Kunming, the City of Eternal Spring, has long been known for its ideal climate and ethnic diversity. Now, Kunming is emerging as an important gateway city between China and Southeast Asia for regional trade and people movement across borders. Yunnan Province itself shares borders with several Southeast Asian countries (Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos), and has many cultural and social commonalities with its Southeast Asian neighbors.
This regional hub has a unique population of ethnic Yunnanese, Han Chinese from all reaches of China, Southeast Asian business people, and Western expats. As newly built highways, high-speed rail networks, and waterways link Kunming with key Southeast Asian cities like Hanoi, Bangkok, and Vientiane, the city serves as an ideal place to learn about the important economic, environmental, and development issues affecting China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Yunnan carries out much of the PRC's economic and diplomatic policy with Southeast Asia, allowing you to discover how China carries out foreign relations and handles trans-boundary issues.
While in Kunming, you will take classes at Yunnan University, one of the top education centers in the region. The university, home to many research institutes focusing on cross-border issues, is one of the prestigious “Project 211 Universities,” specially targeted by the Chinese government for growth in research and development strategies. Kunming has more international and Chinese NGOs than any other city in China, and the IES Kunming Center invites experts from these institutions to provide valuable perspective on key regional issues. While on field trips throughout Yunnan and Southeast Asia, you explore local and official responses to regional sustainability challenges.
Kunming will be your classroom. The Yunnan Provincial Museum has excellent exhibits for you to learn about the city’s historical beginnings. Yuantong temple is an excellent site to learn local religious Buddhist practices. Visit the Gaoxing high-tech investment zone, Thai shopping malls, or the Dounan International Flower Auction Center. Go to Lake Dianchi for a perspective on environmental development or spend time in Chenggong, Kunming’s newest district to witness the birth of an entirely new urban space.
We want you to feel at home in Kunming, so we will do everything we can to help you integrate into life there. Immerse yourself in the Chinese language and culture through extensive learning opportunities around the city, and to go to social events and activities planned for you and your fellow students throughout the semester.
After you are admitted, refer to the Travel Dates section of the Predeparture Information in your MyIESabroad account before booking travel.
**IF PARTICIPATING IN THE PRE-SEMESTER TIBET TRIP. THE TRIP BEGINS AND ENDS IN BEIJING. PLAN YOUR TRAVEL ACCORDINGLY**
**All students NOT participating in the pre-semester Tibet trip must arrive in Kunming on this date. Students participating in the Tibet trip must also arrive in Kunming (from Beijing) by this date.
***The optional post-semester Tibet trip will run from May 10 ~ May 21. This trip begins and ends in Beijing, so please plan your return flight accordingly. The trip end date is also currently subject to change.***
Our mission is simple: to provide you with the best study abroad program possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences.
While in Kunming, you take 16 credits per semester.
Courses include special lectures and presentations by local organizations and agencies, such as the Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Yunnan University GMS Research Center, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Mekong River Commission (Laos), Asian Development Bank (Hanoi and Bangkok offices), and others.
You customize your own academic experience by selecting from the following required and optional program components:
This is a list of potential course offerings. After you are accepted, you will see a list of final course offerings in your MyIESabroad account.
To learn more about IES Abroad’s innovative theoretical and pedagogical approaches to teaching language abroad, refer to the IES Abroad MAP for Language & Intercultural Communication.
ES321 Conservation Biology
Yunnan University is one of China's premier research institutions. A teaching and research university, Yunnan University has a student body of close to 20,000 and is one of the 100 universities nationwide selected for priority development into the 21st century. Research strengths include ecology and botony, economics, political science, and history.
IES Abroad Kunming organizes field study trips that complement IES Abroad courses and contribute to a general knowledge of Chinese and select Southeast Asian cultures and societies.
There are frequent field study trips in Kunming, as well, for all courses including language.
We want to make sure that your greatest challenge is deciding which landmarks to see first or discovering the best café—not finding a place to live where you feel comfortable. We do our best to locate housing that is reflective of how the local students are living. Our goal is that when you leave Kunming, it will feel like home.
Homestays - Homestays provide the ideal environment for learning about China and improving your Chinese language skills. Our homestays are located within a short walk or bus ride to the Center. All homestays feature a private bedroom. While living in a home may involve making some sacrifices of privacy and personal freedom, our Chinese homestay families are universally eager to get to know you and share their ideas, language, and culture with you. If you don’t have Chinese language experience, we will find you a suitable “English-friendly” homestay.
You are provided breakfast and dinner by your host family, seven days a week, while the program is in session.
International Student Dormitory - Live with a fellow IES Abroad student in a double dorm room located on the same floor as the IES Abroad Kunming Center, which is part of a larger building on the Yunnan University campus. In addition to being the location of the IES Abroad Center, this building also includes housing for other international students from Southeast Asia, classrooms, and some offices. Each room is fully furnished with Internet access available at no extra cost. No meal plan is provided, but you can eat at inexpensive restaurants on campus or around Kunming.
Part of making you feel at home in Kunming is doing our best to help you feel safe and cared for. Whether it is an orientation program that prepares you, housing that is well-located and comfortable, or the field trips that take you to places off the beaten path—we’re all about our student services. This is just one of the things we’re known for.
The program begins with a specially designed week-long orientation program introducing you to the IES Abroad staff, your fellow students, adjusting to life in Yunnan province, and regional development challenges in China and Southeast Asia. After arriving in Kunming, you travel for five days to picturesque Dali where you will learn about efforts to protect the lakes and mountains around Dali, experience the cultural heritage of the Bai people, and tour China's Mekong river dams. Topics such as academics, housing, transportation, cultural adjustment and health and safety are covered during your orientation. One-to-one language and area studies class advising sessions are arranged, as well as homestay placements.
