I wasn't prepared for what studying abroad in China meant May 09, 2018

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/21/2017 to 12/15/2017 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Kunming

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I feel more confident in my ability to live anywhere or navigate any other city. I was extremely proud of myself for finishing.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I really enjoyed the opportunity that accompanied having a Chinese roommate. The classes were interesting and engaging but not overwhelmingly difficult, which was great while in a new country.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Lin Laoshi was extremely helpful in solving individual problems I had during my 1-1 study and Alex did a good job organizing fun group activities and trips. They were very welcoming and accomodating.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I think a Chinese roommate was very helpful and our dorms were pretty good for the location. My bathroom floor flooded every time someone showered but other than that I was very satisfied.

* Food:

I had a very very hard time eating in China as a vegetarian and I wish that I would have known this before going. I was often left eating only unhealthy carbs at American restaurants or rice. :(

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I really liked my roommate but felt a little intimidated going out on my own. Chinese people stared and took photos of me and my friends regularly which made me feel uncomfortable.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I luckily did not have any health issues during the trip, I took vaccines before I went.

* Safety:

I had a scary incident while I was alone studying at a cafe. A number of men would not leave me alone about participating in some movie they were filming and insisted we could film the movie whenever fit my schedule and they would pay me whatever sum of money I wanted. They did not know that I spoke Chinese and I heard them discussing what I looked like on the phone with other people. They also took photos of me, this experience almost resulted in me leaving China. I told my advisor about the experience and he was helpful and I gave him a description of what they looked like, ensuring me to call him if i was ever in a sketchy situation again.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I felt the people who I spoke to before I went gave me a very optimistic and not necessarily realistic view on what studying abroad in China really entails. I had an extremely hard time adjusting and was going to come home early and withdraw from the program. Kunming is very un-Westernized and I didn't necessarily know this beforehand. I had a hard time finding food that fit my dietary restrictions and this made every day difficult.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

China is very inexpensive and while I ate at restaurants a lot and spent more money than maybe necessary, the dining hall options were quite cheap.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I ate at more expensive coffee houses and Western restaurants than most students because I am vegetarian. The dining hall options for vegetarian students are relatively limited and vegetarian food was more expensive. If you eat meat or do not have diet concerns, there are tons of very cheap options on campus.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

I used Chinese every day almost all day and had a language pledge. My roommate also was Chinese so we only communicated in Chinese.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 300 level Chinese
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Talking to your roommate is the best way to learn colloquial speech and relevant terminology.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Excellent language practice
  • Got to see an un-Westernized real look at China
  • Our advisors and teachers were extremely helpful and friendly
* What could be improved?
  • Realistic expectations beforehand
  • Vegetarian/vegan friendly options
  • Group planned break trips
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would be harassed almost every day on the street and would have a hard time eating

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

1-1 course

Course Department: Chinese
Instructor: Lin Laoshi
Instruction Language: Chinese
Comments: This was very challenging and we were assigned 1-1 peer tutors to help us conduct our research and write a final paper. I had issues with my original tutor because of the sensitive nature of my topic and he refused to give me information that was not 100% compatible with government standards and propaganda. Lin Laoshi helped me arrange a new tutor that was much more helpful. In the end I really enjoyed this class.
Credit Transfer Issues: I got no credit transfers for anything I did abroad which was very frustrating.
Course Name/Rating:

Yunnan Impressions

Course Department: Chinese
Instructor: Yang Laoshi
Instruction Language: Chinese
Comments: This class had a lot of great field trips and helped us learn about the history and culture of Yunnan and Kunming. I got to practice my Chinese in real world situations such as at museums and tea houses.
Credit Transfer Issues: This didn't transfer to any credits at Middlebury
Course Name/Rating:

Chinese News

Course Department: Chinese
Instructor: Lin Laoshi
Instruction Language: Chinese
Comments: Lin Laoshi is a great teacher and helped us practice listening to fast paced news reports and read current news articles to gain the vocabulary to discuss current issues in Chinese. I learned a lot and she was very accommodating.
Credit Transfer Issues: Yes this didn't transfer.
Course Name/Rating:

Wechat Course

Course Department: Chinese
Instructor: Mo Laoshi
Instruction Language: Chinese
Comments: This was interesting but really was whatever you made of it. It was very easy to get by without doing much work as the course materials were on wechat, on your phone, and you could use translating apps during exams and papers.
Credit Transfer Issues: Yes this didn't transfer.