Student Recruitment at International Schools: A Small Part of the Overall Picture

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Courtesy of Concordia International School Hanoi

These schools are the path of least resistance for colleagues who want to promote their institutions to overseas-bound students, including Vietnamese and expats.  For example, they tend to have guidance counselors who are fluent in English, which facilitates communication and there is little to no bureaucratic red tape associated with a visit.  

The reality, however, is that most of the students in Viet Nam who are planning to study overseas are Vietnamese enrolled in local public and private schools.  I would estimate that the national breakdown is 90% or more from Vietnamese schools.  (This is just an educated guess.)

Access to Vietnamese schools is more problematic, in some cities more than others, because of local rules and regulations.  Foreigners need a permit and schools have been inundated with requests from colleagues and education companies, all of whom are promoting institutions and programs. 

Since the schools’ primary mission is education, outside visits are a much lower priority in terms of staff resources and valuable teaching time.  Unless you know someone at a particular school, it’s very difficult to simply send someone you don’t know (and who doesn’t know you) an email and expect a positive outcome yet alone a response.  

In conclusion, while it’s worth visiting selected international schools, after determining your institution has what their students are looking for, e.g., many welcome the more selective schools, for example, you shouldn’t put too many of your outreach eggs in the international school basket, simply because they’re easier to gain access to.  It could end up being a waste of your precious time and travel/marketing funds.  

Peace, MAA

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Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Đặng Thùy Trâm

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July 25, 1968: Oh, my God. How hateful the war is. And the more hate, the more the devils are eager to fight. Why do they enjoy shooting and killing good people like us? How can they have the heart to kill all those youngsters who love life, who are struggling and living for so many hopes?  -Đặng Thùy Trâm

11 years ago, Đặng Thùy Trâm’s wartime diaries were published in hardcover in the US.  In the summer of 2005, they had been published in Viet Nam, where the book became a bestseller.  (If you are unfamiliar with this poignant story, check out this overview and this October 2005 article.)  

Below is a letter that Ted Engelmann shared with the Vietnam Studies Group.  Ted is a veteran of the US war in Viet Nam to whom Fred Whitehurst gave the diaries at a 2005 conference at Texas Tech.  It was Whitehurst, then a 22-year-old military intelligence specialist, who defied orders to burn the diaries following the advice of his South Vietnamese translator, who told him “Don’t burn this one, Fred, it already has fire in it.”  

10 July 2018

To:  Viet Nam Studies Group (VSG)

Subject:  “Returning the Diaries of Dang Thuy Tram”

For several years I’ve been asked by many Vietnamese how the diaries of Dang Thuy Tram found their way back to her family in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.  People seem to realize the stories they’ve read and heard leave considerable doubt.

In case anyone in the VSG is interested, lo these many years later, here is the short version from the one who handed the “diaries” to the Tram family the evening of 25 April 2005.

Saturday, 17 March 2005, was an important moment in the history of the diaries.  At a conference sponsored by the Vietnam Center & Archives at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, I watched as Fred Whitehurst and his brother, Rob, donate the diaries of Dang Thuy Tram to the Archives.  That evening, Rob gave me (and others) a CD onto which he had scanned the two “diaries.”

A few days later, in Ha Noi, I asked a Vietnamese friend if she could tell me what was on the CD, since I wasn’t able to speak or read Vietnamese.  After reading a random passage for a few minutes, she teared up and quit.  To my surprise, she said the writing was too emotional for her to continue.   

Concerned about the emotional content, I asked another Vietnamese friend to look at the CD, telling her about the previous experience, and would she help me locate the family of the woman who wrote the diaries while I went to Saigon.  As an American War veteran, I wanted to make “final photographs” on 30 April 2005 for my photographic project, documenting the American War in Viet Nam.

After a couple days reading, my friend was about to give up looking for the family when she discovered Thuy’s father had been a doctor at the hospital near her village, a little north of Ha Noi; a revelation she explained thirteen years later.  That personal connection inspired her to look deeper.  A few days after calling the hospital for information, she made contact with the family who lived several blocks down the street from her office.

Sunday, 24 April 2005, I received a very early morning call at my Saigon hotel.  When I answered, a woman said she was Kim Tram, youngest sister of Dang Thuy Tram, calling from Ha Noi.  She understood I had some diaries and wanted to meet me right away.  Explaining I was in Saigon, she invited me to bring the diaries to her house in Ha Noi, and meet Mother Tram and her family the following day.  Although I had a splitting headache at that moment, I felt compelled as a messenger to oblige, and agreed to her plan.

A couple hours later at the Viet Nam Airline office, I bought a ticket to Ha Noi for the next day.  About an hour after I purchased my ticket, my stress headache disappeared.  With a clear head, I remembered to email Fred and Rob with the exciting news that Thuy’s family was alive.

