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Coast Guard Academy to welcome biggest, most diverse group of international cadets

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard band march in formation at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

RICHARD BRAHM/U.S. COAST GUARD ACADEMY

By JULIA BERGMAN | The Day (Tribune News Service) | Published: June 29, 2018

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The biggest and most diverse cohort of international students are poised to start their intensive, seven-week summer training as members of the Coast Guard Academy's incoming class of 2022.

The 11 international students hail from Belize, Cambodia, Iceland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Palau, Panama, Rwanda and Ukraine. It's the first time that students from Cambodia, Kazakhstan and Madagascar will be part of the corps of cadets. And it's been decades since a student from Iceland or Jordan participated in the academy's international cadet program, which has been around for 47 years.

Twenty-one-year-old Chanbopich Tann, who is from Cambodia, said it's been a childhood dream to join his country's Ministry of National Defense. He plans to serve in the Royal Cambodian Navy upon graduating from the academy.

The experience and education he'll gain at the academy will help him "educate the next generation" of Cambodia's military, said Tann, who's from the country's capital city Phnom Penh.

It's his first time in the U.S., and Tann said he was nervous about the 22 hour-flight, how he will adapt to American food and the fast drivers here.

The Coast Guard sends out a message in August to nearly all U.S. embassies and defense attaché offices around the world letting them know about the international cadet program. The application process is similar to that for U.S. applicants. They also are required to take an English competency test. In any given year, the academy gets 40 to 50 nominations for international cadets. Per law, there's a cap of 36 international cadets across the student body.

Tann and the other international students were among 36 members of the incoming class who participated in a three-day orientation aimed at helping prepare them for the transition from civilian to military lifestyle. Some of the incoming students' parents also took part in the orientation, which ends Saturday.

The program, known as Respect and Inclusion summer Experience, or RISE, is open to all members of an incoming class, with a focus on international, first-generation college students and minorities.

The students are spending the three days getting to know each other and hearing from academy staff about some of what to expect, and resources to help them.

"If you feel like leaving, that's normal," Lt. Cmdr. Hoon Park, assistant cadet training officer at the academy, assured the students, who asked a host of questions about things such as the dropout rate and meal schedule for their summer training, known as Swab Summer, and the process for getting a roommate.

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©2018 The Day (New London, Conn.)
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