Yunnan University (YNU), is centrally located in Kunming’s charming and bustling downtown area, adjacent to the Green Lake and its adjoining park.

YNU is a historically and botanically rich enclave that provides an excellent backdrop for study and immersion. As a comprehensive university, YNU has programs in most academic disciplines but is particularly recognized for its departments of anthropology and environmental studies.

Sustainability Partnerships in China

Global Partnerships for Sustainability gave me this opportunity to see a life that most Americans and probably most people in China don’t get to see. Interacting with communities in national parks, going to see monkeys, in Yunnan, in their natural habitat, and learning about what wetlands are like in Haicheng.

The purpose of the Global Partnerships for Sustainability project is to allow students to leave a sustainability legacy in a country in which they’re studying abroad. Here in Yunnan we partner with The Nature Conservancy, our students have a chance to get out to some of their field sites and work right alongside of them.

So we all journeyed up to Huching, China, and we have the opportunity to talk with teachers from the local primary schools. And share with them some of the things that we do to get students outside in the United States.

Our main activity in Hu Ching was to work with a group of elementary school students to help them understand the wetland that’s in their town.

So we designed different stations for them to go around the wetland and understand the plants and the animals, and learn how to test the water quality. And through those stations we got to get to know the students and speak with them in Chinese, which was a lot of fun.

Shelburne Farms and Middlebury College both have a great interest in teaching for a sustainable future. So it feels like a natural partnership, and this is just a great example of a time where we can provide an opportunity for education right here in the local community.

We weren’t learning just about the wetlands, we are also learning about what it’s like to be a student in a place where there are wetlands.

This wetland is quite small, but is a very important place for the local community. We have almost 20,000 people who depend on the wetlands. Meanwhile, wants to protect the birds, so it’s a very challenging work to balance the two relationship.

We think the benefits of this cooperation together with the GPS program will be three points.

First is impact, the second is exchanging, and the third is sharing. In the GPS program, we have the students from US to understand the situation of poverty, and also the conservation in China. When they’ve grown up and become the decision makers, we think they will do the right thing.

It’s an exceptional education for our student that they could not have in the classroom.

I think this trip is really important because it gets us to think about conservation in China. And I think we all have a very American perspective on what wilderness is and how to conserve it, and a lot of it doesn’t include people.

That’s really different in China, a lot of conservation here is about how do you preserve the landscape but also how do you preserve the livelihoods of the people are living in these places? We got to get outside and look at the environment that’s being preserved, and you think about the challenges and appreciate the work the people have done.

It’s a really great way to apply everything that we’ve been learning in the classroom in a way that we’ll really remember.
>> Study abroad is not just the culture and the language learning, it’s something we can help the local community and also learn from the local community. We should educate our students in a much broader sense.


Yunnan Traveling Seminar

Each semester, the program takes students on an extended excursion in rural Yunnan to pursue independent research topics and experience hands-on learning.  One of the areas that students have previously gone to is Dali, a Bai minority autonomous prefecture nestled between one of Yunnan’s largest natural lakes and the 4000+ meter Cangshan mountain range.  In Dali, students have stayed in the historic Bai village of Xizhou and resided in a traditional merchant mansion that was historically linked to the Ancient Tea Horse Road.  Students spent five full days getting to know this fascinating Bai village by exploring the Benzhu temples, seeking out local artisans, cooking local dishes from ingredients purchased at the morning market, transcribing wall propaganda, exploring environmental issues, and learning together with their classmates and Chinese roommates.  Each semester’s destination for the excursion will be announced during the program orientation.

Photo of the town of Xizhou, China with mountains in the background.


All students are required to take the One-on-One Tutorial and the Kunming Impressions classes as well as two elective classes selected from the choices below. All students will have 16 hours of classes per week.

Elective course offerings are based, in part, on enrollment, requiring a minimum of three students. Each course will have a maximum of 8 students. Depending on your language level, you may be required to enroll in Developing Chinese Fluency.

