Metro Early College High School junior John Kohler spent his summer learning about two of his passions: politics and the Chinese language.

Metro Early College High School junior John Kohler spent his summer learning about two of his passions: politics and the Chinese language.

After shadowing Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Genoa Township) for a day last October, Kohler applied for the congressional page program in Washington, D.C., and was accepted. A page working for Congress helps prepare the house floor before each session, runs messages and packages between members of Congress and answers phones in the cloak room. The first summer session for pages ran June 6 through July 2.

"John showed an eagerness to learn more about the legislative process and I certainly hope he will share some of his unique experiences on Capitol Hill with his fellow Metro High School students," Tiberi said.

Each political party has its own number of pages. Kohler, a Republican, said he was in the minority this year.

Kohler lived in a residence hall just two blocks away from the Capitol and said he couldn't get away from politics, even if he wanted.

"You really get to work, live and breathe politics constantly," he said. "Even in the streets, people talk about it. You can't really escape it."

Pages attend classes before going to work and they work as long as Congress does. Kohler said he was present for the finance reform legislation, working until 11 p.m. or midnight one night.

One of the nice surprises, he said, was that he wasn't treated like a high school student.

"They let us be hands on and I talked to a member (of Congress) every single day," Kohler said.

Even riding in an elevator, members of Congress did not stop their conversations when a page got on. One of Kohler's elevator rides was with Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Kohler heard Frank's frustration with the financial reform, saying the legislation was moving too slowly.

"It's like they would forget we were there," Kohler said.

Kohler said he has always been interested in politics. His sister is a lobbyist and he has followed elections closely.

He said he is interested in a political career. His dream job would be White House chief of staff.

"I think that would be more interesting than being president," he said.

Kohler said the experience was a positive one and he called it his "first real job."

"I think it's really important to do something you really want to be doing," he said.

Kohler's second passion is learning Mandarin Chinese at Metro High School, which he said he could use for another possible career in international business.

"If you can speak Chinese and English you can communicate with about 2-billion people," he said.

After he returned from Washington, Kohler and 18 others from Metro High School spent two weeks in China through the Confucius Institute, as guests of the Chinese government. Kohler said they had to apply for the trip and pay for it. They spent four days in Beijing and the rest of the time at a foreign language school in Changchun before returning on July 21.

Kohler said the students encountered many people in Beijing who spoke English. At the school, the majority of the students spoke English. While there, the students did attend classes.

Kohler said he knew enough Chinese to get around and to bargain. The most interesting thing, he said, other than the Great Wall of China, was the food and the culture. Each student spent one afternoon with a local family that prepared lunch. Kohler ate rabbit and said another student had a fish served whole.

While with his host family, Kohler befriended an 18-year-old boy and said a cultural difference immediately was apparent: The Chinese youth was far less independent and did not challenging his parents at all, he said.

Kohler also noticed the cultural affects of the Chinese political system. In Beijing, for example, the Metro students' guide showed them housing that delineates different working classes. The guide told them that certain buildings house workers who do the same job and make the same amount of money.

"It's not like here where you live where you can afford," Kohler said.

Kohler and the students also experienced bans on different media sources and social networks. CNN, for example, is not broadcast in China, and the students could not access Facebook, YouTube or Google. Kohler said because the Chinese they met don't have those things, they really do not miss them.

"It was a little strange, having to keep that in mind," he said. "They don't have the same freedoms."

His political interest also was piqued when he viewed a military march, which the students were warned not to photograph. Kohler said their guide told them if they took any photographs, their cameras would be confiscated and perhaps they would be detained, too.

Kohler said the students who went to China would receive school credit for the trip. Metro High School allows students to take college classes for credit through The Ohio State University.

Kohler is the son of Laura Kohler of New Albany and Charles Kohler of Westerville.