Study China’s cultural diversity and minority relations in Yunnan Province and Beijing.

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  • Practice field study methods in Yunnan Province.

    The Field Methods and Ethics seminar will teach you the techniques, methods, and ethics necessary for successful research. You’ll put these lessons into practice on the five-day Yunnan Exploration Project, when you will travel on your own or in a small group to a remote area of Yunnan to conduct field research. During this time, you will develop ideas for your Independent Study Project (ISP) and will learn to properly refine your research topics. 

  • Live and study in Kunming.

    In Yunnan Province’s largest city and political, economic, and cultural center, you’ll study at Yunnan Minzu University and live for three weeks with a Chinese family. Kunming is called “the City of Eternal Spring” and is famous for its pleasant climate and good air. 

  • Earn up to 10 credits of Chinese.

    You will undertake 90 class hours (six credits) of Chinese language instruction. No matter what your skill level is, you’ll receive training in reading, writing, listening, and speaking Chinese. Through a combination of interactive classroom learning, cultural immersion on campus, and the practical application of language skills in homestays and during excursions, you can make tremendous progress in your Chinese language skills over the course of the semester. The language program is distinguished by its excellent teacher-to-student ratio; in addition, you will be partnered with Chinese university students so you can practice Chinese with native speakers and apply what you learn in the classroom to the informal conditions of everyday life. Through structured and unstructured language learning and daily interactions with your host families, you will refine your communications skills while becoming acclimated to the local culture. You may pursue further language study in the last month of the semester and earn an additional four credits.

  • Visit minority areas on multiple excursions.

    The unique minority issues component of the seminar—including excursions to minority areas and exchanges with ethnic minority groups—distinguishes this study abroad program from any other in China. An interdisciplinary seminar explores the relationship between China’s central government and the ethnically diverse minority populations of Yunnan. The interactions inherent in the relationship between China’s “peripheral peoples” and an arguably constructed dominant “Han” culture form a foundation upon which questions of autonomy and identity are brought to life in Yunnan and its environs. You’ll visit Weishan, Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La and experience a homestay in the rural Bai minority village of Shaxi. You will witness the region’s struggle, as it increasingly becomes a major focus of both domestic and foreign tourism, to achieve a balance between developed tourist areas, such as Dali and Lijiang, and more remote sites that retain a strong sense of cultural integrity. By living with a local family in a rural farming village, you will learn about the cultural traditions that define and sustain these diverse communities.

  • Visit Beijing.

    See the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven. Here, you’ll also conduct a small group field study project.

  • Be immersed in Chinese culture.

    In addition to having two homestays, you’ll study alongside Chinese students at Yunnan Minzu University. Experience daily taiji exercise.

  • Choose to do an Independent Study Project or continue your Chinese language study.

    During the last month of the program, you may choose to conduct original field-based research on a topic related to the program’s theme. If you wish to focus on language instead, you may pursue an additional 60 hours of language instruction. 

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    Enjoy a relaxing program wrap-up at the Stone Forest and Jiuxiang Cave.

Critical Global Issue of Study

Migration | Identity | Resilience

Migration | Identity | Resilience

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Key Topics of Study


Key Topics of Study

  • The role of traditional Chinese cultures and belief systems in contemporary life
  • Rapid urbanization, agriculture, and social change
  • Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Tourism and sustainability (cultural and environmental)
  • Preservation and development of China’s minority cultures
  • Government minority policies and relationships among China’s ethnic groups and nationalities
  • China’s reproductive policy and its implementation
  • Ethnic identity in China
  • Social, environmental, economic, and cultural factors shaping Yunnan’s and China’s future
  • China’s multicultural history and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities confronting China
  • The complexity of China’s social groups and key social, historical, and cultural issues at work in minority communities




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The interdisciplinary coursework in the China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities program informs students on all aspects of life in China, including the environmental, health, and political spheres. Seminars conducted in both English and in translation include lectures by Chinese academics, researchers, development workers, and experts in the fields of history and religion, social issues, arts and the humanities, and minority issues. During the final month of the semester, students leverage their field study experience and research skills to complete their ISP.

