Spotlight on Kunming: 3 Student Perspectives

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Jill Kruidenier
March 28, 2014

With the second term of our new Kunming semester program in full swing, we have been eager to hear from current students about their impressions of the Yunnan Province and the academic program. Enjoy these excerpts from interviews with three Spring 2014 students!

Vanessa Dunn - Ithaca College

IES Abroad: Why did you choose the IES Abroad Kunming program?
VD: As a student of cultural anthropology, looking into Kunming I found that it was the most desirable choice. Yunnan Province is home to about a third of China’s ethnic minority groups. Not only is the area culturally diverse, but it is quite geographically and botanically diverse.

IES Abroad: What one word sums up your impression of the region of Yunnan?
VD: Multifarious

IES Abroad: Tell us about your service learning placement.
VD: I’m working with a non-profit organization called Village Progress, created by a Colorado-native who also runs a prosperous Western style café in Kunming. The café, called Salvador’s, is unique in that all of the employees are women from the town of Lincang. Working at Salvador’s, they receive many employee benefits and are able to give a large portion of their profits back to their parents living in Lincang. The employees and their stories have inspired the making of Village Progress, which commits to improving the quality of life in Yunnan’s rural areas.

Theresa Jacobs - Northeastern University

IES Abroad: Why did you choose the IES Abroad Kunming program?
TJ: I have always been more attracted to China's countryside and areas outside the highly developed coastal areas, because I find they have already adapted a lot to the West. The 600 million people living outside the coastal regions make up China just as much as the elite in Beijing and I often find that these people are "forgotten" about. Yunnan is not just the perfect place to witness China's diversity at it's best, but it also gives an outsider a rare insight into a region that just recently started to develop and to modernize. … Kunming's quality of life is also extremely high, because food safety is generally not a big problem and there is little to no air pollution. 

IES Abroad: What one word sums up your impression of the region of Yunnan?
TJ: Diversity

IES Abroad: What would you tell a student who is considering studying in Kunming?
TJ: China is far more than Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. These cities only represent the surface of China, but the base and roots to understanding this very complex country and culture can only be found in the inland. Kunming is a perfect example for this. 

Thomas Holt - Penn State University

IES Abroad: Why did you choose the IES Abroad Kunming program?
TH: One of the most important things was the academic program. As an International Relations major … I had been told was that it's important to have a specialty in a certain area. Since very little people are studying China's relations with Southeast Asia, and especially certain issues such as trans-boundary water disputes due to damming by China, I feel I will have specialized knowledge that will aid me in my career.

IES Abroad: What makes Kunming and living in Yunnan Province unique?
TH: …I think Kunming stands out from other Chinese cities in how open-minded and open it is. The Chinese I have met in Kunming have been some of the coolest people I have met in my life. I think what's also nice about Kunming is its small size compared to Beijing and Shanghai, which makes it easy to get around while still offering just as much to do in larger cities. There's also a reason why they call Kunming "The City of Eternal Spring". While all of my family and friends back in the US were complaining about how they were still getting snow into March, I've been enjoying spring-like weather since February, haha.

IES Abroad: What is your favorite course and why?
TH: My favorite course would definitely be the core course taught by the Center Director, Regionalism in the Greater Mekong Subregion. As I said, I feel this course is really giving me insight into little-studied are of international relations. Not only that, but this course has really increased my interest in Southeast Asia to the point that I'm now considering studying Vietnamese and making my master's thesis on Chinese-Vietnamese economic relations. Finally, Brian Eyler is without a doubt one of the best teachers I have ever had.

Interested in enrolling this Summer or Fall 2014? Apply by April 1st or May 15th, respectively.

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Jill Kruidenier

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