduction to elementary Vietnamese…. Anyway, after that hectic lesson, we headed over to Hu Tech University (which is the rival school to UEF apparently! Drama!) and ate yet another really good lunch.
Now onto the most exciting part of the day! We visited the US Consulate, but technically only the American Center, since the Consulate had too much security to go through. We had a great conversation with the Political and Economic Officers for the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh, Charles Sellers and Emily Fleckner, respectively. We also met with one of the public outreach head and she is a Pitt Alum! How cool! They talked about all the things people come to the American Center for: watching movies and reading books banned in Vietnam, getting college advising, and most commonly, applying for Visas. The Visa application is really thorough here in Vietnam. They have to fill out an application and then go through an interview to make sure they’re traveling to the US for the right reasons (like NOT starting up an illegal taxi business – actual example they gave us). They do 500-700 interviews a day! It’s really cool to have a place that anyone can come to and enjoy a movie that you can’t see anywhere else in Vietnam, or a book that can’t be found in any other library. And get college advising and other services, all for free. It’s the place to call for basically everything, from getting your passport or phone stolen to getting into an accident.
As Officers, Charles and Emily take care of things like: planning direct flights to Vietnam from the US (there are none – they’re working on it), human rights, health care in Vietnam, and much more. Basically, their jobs are just to strengthen the relationships between the US and Vietnam governments and people (and that goes for Officers assigned to every other country too). Apparently it’s working in Vietnam, since the US favorability rating is 94%! Our two countries have a really good relationship and it was really interesting to learn how and why, since most people have the opposite view because of the Vietnam War. Honestly, I never thought about a job in Government but after this visit, my mind was opened to so many more possibilities. Working in the Foreign Services seemed like something I would be interested in doing. You get to travel all across the world and you don’t even need a degree to work for them! I started questioning everything…am I pursuing the right thing? Before I get too existential, I’ll sign off.