Students engage with a broad array of knowledge centers, and lecturers are drawn from a wide variety of local institutions and organizations. Institutions we work with include:

  • Yunnan Minzu University
  • Yunnan University
  • Yunnan Normal University
  • Yunnan Social Science Academy
  • Yunnan Art Institute
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Family Health International
  • Kunming Medical University
  • Yunnan Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • The Lijiang Dongba Cultural Research Institute
  • Lijiang Foreign Affairs Office
  • Shaxi Rehabilitation Project
  • Shangri-La Association of Tibetan Culture Preservation
  • Yunnan Mountain Handicraft Center
  • Beijing University
  • Tsinghua University
  • Central Minzu University

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Chinese Culture and Ethnic Minorities Seminar – syllabus
(ASIA 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, examining China’s cultural complexity and the key social, economic, environmental, and cultural factors shaping and sustaining China’s minority communities. Outside the classroom, experiential learning is integral to this seminar. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as Yunnan Minzu University, Yunnan University, Yunnan Normal University, NGOs in Yunnan, Yunnan Arts Institute, Yunnan Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kunming University of Science and Technology, the Lijiang Dongba Cultural Research Institute and Shangri-La Association of Tibetan Cultural Preservation.

Field Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
A course in the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience in preparation for the Independent Study Project. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a work journal.

Beginning Chinese – syllabus
(CHIN 1006–1506 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
Intermediate Chinese – syllabus
(CHIN 2006–2506 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
Advanced Chinese – syllabus
(CHIN 3006–3506 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)Emphasis on speaking and comprehension skills, as well as introductory reading skills, through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes. Language instructors are certified in teaching Chinese as a foreign language and use a variety of interactive communication-based language-teaching techniques. All SIT language instructors have completed ACTFL OPI training and five instructors are certified-ACTFL OPI testers of Chinese language proficiency

During the final month of the program, students may choose to do the Independent Study Project OR continue their Chinese language study.

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Yunnan Province or in another approved location appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: 

  • Traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable food sourcing
  • Working with locals to restore biodiversity to a rubber-dominated landscape
  • An analysis of China’s energy sources and the case for clean energy
  • Addressing disparities in China’s health, education, and social welfare systems
  • The Burma Road and World War II in Yunnan
  • Changing markets and the implication for 21st century Mali China migration
  • The impact of the Chinese rural healthcare system on infectious disease
  • Growth and inequality in modern China
  • Domestic tourism and its impact on Dali and Lijiang, and other minority areas
  • Preservation and renewal of Tibetan arts
  • Women’s health in China
  • Development of Tibetan Medicine in Shangri-la
  • Traditional Chinese painting, music, and medicine
  • Buddhism philosophy and practice


Intermediate Chinese – syllabus
(CHIN 2004–2504 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
Advanced Chinese – syllabus
(CHIN 3004–3504 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
Guided Self-Instruction in Chinese – syllabus
(CHIN 4004 / 4 credits / 60 class hours)
Pursued in lieu of the ISP, this intensive one-on-one or one-on-two Chinese language course is conducted during the last month of the program; combined with the required six-credit language course taken earlier in the program, students can earn up to ten language credits in one semester. Students also sign a 24-hour Chinese language pledge for the duration of this course.

* Chinese language study can be pursued in lieu of the standard, research-based Independent Study Project.

Program in a minute-ish

Program in a minute-ish




Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Day Trips

GroupThe program includes numerous day trips and extended excursions. These experiences are deepened through frequent discussion and reflection sessions led by students and the academic director.

Day trips near Kunming may include:

  • A lecture on Islam in China held at a local mosque during Friday prayers
  • An introduction to Buddhism, given in a Buddhist temple
  • An introduction to Christianity in China, given at a Miao (Hmong) Christian village
  • An explanation of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Yunnan Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • An introduction to and demonstration of the Beijing Opera at a cultural institute
  • A visit to Kunming’s Flower and Bird Market
  • An introduction to and demonstration of traditional Chinese music and instruments at Yunnan Art Institute
  • A talk on China’s ethnic minorities and China’s minority policies at the Yunnan Nationalities Museum

During day trips in Yunnan Province, you may have an audience with a reincarnate Tibetan lama and see a Dongba shaman go into a trance. You may observe the agile motions of a Daoist master, witness the selfless dedication of workers at a Tibetan orphanage, and hear choral singing at a Miao (Hmong) village.


BeijingYou will travel across China to the capital, Beijing. Through lectures, site visits, and a small group field study project, the striking ethnic and historical contrast between Beijing and Yunnan Province will become clear.

