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SIT Study Abroad participant SIT Study Abroad participant

China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Social Life

    9

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Academics

    8

The most intimate way to experience China

I entered this program as a total foreigner to China and the cultures and Languages of Yunnan Province. And I left four months later feeling closely connected with the region and many of the people inhabiting it. The program gave me the incredible opportunity to develop my own research question and a study design to answer it. This is the Independent Study Project (ISP), probably the most incredible part of an incredible semester. The program literally sets you free to travel in China and to direct your own independent learning on whatever interests you most. Through my ISP, I developed professional contacts in my field of interest in China, and I now have plans to return to China to pursue my career goals. In fact, I will travel back to the exact place where I did my project for the SIT program. The staff give you amazing freedom to study nearly anything you want during this time. And with that freedom comes great responsibility for your own well-being during that period. The program develops you academically, true, but mostly it develops you as a person. We learned how to be world travelers and learn on our own in a foreign country, and in fact most of what I learned during my time in China was directly from the local people.

I cannot imagine a better program for engaging with the local people. During this semester, I stayed for four weeks in an urban homestay family in Kunming, five days in a rural Bai Homestay family in Shaxi valley, and another full month in a rural Dai family's home in Xishuangbanna (the last homestay being part of my ISP). These experiences showed me the inside dynamics of a few Chinese families and allowed me to better understand their true culture and values. It also forced me to use my Chinese language skills acquired in class to communicate clearly in complicated situations. Coordinating logistics, meal times, schedules, etc. with people of a different culture in a different language is difficult and formative. There is not better way to understand language and culture than to live with homestay families.

While the program gives you an amazing amount of free time to accomplish assignments, the assignments force you out into the society to learn firsthand the cultural phenomena and social issues salient in China today. I learned about the mass rural to urban migration by interviewing a restaurant owner who had moved to the city to open a dumpling stand with her husband. They abandoned their rice farm in Anhui for the promise of higher incomes in the city, and now they work seven days a week to pay for their son's college education--he will be the first in his family to attend college. I never would have engaged that woman in such a deep and difficult conversation had it not been for a "Life History essay" we had been assigned. I learned about management of Chinese nature reserves when the program set us free for a week vacation and I traveled to a little village near a reserve that gains income from ecotourism. A community study project during our rural homestay in an ethnically village in Dali Prefecture helped me to secure a morning learning how to hunt wild mushrooms in the forest with the village's most prominent matsutake collector. I could have read about the economic importance of matsutake collecting in a textbook, but SIT is all about getting the real experience. I like that better.

And there is an incredible range of things you can learn on this program. We studied history, religion, social issues, environmental issues, language, ethnic minority cultures, cultural preservation, and much more. I loved all these subjects, but my true passion is in ecological conservation and Chinese language. I was able to et a solid broad overview of all the over topics and simultaneously focus heavily on studying the aspects of China I found most appealing. My ISP focussed on involving local people in designing conservation initiatives. My friend, however, focussed much more heavily throughout the semester on the principles of mental and physical wellness present in the Taiqi we practiced each morning or in the teachings of Buddhism or Daoism, two religions inescapable throughout our extensive travels in Yunnan Province.

I would recommend this program to anyone who can make it happen. It is academically rigorous and most suited for the passionate, studious, and adventurous.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Academics

    6

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Health and Safety

    N/A

  • Social Life

    N/A

I love Kunming

I had an absolutely amazing experience with SIT in China. Kunming is a magical city filled with tons of interesting people & a culture of its own. Academically the program is not rigorous with the exception of the language program.

Go!

Overall Rating

6/ 10

  • Social Life

    9

  • Health and Safety

    6

  • Program Administration

    6

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Living Situation

    6

  • Academics

    6

Invigorating, Focused, Expand, Exposure, Gratefulness

Hiking through Tiger Leaping Gorge was incredible. It took us two, relaxed days. We stayed at a lodge along the way where the locals were very kind, presented us with many situations where we could laugh at ourselves, and many interesting people to meet. We even got chased by a rogue goat, running for our lives along a steeply sloped path, only to find out it was the pet of the hostel owner's.

I was actually signed up to go to Vienna, Austria, for an immersion experience to continue building my German skills. After consideration, I switched to the S.I.T. program based in Kunming, China. It was clear that my ability to communicate in German could get me around in Vienna, at least to order the essentials, even on my own, but that an academic program in CHINA, with the safety net of being in a group of other college students my age would not be so easy to come by. And I knew that I would want to go someday, so based on the program (in Kunming, not an industrial or financial center) and the reviews from other participants, I signed up!