Since the inception of the PacRim Program in the 1970s, pedagogical strategies connected with study abroad have changed significantly. This has been in part to address socio-cultural and technological shifts that have altered the abroad experience and reflect evolving academic understandings of international education’s import, goals, and methods.
The PacRim Program mobilizes an approach that maximizes site utilization and increases intercultural competence among student participants. This approach focuses on intentionality and critical thinking about socio-cultural differences and favors learning through immersion with cultural mentoring.
This is accomplished through interventionist approaches to students’ study abroad experience designed to promote intercultural understanding. Rather than relying on simple exposure or unguided immersion, this approach focuses on appropriate and ongoing interventions in the study abroad experience of students that connect course content and local settings in Asia to further the learning outcomes of the PacRim Program.
By participating in PacRim, students develop the ability to:
- Exhibit a high level of intercultural competence;
- Demonstrate awareness and understanding of local, cultural life-ways, and regional socio-cultural, political, and economic variation;
- Understand and articulate the influence of historical and contemporary power and wealth inequalities on peoples and regions;
- Develop a strong understanding of the histories, beliefs, and practices of Asian cultural groups;
- Cultivate lasting connections with people in Asia from diverse cultural backgrounds;
- Adjust and adapt to ambiguous and unfamiliar cultural and social situations;
- Reflect on how their values have been shaped by their own cultural backgrounds as well as their experiences abroad;
- Demonstrate analytical, research, and writing skills through the completion of an independent research project.
Strategies for the pursuit of these outcomes
- A programmatic focus across all administration areas and academics maximizes site utilization by encouraging students to seek out productive, local engagements in Asia.
- Mentoring by PacRim Directors provides students with greater background on the cultural, political, and economic contexts and histories of countries/sites being visited before they are visited, and including an appropriate focus on historical relationships to other states and regions, colonialism, and power relations.
- Integration of coursework with targeted interventions, connecting ideas from the classroom with the cultural space in experiential ways that mobilize course ideas and encourage autonomous experimentation, exploration, reflection, and integration.
- Program design that focuses on experiential interventions throughout the trip, including directors’ course design, local/university arrangements at each site, in choosing instructors and courses, and communicating programmatic expectations to them:
- Adequate periods of time in particular sites;
- Local language study, where possible;
- Coursework that involves engagement with locals, local institutions, or practices;
- Puget Sound faculty with regional specializations teaching courses where possible;
- Homestays, particularly where there are institutionalized efforts to encourage interaction, such as shared meals;
- Independent research projects that involve engagement with cultural settings in Asia;
- Cultural mentoring for students;
- Social and/or academic activities with local people (e.g., local student “buddies” recruited to participate in the program);
- Activities, programming, and assignments encourage students to spend less than half of their time with other American students.