International pen pals meet…..in real life. This happens every year for students from the Granite School District and students from Asia, thanks to the U’s Office for Global Engagement. The Global Campus Program is one of many programs organized to introduce the University of Utah to an international audience. The program, in its ninth year, began as a College of Education initiative to introduce Korean high school students to the University of Utah.
At the beginning of each school year 300 sophomore students—150 from Korea’s Incheon International High School and 150 from Granite schools—are paired up and start getting to know each other for months, before meeting face-to-face in Utah. The program is a chance for Asian students to travel the United States and tour some of its most prestigious colleges. The tour begins on the east coast and the students travel west across the nation. In Utah they don’t just tour, they experience.
This year, all 300 students met for the first time on the morning of Oct. 15. Divided between one of three participating Granite School District high schools (Skyline, Cottonwood and Taylorsville), the students spent two days shadowing their Utah counterparts. They attended classes, ate meals and shared their lives with the friend they had only known through social media and email.
“Every year we have principals of these Utah high schools tell us that this event is the highlight of their students’ year,” said Chris Ireland, new interim director of the Office of Global Engagement. “For months these students share their lives and insights with each other and many will keep in touch for years to come. They may not realize it yet, but they are now global thinkers. They relate to someone on the other side of the world and care what happens in their lives. It’s truly life changing.”
The visiting students also get the chance to tour the U’s campus and meet with academic advisors. These sessions help them understand the academic rigors of the U and help with choosing a future major.
The real fun begins at the end of the first day when the visiting students and Granite students put on a K-pop show. Groups of students, in front of their new friends, perform karaoke and dance routines to their favorite K-pop songs.
“These students put their heart and soul into these routines,” said Cheri Daily, director of global programs for the Office for Global Engagement. “It’s the highlight of the tour and an opportunity for the students to unite around their shared enthusiasm for music and dancing. It’s something they will always remember from their time in Utah.”