One-on-One Tutorial 一对一专题研究 (Required)

With a topic chosen according to their own interest, students work with a tutor to develop a specific outline for a course of study in the first week, which guides the tutorial throughout the semester.  Changes are possible with the Director’s permission. To reach the goal of the tutorial, the one-on-one closely follows a prescribed teaching schedule and teaching method. In the process, students accumulate knowledge and information in the literature of the her/his field, build up specialized vocabulary, and develop linguistic proficiency relevant to the subject of study.  Students should be able to analyze a large amount of information, carry on in-depth discussions with the tutor, and write summaries of their readings. During the semester there are two open presentations, with Q&A. A final paper of no less than 2500 Chinese characters is expected.  Student meets with the director of the program regularly to present acquired information of the study and discuss the progress of the study.      
4 meeting hours per week + 3-4 meetings with the Director.
Reading materials are prepared by tutors in consultation with the Director

Kunming Impressions 昆明印象

This required course is a language course which stresses on improving students’ communicative competence building on advanced level vocabulary and expression structures. This course aims to help students acquire a deeper understanding of the history, culture and current affairs of Kunming city. Topics chosen for this class cover many aspects of people’s life in Kunming and other relevant areas, such as historical events, education, contemporary social issues, business practices, and environmental issues. Students are required to participate different activities in order to have an in-depth discussion on each topic.
4 hours per week
《昆明印象 Kunming Impressions》Prepared by MiC Kunming Faculty

Yunnan Studies 云南研究 - Advanced Students

This course is designed to be a language course that enriches students’ literary language expressions, to speak and write as an educated Chinese speaker. By discussing the topics about history, politics, economics, religion, education, urban planning, ancient culture of Yunnan, students will not only be empowered to express their thoughts and ideas in paragraph form, but will also acquire a deeper understanding of the current affairs of Kunming and Yunnan Provence. Students will participate different activities such as tea-tasting, visiting local flower market and museums. These classroom activities are the linguistic and culture preparation for the language fieldwork in the real world. Information gained in the fieldwork will be used in class discussions and presentations.
4 hours per week
《云南研究 Yunnan Studies》Prepared by MiC Kunming Faculty

Yunnan’s Ethnic Minorities 云南少数民族研究 - Advanced Students

This content course takes the study of Yunnan minority groups as its focus.  The course uses case study publications to introduce methods of anthropological research, analyses and discussions of Yunnan ethnic minority cultures and their values, as well as the changes brought about by the development of the modern society. The course discusses the difficult situation that minority groups are facing, through the discussion of their ecological environment, the relationship between nationality and the nation, and among different ethnic groups.  It further discusses the future of sustainability of their culture, their environment, their relationship with others, and ethnic minority groups along the border of China. By participating the activities arranged students will have the opportunity to have a close contact with different ethnic minorities, such as Miao, Lisu and Bai people. 
4 hours per week
Textbook《云南少数民族研究》Study of Yunnan’s Ethnic Minorites compiled by MiC Kunming Faculty

Environment and Development  环境与发展 - Advanced Students

This course introduces environmental issues that have emerged in the past twenty years along with China’s fast economic development, to help students gain a general understanding of environmental policies and practices in modern China. The course pays particular attention to the particular environs and challenges of Yunnan Province. Topics to be discussed include the implementation of environmental laws and regulations, treatment of water pollution, food safety, biodiversity and deterioration of ecological systems, hydropower projects, and heavy metal pollution, etc. This is a content based course, thorough reading of edited texts from government reports and supplemental course materials from magazines, newspapers. By the end of this course, students will: 1) improve their critical reading skills through use of course texts and supplemental materials; 2)improve their ability to express ideas and thoughts with more advanced and formal vocabularies and structures; 3) understand current topics related to development and the environment in China and discuss the potential solutions from their own perspective; 4)be able to write essays and make a report with relevant topics
4 hours per week
Text: 《环境与发展》, compiled by the School in China faculty.

