Through the U Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea, the University of Utah has maintained opportunities for students seeking an international learning experience, even as the coronavirus pandemic paused most in-person learning abroad programs.

“We’re very lucky to still be able to offer students the experience of studying in South Korea—and for our Asia Campus students to study here in Salt Lake,” said Randy McCrillis, executive director, Office for Global Engagement. “It’s an opportunity that many may not have realized is available to U students, so it’s been great to really showcase everything the U Asia Campus offers.”

Enrollment at the U Asia Campus has increased steadily since its founding in 2014. Initially launched with just 13 students, the U Asia Campus has grown quickly and admitted 211 students in the last academic year alone. At the beginning of spring 2021, a total of 439 students were enrolled at the Incheon campus.


The latest increase is due, in part, to a new Global LEAP program created by the Office for Global Engagement and Undergraduate Studies, which gives freshmen an opportunity to spend their second semester at the U Asia Campus. While most students plan learning abroad experiences into their last two years of study, Global LEAP is designed to give students an early academic introduction to international education.

Global LEAP student Lisa Mendez at the U Asia Campus.

“This is an opportunity for students to have a very early experience that could really define their undergraduate education and set them on a globally-minded path,” said Sabine Klahr, associate chief global officer and executive director, Learning Abroad.

The 2020 cohort of 17 Global LEAP students spent fall semester studying in Salt Lake. Eight of those students then chose to travel to South Korea in January, completed the country’s requisite quarantine and will finish their freshman year in Incheon.

“The reason I chose to study at U Asia Campus was the opportunity to be able to make new friends and get that ‘college-in-person’ experience,” said Lisa Mendez, Global LEAP student. “It means a lot to me mentally and emotionally, since I can engage and focus more on classes during the pandemic.”

McCrillis, who spent the last four years in Incheon as dean of students, feels fortunate to have been able to offer this opportunity to students throughout the pandemic. “The relative safety of South Korea and the seriousness with which the country follows health protocols has made the U Asia Campus a wonderful option for students seeking to continue their major while experiencing life abroad,” said McCrillis. “As everywhere, there have been inevitable disruptions but we are so thankful to our students for their resilience and flexibility during this challenging time. Their partnership in upholding safety measures has been extraordinary.”

The U is a founding member of the Incheon Global Campus and offers undergraduate programs in Communication, Psychology, Urban Ecology, Film & Media Arts, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Computer & Electrical Engineering. Graduate programs in Public Health and Biomedical Informatics are offered as well. All courses are taught in English by U faculty and students live in residence on campus. Just like the U Salt Lake campus, U Asia Campus welcomes students from around the world with a focus on developing global leaders.

“We have always known that having locations around the globe is beneficial for the U in many ways and these uncertain times have underscored that knowledge,” said Chris Ireland, chief global officer, Office for Global Engagement. “Having a campus in South Korea gave the University of Utah campus in Utah a preview of the pandemic and insight into how to prepare in Salt Lake. Our U Asia Campus fostered wonderful collaborations for our health professionals here in Utah. It’s made it possible for us to still send students out into the world during this challenging time for travel”.

While faculty-led and affiliate learning abroad programs remain paused through summer due to public health concerns, student travel to the U Asia Campus remains open and falls outside the scope of current university travel restrictions. The U Asia Campus is the only international program location where U students have direct access to an established network of university-managed health and safety support services. Strong communication links between the two campuses, alongside shared student resources and assistance tools, allow for the University to continue to support student mobility to the U Asia Campus.

Students are invited to take advantage of Utah Asia Campus programming this summer—taking one to two courses over six weeks from late June to early August. Applications are due April 15.