Pacific Rim students return to the Pacific Northwest

From playing soccer with monks in Sarnath, India to snorkeling in Manado, Indonesia, the students on the Pacific Rim (Pac Rim) program immersed themselves in the culture of Asia. After nine months abroad they are back to share their experiences.

Every three years a group of selected students embark on a nine-month journey across Asia. During their time they engage in both rigorous academics and personal discovery. Gareth Barkin, academic director for the second semester of the trip, designed a curriculum that allowed students to study the local culture and history of Southeast Asia through both classroom and experiential learning methods. In addition to coursework the students conducted independent research projects in their spare time, which they then presented at a conference in Ubud, Indonesia.

For some, there were specific defining moments that stuck out during the trip. For senior KC Dolson, it was her travels in her birth country, India. For senior Lydia Hollingsworth, it was the mornings that defined her Pac Rim experience.

“My favorite morning routine, if I have to pick one, was in Thailand. My friend and I would wake up early to go for a light run around the quiet campus. After our shower we’d go to the main road to buy our pork skewers and sticky rice in a bag for a total of 30 baht. Then we’d slowly make our way to class,” Hollingsworth said.

Others believed that there was greater variety in their defining moments.

“There were lots of ‘PacRim moments’, like circumambulating the stupa at Borobudur or watching a cremation in India along the River Ganges where you had no choice but to take a step back and think about what an amazing opportunity the whole program was,” senior Nick Tucker said.

Being thrusted into a foreign place meant the students had to face the challenges of new living conditions and social norms.

“The biggest challenge for me on the trip was living in Japan for a month and experiencing what it felt like to be a foreigner in another country,” Dolson said.

Travelling around Asia with 22 other people proved to be somewhat challenging as well. Everyone saw each other at their best and worst and people inevitably formed closer relationships to some rather than others. Nonetheless, the students formed a close-knit group by the end of the trip.

Students also met a number of fascinating individuals on the Pac Rim program. Tucker admired Khru Guy, a professor at Chiang Mai University in Thailand with a bold personality and sense of humor. Dolson talked about a group of student helpers in Vietnam that guided them around the

city of Hanoi. The helpers took the Pac Rim students to the night market, to see live music, and even set up a karaoke party for the group. For Hollingsworth, it was an abbot she met while staying in a Mongolian monastery. His devotion to Buddhism and love for his family inspired Hollingsworth during her stay.

After such an extensive social, cultural, and academic journey, it is no wonder the students are still processing their new perspectives.

“I can’t tell you right now what has changed or why things feel different. I think it’s a long process to find answers to these questions and they only seem to come on their own time,” Hollingsworth said.

“I’m still decompressing from the trip and trying to understand exactly how I’ve changed,” Tucker said.

While Pac Rim took them on an ever-changing expedition across Asia, perhaps the greater journey is the ongoing one in which Pac Rim helps them discover themselves.

“You find out things about yourself that you didn’t know on Pac Rim,” said Barkin.