PacRim sends 25 students to foreign nations this year

The Pacific Rim/Asia Study Travel Program, known to most as PacRim, is a special study abroad program exclusive to Puget Sound. Quite possibly the only one of its kind, this program takes students across different parts of Asia once every three years. This year, a group of 25 students, along with some faculty members, are traveling through places such as South Korea, Mongolia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and India.

Though the program itself involves a year of traveling, it is actually a two-year commitment. Elizabeth Benard, the professor who leads this Asian Studies program, explains the process using the next trip, which will occur in 2014-2015, as an example.

“In the spring of 2012, the students need to apply for the program.  After being selected, the students must enroll in 2012-2013 courses related to Asian Studies.  There is a wide range of choices,” she said. “Also in 2012-2013 they attend a two-hour evening session (non-credit) every two weeks for the full academic year.

“These sessions help to develop group bonding, introduce students to the countries where they will study [and] provide intercultural understanding and awareness. Then in 2014-2015, the students will embark to Asia for a full academic year and receive credits for seven courses plus one independent research project, which is counted as their eighth course.”

There is a wide diversity of classes taken on the program. Annin Ramsing, a student currently on the PacRim program, described courses such as Chinese Philosophy, National Economics, International Business and Marketing and Ecotourism, to name a few. So understandably, the PacRim program is open to almost all majors.

“I’m the lone biochemistry major, but we also have history, math, biology, politics, Asian studies, Chinese, Japanese and computer science,”  Ramsing said.

Originally, the program included a trip to Japan, but that portion of the program was cancelled due to the uncertainty in Japan after the natural disasters that occurred. The trip was replaced with a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, where the students are currently located. However, after traveling independently after the program ends, Ramsing, Professor Ludden and a few of the students will meet up in Japan.  Traveling independently after the program ends is common for students.

When asked what advice she had for students thinking about going on PacRim, Ramsing said, “People on PacRim must be adventurous and willing to try new things. We don’t always stay in the nicest places and sometimes you have to make do with things you’re unaccustomed to, but in the end it’s always fine.  The only two reoccurring struggles are toilets and street crossing. but so far everything has worked out.”

“Students who are eager to learn about different countries in Asia and to experience first-hand how it feels to be in these countries [should do PacRim],” Bernard added.

“A month ago, we were in Mongolia and a Buddhist abbot told us a proverb, ‘It is better to visit a country once than to read about it many times.’”

For more information about when and how to apply to PacRim, visit the school’s website. Students can also visit to see a blog of the current PacRim adventures.