CORE™, IES Abroad’s Comprehensive Orientation and Re-entry Experience, begins during orientation and continues throughout the semester with activities focusing on cultural adjustment, goal achievement, and preparing for the return home.
Redefine the way you live and learn in Kunming through cultural events, such as:
Although your adventure begins in Kunming, our field trips take you to other great places around Southeast Asia to provide contrast and context for what you learn in Kunming. IES Abroad Kunming organizes field study trips that complement IES Abroad courses and contribute to a general knowledge of Chinese and select Southeast Asian cultures and societies. There are frequent field study trips in Kunming as well for all coursees including language. You also have at least one three-day weekend to travel independently.
Your core course instructors lead you on a mobile learning trip that starts in Kunming, and travels to locations not easily accessed through independent travel. The cost of this extended mobile learning trip is included in your program fee. Extended mobile learning trips are accompanied both by professors and IES Abroad administrative staff.
Extended Mobile Learning TripsFALL: Thailand, Myanmar, LaosSPRING: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos16 DAYS
Join your instructors on an exploration of critical regional issues across borders in Southeast Asia. As part of the core regionalism course you will discuss key historical, political, and economic issues with local and national level officials, business people, and community groups who are either empowered or disaffected by regional development. Some of our cooperating partners include Mekong River Commision, Asian Development Bank, World Wildlife Fund, U.S. Department of State, Green Watershed, Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce, Chiang University, Laos National University, and Vietnam Foreign Trade Univers.
Past trip highlights include (fall) Bangkok, the Golden Triangle, and Luang Prabang (spring), Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, Angkor Wat, and Champasak.
Long Weekend Mobile Learning Trips
Yunnan Province's Border AreasFALL
Travel to Hekou Sapa, Yunnan’s border with Vietnam, to conduct research on border trade and immigration issues. Meet with government offi cials on both sides of the border to learn how trade is conducted. Then, spend two nights in Sapa, a former French hill station in northern Vietnam that is a center of ethnic diversity. In Sapa, you compare and contrast the social outcomes of China and Vietnam’s ethnic policy.
Journey via the kunming-Bangkok highway to Xishuangbanna, China’s border region with Laos and Myanmar. Stay three nights in a beautiful dai teak house with a local family. Day trips to the China’s entry points with Laos and the Myanmar border demonstrate the volume of economic and social interaction with these countries. Spend the day on the upper Mekong and learn meditation techniques at a local Theravada temple.
Optional Tibet Field Trip
An optional pre-semester (Fall) or post-semester (Spring) 8-10-day trip to Tibet is offered to all IES Kunming students. IES staff and a team of professional Tibetan guides will take you from the markets and temples of Lhasa to high mountain passes and camping by the shores of alpine lakes. We will visit sites including the Potala Palace, once the home of the Dalai Lamas; Jokhang Temple, the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism; and the Sera Monastery where we will watch the monks participate in their daily debate ritual. Lodging will be in local hostels or sometimes camping in tents under the stars.
Contact IES Abroad staff for information on pricing and schedule. Most meals and all local transportation during the trip is provided. This trip begins and ends in Beijing. Students are responsible for transportation from Beijing to Kunming (Fall) or from Kunming to Beijing (Spring). Students are also responsible for interim lodging and meals between the end of the program and the start of the optional trip. The itinerary is subject to change or cancellation depending upon the political situation in Tibet.
IES Abroad field trip destinations, activities, and length of stay may vary according to term and availability.
The IES Abroad staff at the Kunming Center can’t wait to welcome you. Located in culturally diverse Kunming, we will be there to support you when you need it.
The IES Abroad Kunming Center is located on the campus of Yunnan University, one of China’s top research universities. The building is 6 stories, without an elevator. The IES Abroad Kunming Center shares the same floor as the student dorm rooms and IES Abroad classrooms. This contributes to the vibrant living-learning community for IES Abroad students, staff, and faculty. There is wireless internet access in the Center space, including the classrooms, offices, and resource room.
Features of the IES Abroad Kunming Center include:
The building is also used for housing for other international students from Southeast Asia, classrooms, and offices.
Meet the Director
Brian Eyler | Center Director
Brian Eyler holds a Masters of Pacific International Affairs (MPIA) from UC San Diego specializing in China’s economic development and received his undergraduate degree from Bucknell University. He has studied and worked in China for more than 15 years. His current academic research focuses on the international downstream effects of China’s economic development projects in the Mekong River basin (in China’s Yunnan province) upon Southeast Asia. Brian also writes for the blog East by Southeast. Prior to becoming the Center Director in Kunming, Brian worked as the IES Abroad Center Director in Beijing for seven years and has led the Kunming Summer programs since 2011.
IES Abroad Staff
Will FeinbergStudent Affairs Coordinator
IES Abroad language faculty are experienced Chinese language instructors from the Yunnan University College of International Students. The instructors are dedicated to teaching the IES Abroad language curriculum and utilize standard and innovative Western second language teaching methods.
Area Studies Faculty
IES Abroad area studies faculty typically hold advanced degrees from prestigious Chinese or Western universities, have studied or taught at Western universities, have published in China and abroad, and currently hold positions at universities such as Yunnan University, Kunming Institute of Technology, and the China Academy of Sciences, or are prestigious Fulbright scholars. All faculty are actively involved in producing research related to the curriculum at IES Abroad Kunming.