Ever considered educating your kids overseas? More and more families from the Middle East are making that decision... We chatted to Alisa Southwell, Head of Admissions at Florida Air Academy in the USA to ask the important questions…
Why do you think so many families in the Middle East are choosing schools overseas?
I think it’s for a variety of different reasons. A lot of Middle Eastern students are bi-lingual and want to immerse themselves in a particular language. Families seek a balance between a cultural experience and a school that offers a structured, stable and safe environment. And boarding school offers a rich experience, sense of independence, and self-reliance, which lasts well beyond schooling years.
Which countries in the Middle East are you seeing enrollments from?
We currently have students on campus from Saudi, UAE and Kuwait – a mixture of Middle Eastern nationalities and Western expats. We are also working with families from Egypt and Qatar interested in joining us during the coming year.
What is the process of enrollment?
The admissions process begins with an online application, before moving onto the submission of academic transcripts and recommendations, and finally the creation of the student’s supporting documents. With over half of our boarding students coming from overseas, we are adept at dealing with visa-related paperwork and support and guide international families through the process.
How quickly do you find overseas students settle in?
Usually very quickly as their schedules are busy, which makes time fly. Parents naturally want to talk to their kids regularly, but the time difference does sometimes make that difficult. Parents are encouraged to contact the TAC (Teach, Assist, Counsel) Officer to find out how their teenagers are doing – and we always remind students to call their parents.
What happens during the holidays?
We always have a lengthy break, which gives parents and students time to travel and enjoy time together. When it comes to flying, parents send itineraries to the school for the departure and arrival dates so we can make arrangements for scheduled drop off and pick up times, and we provide students with a shuttle service to and from the airport. In the event that a student is unable to fly home for a holiday, we help secure other parents as a local “host family” while the campus is closed.
For more about Florida Air Academy, visit www.flair.com.
Kids attending school overseas
Vida Henao, aged 18
Vida’s father Billy says: “We’re American, but live in Kuwait. Vida was keen to go to school in the United States, with the chance to play in competitive sports, head to the beach at the weekend, and interact with other local schools. We chose Florida Air Academy for its history and reputation, plus the fact that it embraces international as well as local students.”
He continues: “It’s been the best decision we’ve made. Vida is given a certain level of freedom, but also has responsibility to study and do well in school. It is very easy to communicate either by phone or by email and Vida has learnt leadership skills that will benefit him for the rest of his life. The experience has also given him a greater appreciation for our family.”
Alex Alan Miller, aged 17
Alex’s mother Mirella says: “I’m Polish, Alex’s father is Danish, and we live in Dubai. Alex is multi-lingual and wanted to immerse himself in the English language. We did a lot of research online, before settling on Florida Air Academy for the leadership opportunities it offered through the military structure. I think the beautiful Florida weather was a big pull too, allowing him to be active all year round and learn to scuba dive and surf.”
“I found it difficult in the early days. I wanted to talk to him every day, but Alex was busy and the time difference made communication hard. The school reminded him to call me at the end of the day and weekends – and on a recent call, he asked me about my life and my business. I saw a maturity I hadn’t witnessed until now. Life in the past always revolved around Alex’s happiness, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear his concern.”
Other overseas schools popular with Middle Eastern families
1 The Bahrain School, Bahrain
2 IMG Academy, Florida, USA
3 The American School, Montagnola, Switzerland
4 Cushing Academy, Massachusetts, USA
5 Shawnigan Lake School, British Colombia, Canada