Business Chinese 商务汉语

This course aims to enhance students’ language skills in a business context and to promote their understanding about the business environment and culture in contemporary China. The text is derived from real business cases from multinational companies that have successfully made inroads into the Chinese market to Chinese companies that are trying to get into global market. This class will focus on both improving general language proficiency and will also engage in in-depth discussions on each particular case study. By the end of the semester, students are expected to 1) enhance their cultural awareness of contemporary China and the Chinese business world; 2) gain vocabulary and fluency in Chinese in order to function more confidently and comfortably in real business settings; 3) access business news and information in Chinese; and 4) give a business presentation in Chinese.
4 hours per week
《成功之道》Business Chinese for Success , 2nd Edition By Yuan Fangyuan Beijing University Press 2014

Contemporary Issues in China 当代社会话题

This class uses the popular 2009 TV series Woju 蜗居 as a background to discuss contemporary social issues. Students will discuss topics such as China’s real estate market, urban migration, young people’s perspectives on love, and urban modernization. This class will also teach current vocabulary and idioms, with a focus on common verbal expressions. By the end of the semester, students are expected to 1) Be able to gather resources and formulate theses in the target language and master linguistic nuances, colloquial expressions, proverbs, and to use them appropriately and accurately in real life situations; 2) Be familiar with popular and new expressions in contemporary Chinese media, and movies; 3)Understand the most recent trends in contemporary Chinese society, particularly through understanding the thoughts and culture of youth; 4)Clearly express one’s point of views in discussions about social issues, and to contrast and compare social issues in the US and in China.
4 hours per week
Text:《当代社会话题 Current Social Issues》Prepared by MiC Kunming Faculty
Supplementary material:电视剧 《蜗居》TV series Woju

Chinese International News 中文国际新闻

This course has a unique focus on current international and global news.  Students will discuss China’s diplomatic activities, international conflicts, international organizations, China’s economic development in global markets, and China’s environmental issues in a global context. The course also brings in fresh international news pertaining to other countries in South East Asia, with which Yunnan has strong economic ties. The topics break through the language of daily life, and extend to the political, economic, environmental, and international realms. 

Syntactic structures and terms that are commonly encountered in newspaper articles are studied and drilled in class. Reading or watching the news, understanding the news, discussing and debating the news, and presenting research on a news topic in written and spoken form are the major learning activities of the course. Through these learning activities, students acquire greater fluency in Chinese at the advanced level.
4 hours per week
《中文国际新闻》compiled by MiC Kunming Faculty

Classical Chinese I & II 古代汉语 - Advanced Students

Classical Chinese is an indispensable training for anyone who wishes to read classical literature and to use it for their research.  It is also a useful training in becoming an educated speaker and user of Chinese.

Classical Chinese (I) for students with intermediate high level or above, tries to develop students’ classical Chinese reading and comprehension ability; introduce the syntax and semantics of classical Chinese; improve the understanding and application of classical Chinese to modern Chinese; and through reading of classical writings, build up a solid foundation for further studies of Chinese ancient thoughts and their influence on contemporary China.

Classical Chinese (II) is an ideal course for students with Advanced Chinese including some background in Classical Chinese, in order to gain a deeper understanding of Chinese people, society, culture, and politics. This course is an introduction of the major schools of thought in the Pre-Qin period of ancient China and their legacies.  Though the emphasis is on Kongzi, Mozi, Lao Zhuang, Hanfeizi, Sunzi and the historical times, readings of selected texts in original classical Chinese are blended into the study of the course.  The course teaches common, functional words, syntax and classical Chinese for literary purposes.  Students will develop confidence and interests in reading simple classical Chinese as they become more familiar with these historical periods, its prominent thinkers and their influence on modern China.
4 hours per week
Textbooks: Gregory Chiang (
姜貴格), Language of the Dragon: A Classical Chinese Reader (龍文墨影) (Boston: Cheng & Tsui Company, 1998), volume 1 and 2

China’s Rural Floating Population 中国流动人口研究 - Advanced Students

China’s rural migrant population currently numbers nearly 230 million people. This is the largest human migration in the history of the world. Consequently, this migrant population has become one of the most important subjects in studies of contemporary China. This course is a content-based course which aims to improve students’ four language skills and help them acquire a preliminary understanding of Chinese rural floating population from a sociological perspective. This course will cover the migrant population; China’s household registration system; migrant children; the roles and status of migrant women in their families and communities; employment and the future of the migrant population. Improving language ability and acquiring content knowledge are viewed as equally important in this course. Students enrolled in this course will participate in classroom lectures and discussions, as well as community service projects. Students will work closely with migrant communities in Kunming to enhance their understanding of China‘s urbanization process.
4 hours per week
《中国流动人口研究》 Chinese Rural Floating Population  Prepared by MiC Kunming Faculty