Arriving in Ha Noi the next day, I took a taxi from Noi Bai airport to my hotel, where my friend left the CD at the front desk.  That evening, Kim, with sister Hien and her husband Ho Nam driving their SUV, arrived and took me to Kim’s home that she shares with Mother.  Entering the ground-floor living room, I was warmly greeted by Mother Tram, then introduced to her extended family, a packed house of relatives, two Vietnamese TV cameras, and many reporters. I was overwhelmed at being the center of attention, their friendliness, and their interest in my small package. 

Using my laptop, the family was immediately captivated by Thuy’s beautifully hand-written “diaries.”   Many tears were shed as the family sat on the couch, reading various entries during two stressful years, describing the private thoughts and feelings of a medical doctor from Ha Noi, treating wounded and dying soldiers at war with America in South Viet Nam, revealed for the first time to her own family, thirty-five years after her death.  Although buried in a martyr’s grave in Ha Noi, the spirit of a daughter and sister was finally safe and home from the war.

When it was time for me to leave, I gave the CD to the family with my best wishes.  While it felt good to help an American veteran (Fred Whitehurst, who had kept the diaries for so long), I was deeply honored to be a messenger of peace; returning a lost daughter to her family.

As you can tell, after having been given the CD, a Vietnamese woman and myself are the only two people directly involved in returning the diaries of Dang Thuy Tram…perhaps guided by Thuy’s spirit, if you believe in such things.

Thank you for your interest,

Ted Engelmann, Denver, CO

Peace, MAA

Over Half the World is Online; Viet Nam Among Top 10 for Facebook Use

Essential Insights Into Internet, Social Media, Mobile, and E-Commerce Use Around the World

2018 Q2 Global

Here’s the latest, according to We are Social and Hootsuite.  Of the 7.615 billion human beings on this planet, 4.087 billion are online, which equals a global Internet penetration rate of 54%.  3.297 billion of them are active social media users, which amounts to a 43% penetration rate.  (To view all 50 slides from this April 2018 presentation click on the link above or the screenshot.)  

What’s notable for Viet Nam is that it ranks 7th among countries with the largest active Facebook user bases with 58 million, a 16% YOY increase. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) ranks 6th (!) with 14 million active users. Finally, related to these two rankings, the Vietnamese language ranks 7th with 61 million users.  Viet Nam’s current population is  96,509,781, based on the latest United Nations estimates, which means a nationwide Internet penetration rate of 63.20%.

For more information about Vietnamese online behavior, check out this 3-18 post I wrote for The PIE News entitled How the Vietnamese Use the Internet, Including Social Media.  

Peace, MAA

West Point in Viet Nam?

I can assure you that whoever created the original marketing and promotion campaign for Vinhomes West Point (2nd image) did not receive an Employee of the Month award.  I noticed this on Facebook and wondered how long it would last.  It was a lame attempt at honor and prestige by association by comparing the United States Military Academy West Point with a real estate project in the southwestern part of Hanoi.  From the horse’s mouth:  west point1vinhomes westpointName of the project get inspired by West Point prep school – the most prestigious Military Academy school of The United States which famous for its high quality learning conditions. High quality living condition is also the thing VinHomes is willing to bring to our customers. Main products of VinHomes West Point project are luxury apartments and Officetels.

I seem to recall a war that was fought on Vietnamese soil, known here as the American War in Viet Nam and in the US as the Vietnam War.  This war, which included West Point graduates among the US Army officers, resulted in the deaths of nearly 4 million Vietnamese and 300,000 Vietnamese MIAs, in addition to war legacies, e.g., Agent Orange, Unxploded Ordnance (UXO), Amerasians, etc.  

west point logoThe mission of West Point (the military academy) is “to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.”  That’s a far cry from a real estate project.  West Point in Viet Nam?  Textbook oxymoronic.  Talk about a nasty affiliation!  

Needless to say, a phone call must have been made, or an urgent email sent, and the original marketing campaign mercifully and quickly pulled.   There are some lines that should not be crossed when hawking a product or service.    

Peace, MAA

“Three-year-old girl dies after being stabbed at Idaho birthday party”

Girl’s death comes two days after man invaded her party and attacked nine people with knife

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Source:  Associated Press

How sad is that?  I’m not sure how much coverage this story received in the US but it was all over the international media.  I fully expected the assailant to be another angry, xenophobic, hate-filled white guy but this time it was an African-American man, presumably batshit crazy.  Even though the victims are refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Ethiopia, the local police chief says the evidence does not suggest the knife attack was a hate crime.  

This reminds me a little of Linh Dinh’s spot-on 2010 article House Slave Syndrome, which he begins with this thought:  A recent article declares, “Tired of war, thousands of Iraqis want to go to U.S.”  What it fails to mention is who triggered all the bloodshed. Who made conditions in Iraq so intolerable that these people must flee?

