Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit ROC A12, a large vocational school in a small town called Velp. I saw some classes: Child Development, German, and Spanish. I had a great tour of the school, including a look at the onsite restaurant and kitchen which are fully managed by the students.
I had some great conversations with teachers and students. The students were very interested in hearing about my work here, as well as what I do back home. They had questions about life in California and what schools are like in the United States. Is high school really like the movie High School Musical? I had to confess that I’d never even seen it. In general, the students were surprised to learn that I teach in an all-boys school. They could not imagine what a single-sex school might be like. I don’t believe they exist here. Some wanted to know what the weather was like and others asked whether I’d ever been to Los Angeles. It was clear that their image of America was shaped by what they saw on television and they were eager to have confirmation one way or the other from me.
Two students really wanted to talk to me about what’s happening in our presidential campaign. Melissa and Darryl were very well-informed about the candidates from both parties and wanted to make sure that what they’d learned from Dutch media coverage was accurate. They really impressed me and we had a great conversation. I could have sat and talked to them for hours! They wondered if Muslim-Americans felt the same uncomfortable tension and scrutiny after the San Bernadino violence as they did after the Paris attacks. They seemed to want reassurance that there are people in the United States who do not agree with Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. I enjoyed the chance to try to see my own country’s politics from another perspective. This experience was a very personal reminder to me of how people all over the world are paying close attention to what is happening politically in the United States.