difficult but rewarding time in kunming January 22, 2019

By (Tufts University) - abroad from 08/29/2018 to 12/14/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Kunming

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Gained chinese language skills and a much deeper understanding of Chinese culture/ history. Wish i had more time to see the country as it was my first time in China

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program was incredibly difficult academically - especially in the first month - but also very rewarding. If you are looking for a very immersive experience/ to get exponentially better at Chinese, do this program. If you are looking for a chill, fun, travel-heavy semester abroad, do something else.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The language pledge coupled with the intensity of our workload pushed a lot of people to their limits mentally, but there wasn't consistent support for students who might have been struggling in any way (especially during finals week when both the director and the assistant director completely left Kunming.) Personally, I tried to discuss problems I had with harassment with the assistant director and found myself in a vastly unhelpful discussion centering around how my physical appearance was causing me to get harassed. I hope that in the future, program administrators will think further about how to support students experiencing harassment (which any female student inevitably will) or simply struggling with the intense nature of the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

dorms are beautiful and in a great location within Kunming. not a ton of storage space in the rooms so make sure to actually pack light!

* Food:

pros: cheap, spicy, delicious, tons of unfamiliar dishes to try cons: if u have allergies/ are vegetarian/ any other dietary restriction you will definitely struggle to find food in Kunming. Most days we ate at the exact same 3 Western restaurants which unfortunately ended up being significantly more expensive than eating at local restaurants that may not have been able to provide dishes everyone could safely eat. I think we would have benefited from more suggestions/ guidance in finding places where everyone could eat, as well as a usable kitchen.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with Chinese roommates was one of my favorite parts of the program and a wonderful opportunity to get to know people our own age in Kunming. However weekly exams and papers meant that we often missed out on opportunities to hang out with our roommates in favor of sitting in our common room and doing work. Even a marginally lighter workload would have made it much easier to see more of the local culture and take full advantage of studying abroad in China.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Program staff were very available and helpful for students who got sick (which was pretty often.) however navigating the Chinese health care system if you have anything worse than a cold is not very straightforward - I was really glad I brought generic medications with me and could get in contact with my own doctor at home.

* Safety:

The area we lived in was great but as a female student I got a lot of attention from locals that at times made me very uncomfortable.

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

i'm really happy with how much my Chinese grew and that i rose to every challenge the courses hit me with - however i wish the program administrators had been more accommodating for people with lower levels of chinese. i came in with the minimum required amount and that never felt like enough, especially after we all took placement tests but were still placed into the exact same classes with people who had significantly more experience and aptitude at the language. i spent a ton of time in my room studying but it just felt like i was trying to catch up to what the program directors expected of me

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)

Food & travel expenses were incredibly cheap, but if you have any dietary restrictions you will end up having to go to more expensive restaurants

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100-140

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

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? 4 semesters of 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? hang out with your roommate & talk to locals at cafes/ tea shops/ restaurants

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • 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?
  • location in kunming
  • living with our roommates
* What could be improved?
  • too stressful academically
  • use the placement tests
  • exams every single week is unnecessary
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? the min requirement of 2 years chinese is probably not enough and many of my peers would have already studied in china, taken the language for 6+ years or both / this program is mainly academically focused and if your real goal is to see china & travel you should look elsewhere

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 Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

China's Rural Floating Populations

Course Department:
Instructor:
Instruction Language: Chinese
Comments: Loved the field trips in this class and the in depth insights into issues facing China's rural migrants I came away with
Credit Transfer Issues: