IES Kunming Program: One of the Best Summers of My Life Past Review

By (Chemical Engineering., University of Wisconsin - Madison) for

Yunnan University: Kunming - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
You really can't go wrong with this program. It helps you live and breath Chinese Yunnan, Vietnam, and Laos culture, while learning a subject that will only grow and expand over time. Plus you have so much fun while doing it. It's really hard to speak poorly of this program.

Personal Information

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 is only 6 weeks long, which means a lot is covered in such a short amount of time. Since the program is quite short, you have to manage your time wisely in terms of what you want to due on your free weekends. Be sure to plan ahead. The workload is reasonable, but can be challenging at times; however, the last 2 weeks are like a well-deserved vacation since there is a lot of traveling involved and little time or need to study. All the teachers are excellent.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Since the program was fairly small (only 14 students and 3 faculty members when I participated), you'll feel more like a family than anything else by the end of it. I originally was hesitant about the program, because it was my second choice, but in the end the program and faculty blew me away from how much I learned and how much fun I had over the 6 weeks.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We lived in the international dorms of Yunnan University, which had other International students taking classes at the university. Since it's China, cab fare is very inexpensive and you never have to go to far for anything (food, nightlife, etc). We lived close to an amazing street that offered a variety of food options, from burgers to pizza to gyozas to cold noodles to kimchi to bubble tea.

* Food:

Again, the dorm is close to a street full of food options. You have to get your own food, which is very easy to do even if you don't know Chinese (unless you want something off menu). The only difficulty is feeding yourself before class, since most places will not be open until 9 or 10am, but there are plenty of snacks you can stock up on to have for breakfast. Also, be very attentive to keeping your hands clean before you eat (bring lots of hand sanitizer). It's very easy to get sick from street food and food from quality restaurants ( I actually got REALLY sick from the most common dish from a good quality Korean restaurant). Be sure to bring plenty of mediation for food indigestion, because that is usually the most common problem for most people. So, in other words the food is delicious but it can make you sick.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There really were too many "event and attractions" to mention for this review. I could go on forever about the people we met and then things we did and see. Here's a teaser to something that might happen on your trip, having dinner with Chinese businessmen and then getting invited to one of their karaoke bars and then having a cake fight. Or visit Ha Long Bay, a wonder of the world in Vietnam or ride elephants in Laos.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe throughout the trip. Kunming is a place were people wake-up late and go to bed early. You will usually be the only one on the street at 2am. An RA lived with us in the dorm, so he was always there or easy to reach with a cellphone. He usually made medication runs for people and always knew where you could find something (like really good cold noodles or gyozas or a place to toiletries). We also had a resident of Kunming as a part of the faculty. He helped with setting up the program, but was also there to help students in case they needed to go to the hospital.

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?

You definitely have to use Chinese in Kunming, but being a beginning Chinese student, I was able to get around will enough on next to no Chinese. You will pick the language and key phrases quickly. The teachers are from the Yunnan University and are all amazing people. I never heard a single complaint from any of the students about their teachers. The downside is that the classes are in the morning from 8:30 to noon, usually 4 days a week, which can make them feel long.

If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the development of the Mekong area, or interested in China-Southeast Asian relations. Even if you don't know Chinese, I recommend the program.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

China's Economic Integration with the Greater Mekong Subregion

Course Department: EC/IR3375
Instructor: Brian Eyler
Instruction Language: English
Comments: A large variety of speakers (NGOs, government officials, businessmen, scholars...) are brought in to give presentations or have discussions, which the students are expected lead with well-thought-out questions. These discussions can happen in a conference room or better yet over a dinner table, which really sets the mood to ask hard-hitting questions that people would normal avoid until they get to know you first over dinner. Lots of field trips are involved throughout the trip, which gives the class an added depth. The teacher is an amazing guy and very knowledgeable of the class subject. A lot of reading is involved for such a short class, but it's a standard amount for a normal college 3-credit class. Since I was the only science major on the trip, I had a little difficulty following certain discussions and readings since I didn't have a similar economics background as most of the students; however, I also took the program the first time it was offered and the teacher really strives to make the program better, so I only expect the class to go from amazing to super amazing.
Credit Transfer Issues: My biggest struggle with the program was making sure my credits would transfer and dealing with the application process for the program. I applied the year the program was first offered and the IES office really wasn't ready to receive or handout any paperwork to me (ex. they give me the wrong visa forms, I fill it out and spend back to them through UPS since they prefer it that way). I expect it will be a lot easier from now on. I also originally applied to the Kunming Environmental program, which was cancelled on me in late April due to lack of applicants. I still can't believe they couldn't have warned me sooner about the possibility of the program canceling over such a thing they can monitor. IN OTHER WORDS, I had quite a bit of frustration dealing with the paperwork, but the program was so worth it in the end.