In addition to Iraq, that is also the case with Syria.  They make their way to the US only to be murdered in cold-blood.  They had to flee their home countries to the source of their suffering, a place where they thought they could find peace and rebuild their lives only to experience more bloodshed, this time their own, at the hands of a deranged killer.  

Peace, MAA

In Country Representatives: A Tale of Two Models

intl student recruitmentA growing number of educational institutions are turning to in country, including regional, representatives to assist them with international student recruitment.  While this option obviously costs more than other recruitment tools and techniques because it includes the cost of a local salary, benefits (?), and other expenses, including travel and marketing, it can potentially be more productive.  It all depends on your representative, her/his skill, network, and a variety of market conditions. 

There are basically two models from which to choose:

An Independent Consultant:  You hire someone, ideally, a host country national who speaks the language, perhaps has studied overseas, and has a good education-related network.  Your rep essentially works at home, which saves your institution money.  You pay her/him directly via international wire transfer.  Sounds simple, right?  

An Outsourced Consultant:  A host country national who is employed by a legally licensed company but who represents your institution exclusively.  The Viet Nam-based employer assumes legal responsibility for your representative and handles payroll and other administrative issues, in addition to providing “supervision lite”, and offering strategic advice.

The main difference between the two models is that the first is technically illegal while the second is legal.  Regarding the former:  is anyone ever going to call you on it?  Probably not but they could – either within Viet Nam or from abroad.    

The problem is that foreign entities are not permitted to operate in Viet Nam without an official (read legal) presence, i.e., a license.  Consider this food for thought for those who currently employ an independent consultant from afar, or are considering doing so.

Peace, MAA

“International Students Are Key To Continued American Economic Leadership”

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Protestors gather to demonstrate against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban against five Muslim nations on June 26, 2018 in Foley Square, New York City. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

The story has been told time and time again. As of two years ago, approximately half of U.S. private companies valued at $1 billion or more (so-called “unicorns”) had founders who came to the U.S. as international students.

Yes, it’s true and I agree 100% BUT my guess is that this and similar arguments fall on deaf ears among the current powers that be because ideologues generally don’t care about logic and facts.  The anti-immigrant, nativist crowd only cares about its narrowly-focused agenda, the long-term well-being of their country be damned.  

This is a sad reality that the author points out when he mentions the obvious:  …this Administration doesn’t seem to care. What’s really scary is that the worst is yet to come. The Administration’s recent actions have led to awful images of immigrant children in cages that have gone viral and global.  Before Trump was elected, I predicted that his administration would hasten the decline of the US, as did other much more astute observers of the US political scene.  (One important bit of silver lining in all of this – knock on wood – is that the US has yet to invade, occupy, or destroy any other country, aside from the bomb that is dropped every 12 minutes.)  

NAFSA:  Association of International Educators, which bills itself as “the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange, working to advance policies and practices that ensure a more interconnected, peaceful world today and for generations to come,” is fond of trotting out the old economic contribution argument.  In addition to all of the other myriad benefits, both tangible and intrinsic, international students contribute $37 billion to the US economy.  What’s not to like and support, right?  Most of those in the America First crowd simply don’t care.  International students are perceived by some as potential national security risks who will be able to steal economic and other secrets – to the strategic disadvantage of the US.  Yeah, right.  

It doesn’t matter that previous presidents, e.g., Barack Obama, and presidential candidates, including Donald Trump himself, have spoken out in favor of encouraging a certain percentage of international students to remain in the US for the long term and contribute to its economy and society.  (For example, Mitt Romney campaigned six years ago on stapling a green card to the diploma of every international students with a degree in math or one of the sciences.)  

Follow the link to read this 28 June 2018 Forbes article in its entirety.  The concluding paragraph should whet your appetite:

As we celebrate America’s birthday next week, this issue deserves our full attention, starting with all of us in higher education, and everyone who first came to this country as an international student (of which group I’m a proud member). President Trump has already trashed America’s moral leadership, ostensibly in the name of economic gain. But these developments – both rivals pushing ahead and a reckless disregard of the impact of an isolationist approach to immigration on American higher education and talent – demonstrate that he’s also intent on trashing America’s economic leadership.

The United States’ loss is a gain for Australia, Canada, the UK, and other countries, as I upload this post.  

Peace, MAA

Postscript:  Forget about US economic leadership.  The USA is, after all, a mortal nation among other nations, in the words of Anatol Lieven.  What about remaining economically competitive?  What about meeting the basic needs of all of its citizens?  Obviously, there’s more to all of this than economic growth.  Here’s what happens in a society in which three (3) people own more wealth than 50% of the population:  Almost half of US families can’t afford basics like rent and food (18.5.18)