Rite of passage: Undaunted, Pac-Rim sets out for the 11th time

By Mary Boone

Parts of the world may be in turmoil these days, but that’s not deterring University of Puget Sound students from studying abroad. A recent national survey ranked Puget Sound 11th among baccalaureate institutions for the number of students sent on full-year study-abroad programs, and 19th in the country among institutions sending students on semester-long study programs.

About 240 Puget Sound students travel abroad each year, and roughly 30 percent of each graduating class has studied away through university programs.

“I talk to a lot of new students and their parents, and a full 52 percent of our incoming freshmen say they plan to study abroad,” says Director of International Programs Jannie Meisberger. “Those are not students who say they hope to study abroad or they might study abroad; these students are planning on it.”

The majority of Puget Sound students studying abroad head to Asia or western Europe, although a growing number are now traveling to Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand. The university limits study abroad based on health and security risks. Cuba, Israel, Indonesia, and Nepal are among locales to which Puget Sound programs currently are not traveling.

Dan Bradley ’06 is among 21 students participating in the university’s 2005-2006 Pacific Rim/Asia Study-Travel Program (informally known as “Pac-Rim”). Begun in 1970, the program—once every three years—immerses participants in the cultures, economics, politics, religions, and philosophies of a number of Asian nations. After a year-long on-campus preparation, the Pac-Rim group leaving in fall 2005, led by Pac-Rim Director Elisabeth Benard, will travel for nine months to Mongolia, China, Malaysia, Japan, and India.

“Pac-Rim is what drew me to UPS,” says Bradley, a Tacoma native. “I knew I wanted to study abroad and I wanted to go to more than one country, so when I heard about Pac-Rim I knew it was exactly the kind of program I should be in.”

Bradley says he’s more concerned about being homesick than he is about political unrest.

“Being in the United States we hear about world events from a certain viewpoint,” he says. “I’m looking forward to hearing about the same sort of events from the viewpoint of other countries.”

University staff members do their best to put support systems in place for traveling students, and, in the case of the Pac-Rim program, they’ve even planned a holiday party in Malaysia, where many of the students will be joined by their families.

One result of so many undergraduates studying abroad, notes Professor of History Suzanne Barnett, is the success Puget Sound students have in winning competitive postgraduate fellowships. “They’ve been out in the world,” says Barnett, “and their experience shows in their applications, for example, to the Fulbright or JET [Japan Exchange and Teaching] programs.”