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A Military Education at West Point

We answer a question about the college that prepares men and women to be army officers, and not just for the U.S. Army. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Today we answer a question from Brazil. Claudio Messias Gentil wants to know about the United States Military Academy at West Point.

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West Point is a college for future Army officers. It has more than four thousand students, called cadets. The school is located about eighty kilometers north of New York City.

West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States. General George Washington built a fort there during the Revolutionary War to protect the Hudson River from the British. He moved his headquarters to West Point in seventeen seventy-nine in the middle of the war.

In eighteen hundred and two, President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation to establish the military academy. The education centered on civil engineering. West Point graduates designed many roads, bridges, harbors and railways for the young nation.

Today, math and science are still a large part of the education. But cadets can choose from almost fifty areas of study. If cadets major in the humanities, they must have an engineering minor.

Not all the young men and women at West Point are American. This year, fifty-eight are from other countries. Up to sixty cadets can be international students.

International students are nominated by their governments. They must satisfy physical and educational requirements and do well on the Test of English as a Foreign Language. After graduation, they return home to serve in their nation's armed forces. Other services besides the Army also accept foreign students at their academies.

Major Joe Sowers, a West Point public affairs officer, says information is available through American embassies. He says the presence of international students at West Point serves a purpose for the Army.

JOE SOWERS: "Cultural understanding, cultural awareness is essential for a modern-day officer. Now because we have cadets from Panama and cadets from African countries, that doesn't necessarily increase your knowledge on how to interact in Iraq or Afghanistan. At least not specifics, anyway. But you've begun the process of understanding that the world is bigger than your hometown and West Point and the United States of America. But I think the big payoff is at the individual cadet level, establishing relationships with those who come from much, much different backgrounds."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can learn more about higher education in the United States from our Foreign Student Series at I'm Steve Ember.