A Semester in Kunming...One Heart, Two Homes Past Review

By (Environmental Studies, Franklin & Marshall College) - abroad from 01/16/2015 to 05/08/2015 with

Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The program was richly packed with valuable academic curriculum, travel to different areas of the province and other countries in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand), the homestay experience (optional), and flexibility for personal pursuit of adventure. Travel planned into the program itinerary nicely complemented topics discussed in classes, and really helped me to understand the material. I also had time to travel to locations such as Chengdu, Lijiang, Jianshui, and Yuanyang throughout the semester, independent of the program. After several months, I was surprised by how much I had grown over such a short period of time; I feel more independent, capable of coping with new situations (like living in a big city where pretty much everyone only speaks Chinese!), and empowered to explore. The semester experience was more than enlightening and continues to influence my life back in the States. Along the way, I made friends with locals and my fellow program members, while braving my comfort zone with things I never would have dreamed of doing (such as joining a local public dance group). I came to consider my dance group to be almost like a family to me. Though I have one heart, I now have more than one home.

Review Photos

Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The courses were all very interesting and helped me to understand the region of Southeast Asia. Integration with many field trips, even to countries like Vietnam and Cambodia, really drove home the subject matter. Some of the organization of due dates for major coursework could have been a little better.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff were all extremely helpful, resourceful, and sensitive to personal challenges of living in another culture. Very approachable, the staff really was fundamental to the integrity of the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a homestay for the semester, which allowed me to experience Chinese culture on a different level while practicing my Chinese speaking and listening more consistently outside the classroom. My didi (little brother) was really cute!

* Food:

Home to a variety of ethnic minority groups, Yunnan province has diverse food options to choose from and they're all really good.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I joined a local public dance group, which really helped me to feel at home and part of the community in which I was living. By getting involved and really trying to learn about the culture, I felt more like Kunming was a home than just a place I was living in for several months. The only thing I could not get use to was the lack of order in social movement…made running rather frustrating sometimes!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The program helped take care of students who got sick or injured during the semester. I got very sick a few times and was able to contact staff for help in evaluating next steps.

* Safety:

I felt very safe in Kunming. I had no problem walking alone in the dark occasionally to get home. The staff was also helpful in giving directions over phone for anytime students were unsure of how to get back to campus in the beginning of the semester. I got lost once on the Southeast Asia mobile learning trip, and was fortunate to be helped by a local. My professor had sent the hotel’s address to my email, so we were able to find the hotel’s location.

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


* 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)

About 6 kuai = 1 USD

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Probably less than $25.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Do get a dining hall card. The food is pretty good and very cheap.


* 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 very encouraged to use Chinese in our language courses and one-on-one sessions; however, outside of class we had a lot of discussion in English (partially because some of the students were just beginning Chinese language studies). A little more focus on speaking Chinese language in everyday life with the other program students would have been appreciated. Fortunately, I did get to do this with my homestay family.

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? Intermediate Chinese I
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Opt for home stay, volunteer to speak when out in groups and talking to locals, have conversations with the shop owners while they are making your food (when appropriate), get involved with something local that forces you to use Chinese, make Chinese friends, travel!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* 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? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Staff and Fellow Students in the Program
  • Location and Program Travel
  • Academic Content
* What could be improved?
  • Internet Reliability
  • Organization of Coursework Due Dates
  • Planned ATM stops for money exchange in foreign countries on mobile learning trip
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I would have known how much I would want to buy local clothing so I would bring less of my own everyday clothes. I would have also liked to better understand how the courses would transfer back to my home college for my transcript.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Regionalism in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Course Department: International Relations
Instructor: Brian Eyler
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course was dense and intensive in information, but so valuable. I became acquainted with a region often ignored in history studied in American schools. This course reminded me that there is so much about the world I do not know that deserves to be known and appreciated. Southeast Asia has a long, turbulent history that affects the relations of this vital region still today.
Credit Transfer Issues: