CMA’s International Presence
The following article was recently published in the local newspaper...
How do students from China and Russia find out about Camden Military Academy? Why do they choose a small boarding school in South Carolina? These questions are posed to me several times a year, every year. As I have written previously, CMA has students from 35 states and 14 countries. Fortunately, CMA has a tremendously positive reputation internationally but that is not the only reason for the enrollment of an international student.
Most countries view the United States as the premier study abroad destination.
Primarily, international students want to attend universities and colleges in the States. However, if they attend high school in the U.S., college acceptance is a little easier for them because not only are they familiar with the educational system here, but they have at least begun to master the English language. Other students attend high school just to learn and master English before returning to their homelands to attend college. Many countries view English as the “language” of business and success and international parents want their children to be fluent to help insure future success.
So, back to the original question: “How do international students and their families hear about CMA?” Word of mouth is still the best form of advertisement!
Some of our current students had friends or relatives attend CMA and simply received a referral from a family member. This is the simplest and most direct way that international students hear about the academy.
Also, there is such a desire to study in the U.S. that a new industry has been formed abroad in recent years. This new industry is known as education consulting.
Now, we have had education consultants in the U.S. for some time that families have utilized if their child had learning challenges, wanted to improve standardized test scores or simply look for guidance in choosing a school for their child to attend. Hence, the idea is similar to that of an international education consultant but there are differences. International agents research, market and develop relationships with all types of schools in foreign lands. The agents develop relationships with the admissions staff and often visit the campus so they can truly feel confident in their recommendations to parents.
Conferences are held in the U.S. each year to provide schools like CMA a chance to market themselves to an international audience. I meet with more than 50-60 international agents annually in hopes of developing a partnership. Of course, I share the highlights and benefits of CMA, but I often encounter a barrier: the word “military.” For many international families, the word “military” does not necessarily bring about positive thoughts. As you know, there are many countries where the military is corrupt, aggressive, and sometimes oppressive of its citizens.
I attempt to calm such fears by speaking with agents to help them gain an understanding of what we offer at CMA -- structure, self-discipline, organization and academics.
Lastly, the internet makes the world a much smaller place! Some families simply perform an online search and find CMA. I exchange a number of emails, Skype, WeChat texts and video calls with the prospective families discussing the academy and their student. Luckily, we have instructors on staff who speak a myriad of languages, and translators are often needed. I have learned from experience that Google Translate is wonderful in a pinch, but it often loses a lot in translation and, I think, has trouble understanding a Southern accent!
The international students bring and share their culture with our cadets and faculty which is immeasurably valuable because I feel like that we, as Americans, too often feel as though everyone should be like us and act like us. For those Americans that do not live in very large cities or did not attend college, they may never have any exposure to the varying cultures or religions of the world. Our cadets, however, are getting this exposure in high school -- not having to wait until college! Additionally, while many private and boarding schools have increased their international populations to more than 50 percent, we have a policy to never have international students comprise more than 10 percent of our total student body. Although we value our international students, we prefer that our international students to receive a truly American experience while studying in the states and not simply attending an international school in America!
At CMA, this year we have the following countries represented: St. Maarten, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Vietnam, Canada, China, Brazil, Guyana, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Russia and Mexico. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about and participating in traditions and customs that I had not heard of, much less experienced, before. Our CMA family also has enjoyed sharing our American culture, traditions and values with our international students. We have also introduced them to Southern hospitality and have taught them all to drink sweet tea, eat grits and use y’all appropriately in conversation!