Kunming is a Hidden Gem August 08, 2018

By (Bates College) - abroad from 02/21/2018 to 06/10/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Kunming

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Language was the biggest gain obviously. But I learned so much about art and ethinic minority art and history and their relationships with the Chinese government. I also personally was awakened to my religion after needing to turn to God given how ridiculously difficult this program was on me in the beginning.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Was a super intense, super challenging program.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Great administration! They really know what they're doing over there in Kunming! The On-site staff really really care about the well-being of the students

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Housing was great and in a super optimal location

* Food:

Food was great!! And they also have lots of options for people with dietary restrictions! And its also really really cheap

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Outside of language barrier issues I felt pretty integrated in with the culture. I made lots of Chinese friends (having a roommate seriously helps) and Middlebury does a lot to make sure you're always going out on excurisons, learning about the local organizations around here in Yunnan and just generally using your Chinese with as many different types of speakers as possible

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had an issue where one of my friends back at home was contemplating suicide and it left me really rattled and unable to focus on my schoolwork well, and the AD was great in giving me resources and checking up on me often. The language pledge takes a serious toll on mental health already so the fact that they were so caring in this instance really meant a lot to me.

* Safety:

Pretty safe. We did have an incident once where a few girls were followed back to our dorm at night, but the dorms have gates that lock up after a certain time and there are night guards so it's relatively safe.

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

I just love Kunming. And I never thought I would be recommending this program given how mind-crushingly hard it was in the first month, but I already see the impacts of what I did in those 4 months right now as I'm in Taiwan working, so for those who are looking to really make gains in their Chinese and really plan on incorporating Chinese language skills into their future skill set, this is the program for you. And also once my language skills got to the point where I could make Jokes in Chinese everything was a lot better. And my cohort was a really really special, eccentric group of people. I recommend Kunming for anyone really interested in China and its culture. The West coast has so much international influence and ethnic minority cultures, and the weather is also amazing. But the most amazing part was how interested everyone was in learning about China. Us students of Chinese, we're already a pretty self-selected group, but then to be of that self-selected group and then choose to go to an even less popular place for foreigner students to go? It results in you meeting with really genuine students.

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)

It is very very easy to live on a students budget out here in Kunming. There are so many excursions built into the program- especially if you choose to do GPS- btw DO IT, its one of the best memories I have from the program- as well as food being ridiculously cheap here already. If you decide to be cheap when it comes to gifts, always eat at the cafeteria and dont travel too far for spring break, you'll be surprised how little you will spend.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 300 yuan if I went out to eat food like 3 times a week. But cafeteria food can be up to like 30 yuan if you wanna be fancy at the cafeteria so (1$=6元)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Always go to Chinese table :)

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

Haha Language pledge obvs

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 301 Upper-Modern Chinese at Bates
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? Don't break the language pledge. I tried my best to not break it (probably maintaining it 95% of the time) and I saw so much improvement, I ended up getting the Most Improved Award HAHA. You're only in China for these 15 weeks and you signed up for this program probably in part because of the language gains and rigerousness of it, well- half of the rigerousness is imposed by the program and the other half is up to you and your self-dicipline.

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
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?
  • All of the excurisons- GPS, going to Dali, Chinese table, all of the trips to NGOs around Kunming and inviting all of the lecturers to come in and teach about something related to Chinese culture
  • How passionate the teachers were (i LOVED my One on One Tutorial and the Internship we did in the Business Chinese class was amazing)
  • The extracurricular classes that were also offered in the evenings- the Art teacher was especially lovely!! And learning calligraphy or doing origami is soo soothing after dealing with all of the homework that we get
* What could be improved?
  • Less homework and lecture style classes and more interaction with the local community (which given after we petittioned for this change in the middle of the program actually ended up happening and it was great)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Dont stress so much about the money. You're not going to remember how much you spent on Salvadors that week, but you will remember going out to eat with your friends and eating that homemade Snickers icecream together ;) And when you get home you'll regret not buying those special little Yunnan souveniers

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!