Pacific Rim students prepare for descent to Asia

In five months, PAC Rim students will be off on a nine month, life changing experience across Asia after two years of preparation. This program, unique to the University of Puget Sound, offers students the opportunity to explore multiple Asian countries.

Starting at the end of August, these students, accompanied by faculty, will travel to South Korea, Mongolia, China, Japan, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan.

During their time abroad, each student will conduct an independent research project in a chosen country. Afterward the students will present their projects for each other in Indonesia. According to the University website, their time abroad will revolve around learning “both inside classroom walls and in the various cultural settings.”

PAC Rim involves a long preparation process that requires the students to take classes relating to the program two years preceding the trip. All of these classes are in the Asian Studies department and aim to prepare the students culturally and academically for the demands of PAC Rim. The program fosters a strong sense of community, also known as the PAC Rim family.

“Asian Studies is my passion,” sophomore Elise Hooker said. “I wanted to go to Japan since I was in fifth grade. I love the culture and the food. I’ve heard from previous PAC Rimmers that Mongolia has an endless sky and it just seems like another world.

There will be more outdoor experiences. It will be an awesome part of my resume, make me more independent, and I’ll be more integrated internationally. I’m in it for the experience.”

“Asia has been my regional focus for the past two years,” sophomore Jordan Yamashita said.“I’m really excited to go to Southeast Asia. It’s really different because of its economic development and cultural differences. I’m nervous about the types of food we’re going to be eating, but I’m really anticipating going to Mongolia. From what I understand, it’s going to be a mixture of homestays, hostels, and I believe we’re staying in a monastery at one point.”

The PAC Rim faculty has a wide variety of connections within the Asian countries, from the host families to the monasteries that the students visit. Puget Sound faculty temporarily join the trip to teach courses in chosen countries.  The 2012 PAC Rim group even had the rare chance to meet the Dalai Lama in person.

“I absolutely love PAC Rimmers,” Ian Craighead said.

“I think it’s a phenomenal group of people from a variety of backgrounds and I have a blast every meeting we have and I just leave feeling really elated. I think a great element of the trip is the bonds that are made and I think maybe 30 years down the road that’s something I will look at and appreciate. It’s open to any major and I do firmly believe that it will change my life in some regard. It may also influence my career path as well.”

“I’m going to be working in Indonesia and I’m going to be studying languages, something along the lines of linguistic anthropology. I put such a big emphasis on learning languages,” Craighead said.

“I’m interested in looking at gardens and the portrayal of paradise in different cultures,” sophomore Gianna Olsen said. “That’s why I love art history too because it’s so interdisciplinary. You can study Asian art here, but there you can see it in physical relation to yourself.”

PAC Rim brings together a group of students who have a passion for travel, learning, adventure and growing as global citizens. The program opens doors for students of all majors to explore their passions within many Asian countries. It is an opportunity like no other.

“I applied on a whim and I feel like that was the right decision,” Olsen said. “I’m totally stoked!”