Yunnan: Great Food, Great Travel, Great Experiences! July 10, 2018

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 02/21/2018 to 06/09/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Kunming

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I have always felt that speaking is my weakest area in studying Chinese, but after speaking only Chinese every day it improved so much. I now feel comfortable applying my language skill to professional tasks and can explain myself clearly on many topics. Using only Chinese gave me the unique opportunity to learn about Chinese culture and society; only in China can you learn colloquial slang and attitudes. I also was able to meet lots of interesting people and see lives so different from my own. This semester was incredibly worthwhile and I definitely suggest that others attend this program.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Overall, the academic experience was very good. My language skills certainly improved, primarily through opportunities to practice the new words and grammar through debate and discussion. However, those opportunities were fewer than I would have liked - we spent a lot of time reviewing new words but with only the context of our textbook texts, it was hard to internalize these words' appropriate usage. Some courses could be more interactive - but our program director was incredible about taking into consideration students' concerns and suggestions.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our administrators were all fantastic - special praise has to be given to our director for the term, Li Laoshi. He went above and beyond in making sure we had the best experience possible and listened carefully to our feedback. He was always willing to chat with us and correct our grammar when we needed it.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The rooms were very comfortable hotel-style arrangements and we had the great opportunity to learn from our roommates, who were all Chinese students at Yunnan University.

* Food:

All delicious. Campus dining hall was inexpensive and tasty, and there are tons of options in the surrounding area.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Personally I would have liked more interaction with students at the university who were outside of our program. Towards the end of the term, we went to another local university to chat with the students there and learn about Yunnan's ethnic minority cultures. That experience, although only a few hours long, was really fun and gave me the chance to make some new friends! In this program, making an effort to chat with people around the city will definitely be beneficial for both your language and cultural understanding. It's really just about how much you personally decide to step outside your comfort zone. There are also lots of opportunities through the program to do cultural activities like martial arts and calligraphy.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't require any new vaccines beyond what my college required. The campus clinic is inexpensive and fairly easy to operate and there are international hospitals in Kunming as well.

* Safety:

As with any major metropolitan area we were warned about the risks of theft (so keep phones and wallets safe) but in general there were no problems with safety. When traveling you fill out forms with your plans to give to the program so they know where you are and how to get in touch with you.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Kunming was a beautiful and interesting city in a unique Chinese province. My language improved immensely through classes and daily usage and I had incredible life-changing experiences traveling with my classmates and roommate, including going to the Himalayas and rice terraces near Southeast Asia. Food was great, and I really got to know my classmates.

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)

Exchange rate in China is very favorable for US students - for example white rice in the dining hall cost 5 cents USD. I lived on about $3-7 a day there.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Probably spent about $50 max every week. Really the only things I bought outside of food were souvenirs for friends and family.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? It's easy to feel that since Chinese food and beverages are comparatively cheaper than American food, you can buy a ton of them and the costs won't stack up. But 15 bubble teas in, it still ends up being a fair bit of money... Domestic travel was the most expensive part of my experience in China, but apps like Ctrip can help find the best deals for flights, train tickets, and hotels. Hostels were by far the best option for lodging - probably about $5 a night per person. Also, bargaining is fine in most places, especially when buying souvenirs. Don't be shy, they'll tell you if they can't bargain!

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

Language pledge - no English! (Exceptions made for occasional phone calls home out of earshot of program participants

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? Middlebury's 411 Classical 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? Ask your roommate about popular Chinese music, movies, tv shows, and books so even if you have downtime you're still taking it in. Also, before you go to sleep every night it helps if the last thing you look at or listen to is in Chinese - then you wake up ready to more easily transition into using it. Also, flashcards are always good.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hotel
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Opportunities to use Chinese outside of the classroom
  • Excursions (to Dali and Xizhou especially)
  • Exposure to Yunnan Province
* What could be improved?
  • Our GPS (Global Partnerships for Sustainability) program excursion could be made more cohesive and give us more time to explore one topic in depth rather than having lots of segmented activities
  • Amount of time spent preparing for class - with so much time needed to prepare for class, and time in class itself, many of us felt that we were prevented from really making the most of our time in the city
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew that sometimes it's okay to prioritize real world experiences over another half hour of academic work. I felt bound by my self-imposed pressure to perform academically and so missed out on a few opportunities. My advice is, within reason, say yes to new things!

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:

One on One Research Topic

Course Department:
Instructor: Zhu Xiao
Instruction Language: Mandarin Chinese
Comments: In this program we all do an individual research project culminating in a thesis paper written in Chinese. My topic was related to Chinese politics. In being able to have in-depth one on one conversations with my professor, I not only picked up lots of new useful vocab, but also was able to debate fairly complex issues.
Credit Transfer Issues: