A decade of international friendships

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Global Campus Program, a partnership among the University of Utah’s Office for Global Engagement, Granite School District and Incheon International High School (IIHS) in South Korea. The experience offers all students a chance to investigate cultural similarities and differences, explore academic opportunities and build international friendships.

During this year’s three-day Utah tour, students spent their mornings attending high school classes with their new friends. In the afternoons the U welcomed the entire group—around 250 students combined—to campus for advising visits and cultural understanding sessions. U students volunteered as ambassadors and shared their insider’s perspective of what makes the Utah experience unique.

“They’re here!” someone shouted in the chilly Skyline High School corridor in the early hours of the first day of the visit. The host students’ fingers were cramped from the cold as they scrambled to prepare and stuff nametags for their visitors. After months of being pen pals, both groups of students were giddy as they embraced their international friends.

Similar scenes have also played out at Cottonwood and Taylorsville high schools for a decade now. The young woman leading the nametag operation at Skyline described the program as “very near her heart.” She’s been involved all three years of her high school career and, like many others, the IIHS visit is something she looks forward to all year.

The sentiment rings true for the faculty and students from Korea as well. “This is now a school tradition. We can’t imagine our school without this program. Some students say their school life begins again and they have bigger dreams after this trip,” remarked faculty member Choi Dongseok.

The event culminated in a distinguished lecture by Professor Emeritus Steven Ott and a floor-shaking evening of K-pop prepared and performed by the students themselves.

It’s clear when the whirlwind visit wrapped up that lasting connections were made. Students shed tears, lingered in hugs and exchanged gifts of cereal, soda and other sweet-treat tokens of their home countries.

“The fact that we’ve been part of this program for 10 years running speaks to the U’s commitment to creating lasting international connections. We truly grow as an institution, and our students grow as global citizens, through this type of experience. We hope to have the honor of hosting our friends from Incheon for the next decade to come,” said Cheri Daily, director of external relations and global programs in the U’s Office for Global Engagement.

The Utah tour is one of several stops during the IIHS trip, which also includes visits to MIT and Yale.

Learn more about the U’s Office for Global Engagement here. More about the U’s presence in Asia can be found here.