Yunnan: South of the Clouds for Good Eats and Jaw-dropping Views September 03, 2018

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 02/20/2018 to 06/08/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Kunming

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I saw an incredible province at a crossroads of explosion with growing importance as a transportation and shipping hub, dealing with all sorts of problems but taking pride in their environmental grandeur and fantastic food. Also interesting as a whole province renowned for travel for both domestic and international tourists, goes to show how unbelievable the whole place is, not just one part.

Review Photos

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Kunming Photo

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.

More intensive than I'd expected, definitely counts as academically rigorous. We worked with the teachers and staff to shift from indoor studying to assignments based on practicing conversation topics with real people. (Moving from books to experiential-based learning to best improve our language skills and understanding of the cultural and historical differences around us.)

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our Director was incredibly responsive to hearing our feedback and needs and finding ways to communicate with the teachers or adjust the trajectory of the program to better suit our goals in the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We lived in an actual hotel for the semester, and it had been recently renovated! Very nice.

* Food:

Excellent cafeteria and lots of delicious cheap local eats nearby. Weekly program newsletter that included recommendations for new places to eat was very helpful.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Our Chinese roommates were so completely fantastic! They were people who were our peers, rather than an older generation, interested in the same lifestyle and introducing us to all their favorite local places and activities. Even better than a homestay, in my opinion! On the other hand, we did spend a not insignificant amount of time indoors studying, and worked with the program to encourage more of the experiential learning to help our new vocab and conversation topics really stick. But the program heard us and started adjusting a bit, including bringing in tons of speakers from various backgrounds to introduce us to their work in non-profits and censoring places that we would never have learned about otherwise.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

If we had problems, one of the staff members of the program or a Chinese roommate would take us to the place, and we had multiple options so as to have English and Chinese-language and cultural set-ups to pick from as we felt most comfortable in a crisis. Our program carefully explained the cultural differences in the campus' healthcare options and what all the possibilities were for different kinds of clinics.

* Safety:

There was a man who was following a couple of the women in our program a couple times, his picture and description were reported to staff and they coordinated with local authorities to make sure our continued safety was assured.

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

The location, Chinese roommate, excursions, community, and program other then the academic rigorousness were absolutely worth it and made an incredible semester.

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)

The exchange rate and privilege of coming from USD made life very affordable. Local eating, especially the cafeteria, was a fraction of the cost for meals in the U.S. Even buying gifts and going out for drinks and traveling, I still stayed well within my budget.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Avoid Western food unless you're incredibly homesick. Not only are the prices higher, but you're missing an opportunity to eat foods you likely cannot find in the U.S., and probably not from many other places around the world.

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

We were under a 24/7 language pledge, and the students were all eager to improve their Chinese skills.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? CHIN 301
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? Get out and join student clubs or go spend time on Saturday mornings playing cards with older folks or spend hours in tea shops to converse as much as possible. Take full advantage of the Chinese roommates in the program, they were utterly fantastic and most hit it off with most of the students!

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
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?
  • Chinese roommate
  • Excursions
  • The teachers and staff
* What could be improved?
  • The kinds of assignments (Studying indoor vs. experiential)
  • How long the assignments take
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How much time I would spend indoors studying. It's not one of those European programs you hear about where the studying is much more lax and you focus on exploring. Though everyone in the program was pretty focused on and excited about improving their Chinese and encouraging each other, we felt the learning was inhibited a little by the kinds of assignments we were given. We gave the program feedback, and they have started adjusting a little to focus on conversational fluency rather than pursuing elusive high academic Chinese that doesn't stick in the brain very well.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.