Forget Beijing, choose Kunming Past Review

By (Economics, University of Puget Sound) for

Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Kunming is a city that is changing quickly and may soon become as overdeveloped as many other Chinese cities, I suggest you enjoy its relatively peaceful atmosphere, blue skies, and fresh air while you can. I myself hope to spend more time there as a postgrad student looking for teaching or other work. The program certainly deepened my understanding of myself and what is important to me.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Yunnan University
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The program enrolled each student in two classes, one foreign language course and one southeast Asian economic development course, the latter was taught by the program director. Language class had 3.5 hour sessions four times a week, which sounds overbearing however breaks dispersed throughout the day and quality of instruction made time pass quickly. In a 400-level language course I had about two hours of classwork each night, including study for the daily quizzes. Classes were multimedia, involved music, video and cultural outreach assignments such as interviews. Grades were based on one-page homework assignments, daily quizzes, and midterm and final examinations. The overall course resembled the Chinese language courses I had taken previously at my home university. Our economics course focused on southeast Asia, its economic interdependency, and its relation with China, especially Yunnan province, of which Kunming is the capital. The course met for 2.5 hours twice a week, with most of the class dedicated to discussion led by the instructor and supplemented by powerpoint presentation. Takehome assignments averaged about 2 hours to complete and at minimum a skim of the readings was required for participation in discussions. The program director is an American and the feel of the course was not far from socioeconomic courses I attended at my home university. Many of the classes were supplemented by visits from local experts on the topic of discussion, who gave a Chinese perspective. Undoubtedly the most valuable portion of the class and the program as a whole came in the final two weeks, when the entire class departed first for the Chinese border with Vietnam, then crossed first into Vietnam and subsequently Laos. In these countries class was still in session; on an almost daily basis students had the opportunity to meet with government officials, nongovernment organizations, US embassy experts, and national associations such as ASEAN and the Mekong River Commission.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director is American, but has lived in Beijing for the past nine years, and has traveled and lived in Kunming for much of that time. His knowledge of the city, China, and the southeast Asian region as a whole made it a very educational course. Outside of classtime, students were left to their own time and devices, however the program director and the resident assistant are available through cellphone or email at any time, and will assist in medical needs and emergencies. There were fourteen students total, which meant five or six students per language class, and a small and engaging economics course. Overall I would say the program met and exceeded my expectations.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Housing was in Yunnan University's student housing complex, which was shared by students from America and China. There was a daily cleaning service, the room was furnished with sink, shower, sheets, pillows and towels, and wireless internet access was also included. The accommodations were a fifteen minute walk from classrooms, whether or not that is a drawback is up to you. The hotel was only a few minutes' walk from Kunming's Culture Alley, where great and affordable food was fast and in good variety. There were also a couple restaurant/bars along the alley owned by foreigners that served up a good burrito or burger or beer if I needed a break from Chinese food and drink.

* Food:

Like I said above, Wenhua Xiang (Culture Alley) will have everything you need in the way of food and drink, and won't let any vegetarians go hungry either.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Kunming is filled with opportunities to play sports with locals, walk the lakes (where you can twirled up in dancing lessons, souvenir markets, and paddleboating), and of course KTV. Trips to NGO's in Kunming were organized, as well as a trip to a goods market that was a distribution center to the southeast Asian region. The final two weeks of the program were reserved for a field study trip to the Chinese border, Vietnam and Laos and involved talks at daily intervals from regional experts such as the US embassy, Asian Development Bank, Mekong River Committee, and ASEAN.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Felt safer in Kunming than I do in my home university town of Tacoma. Insurance was provided by the program, and the program director and resident assistant were available at any time for health emergencies.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
Language acquisition improvement?

Chinese was spoken exclusively outside of interaction with other students. Language was practicable with everyone you saw, and came in use when ordering food and drink, asking directions, finding the bathroom, etc...

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You should go into this program empty, in the respect that you are ready to fill up with new experiences, cultures, and language. Go out and to the things you enjoy at home with residents who enjoy the same thing, such as basketball or drawing, dancing or reading. Whatever you've done previous to this program, and whatever area of study you've focused on previously, this is a program that anyone can draw value and knowledge from.