In 1970, several faculty members of the University of Puget Sound formed a committee to explore a new curriculum in Global Studies. They concluded that a college located along the Pacific Rim should not exclude Asia, an increasingly important part of the world right next door. Professor Suzanne Barnett was hired to serve as a professor of history and as director of the newly created Asian Studies program. Robert and Aileen Albertson were asked to initiate a nine-month study program to highlight the region's geographical and historical importance. The first group left in early September for a semester in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, with field trips planned in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. During the Winter Term (which was later discontinued at Puget Sound), the group spent time in Nepal on a trek into the Himalayas. The spring semester was spent in India, with the last weeks of school spent in Iran, Yugoslavia, Austria, and London to gain an East-West perspective. The students themselves created the final exam in the form of a carefully researched scavenger hunt at the British Museum, where students traced art objects from their initial location. The Puget Sound students enjoyed pointing out discrepancies to experts in London.

The first program had fifteen students enrolled for the full year, and another fifteen students enrolled for either the fall or spring semesters. The students concluded that the program should be a nine-month, full school year experience. The comparison between the Orient and the Occident was later abandoned to provide more time for an Asian focus. Thus the "Pacific Rim Asian Study/Travel Program" was born. The second nine-month program occurred in 1977-78 and a third in 1981-82. Each of these programs spent time in nine countries (South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and an individual focus country for personal study in the Philosophy of Culture). Subjects taught in each country included the Developing Politics of Korea, Early Japanese Art, Chinese Literature, Thai Geography and Sociology, Indian Economics, Theravada Buddhism, and Ornithology in Nepal. In 2016, the program was renamed the "Pacific Rim Study Abroad Program." A new set of learning objectives and strategies were adopted to promote experiential engagement in Asian cultural contexts and higher impact pedagogy while abroad.

Currently, the PacRim program takes place every two years. Students are chosen the year before the trip begins, and groups normally have approximately sixteen students. The semester before the trip is spent meeting regularly to learn more about the countries and get to know others. For each trip, a Faculty Director is appointed from the Asian Studies Program, and therefore each trip is a unique program in terms of which countries are visited and what classes will be offered. Students participating in PacRim can also take advantage of an optional summer experiential learning opportunity. With a number of pre-arranged opportunities and financial support in the form of a stipend to ensure students can engage in this experiential learning component, PacRim students have the option of staying in Asia during the summer after group travel to pursue research, internships, volunteer work, or further study in a language.

A special thanks to Dr. Robert Albertson for his information on the history of PacRim.