In Beijing, you will meet top Chinese academics and learn about Chinese identity, government policies on minorities, and the ethnic and cultural history of Beijing. Lecturers may include faculty drawn from Beijing institutions of higher education, including Beijing University, Tsinghua University, or China’s Central Nationalities University. You will also visit historical sites like the Great Wall, the Tibetan temple of Yonghegong, and the Forbidden City built by the Manchu Qing Dynasty.

You’ll deepen your understanding of Yunnan’s place in the Chinese nation and in imperial times, clarifying the roles played by the majority Han Chinese and northern ethnic minorities and their contributions to modern China. You’ll see China’s millennia-old urban sophistication, witness the fast pace of modernization, and get a sense of China’s political centralization. You’ll participate in a day-long group field study project and have time to discover on your own the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Olympic Bird’s Nest, fascinating markets, art districts, and many museums.

Minority Areas in Yunnan

The two-week minority areas excursion involves experiential learning in the Yi and Hui Autonomous County of Weishan, the Bai areas of Dali and Shaxi, the Naxi ancient town of Lijiang, and the Tibetan areas of northwestern Yunnan. The itinerary changes each semester to include less-visited sites and rural areas vital to understanding modern China’s diversity and inequalities. You will meet residents through visits to temples and monasteries, nature reserves, markets, organizations for cultural preservation, orphanages, schools, and factories. Immediately preceding the Independent Study Project (ISP) period, this excursion exposes you to myriad possibilities and contacts for your ISP.

Faculty and Staff


Faculty and Staff

Lu Yuan, PhD, Academic Director

Lu Y uanYuan holds a PhD in international/Chinese studies from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and a BA in Chinese literature and journalism from People’s University, Beijing. She taught Chinese at Banaras Hindu University in India as part of her MA degree from SIT Graduate Institute. Yuan worked for seven years as a journalist with Xinhua, the official news agency of China, and was editor of Chinese Journalist. She was a Parvin Fellow on a journalism training program at the University of Hawai‘i. In addition to her visits to Tibet and minority regions of Mongolia, Ningxia, and Yunnan, she spent three years in Kathmandu, Nepal, where her husband, Sam, co-directed SIT’s Nepal program.

As academic director, Yuan has overseen the SIT China program since its 1994 beginning. She lectures, advises students, coordinates seminars, and plans excursions. She is a certified ACTFL OPI tester and has been academic director for the summer Community Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine program since 2004.

Zhao Jie (Charles), Language Instructor and Program Assistant

Zhao JieCharles was born in Shanghai and raised in Kunming. He received a bachelor of science from Yunnan University in 2003 and a master of science from Yunnan University in 2006. Fluent in Chinese and English, he has conducted research and published extensively in paleontology. He has directed projects with the University of Leicester (UK) and the Natural History Museum of Sweden. He has taught Chinese language at Yunnan Normal University and Yunnan Nationalities University since 2001 and been language teacher and program assistant for SIT China since 2002. He completed the training workshop for ACTFL OPI tester certification in 2014.

Luo Xiaolei, Language Program Coordinator

Luo XiaoleiBorn and raised in Kunming, Xiaolei received a bachelor’s degree in English from Yunnan University in 1989. She worked as office staff and translator for Yunnan University’s Foreign Affairs Office and for companies in Zhuhai and Hong Kong from 1989 to 1997. She has been teaching Chinese to foreigners at Yunnan University, Yunnan Normal University, and Yunnan Minzu University since 2002 and has been teaching SIT students since 2003.  Xiaoleihas served as an SIT language program coordinator since the fall of 2007. She completed the training workshop for ACTFL OPI tester certification in 2014.

Zhou Yan, Student Affairs Coordinator

Zhou YanOf Yi nationality, Yan was born in Yun County, Yunnan Province. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from the Xian Foreign Languages Institute, one of the most well-known schools in China, in 2008. Following graduation, she returned to Yunnan and joined SIT’s staff. She has been student affairs coordinator since 2008. Yan is a certified ACTFL OPI tester.

Language instructors include:

Huang Suying, BA, Language Instructor

Huang SuyingBorn and raised in Kunming, Suying received a bachelor’s degree in English from Yunnan University in 2001. She taught Chinese to foreign students and English to Chinese students at Yunnan Normal University from 2001 to 2008. Since 2008 she has taught SIT students on semester and summer programs. Suying obtained a Certificate of Mandarin Chinese Qualification in 2001 and a Certificate of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language in 2006. She completed the training for ACTFL OPI tester certification in 2014.

Zhang Xian, MA, Language Instructor

Zhang XianBorn and raised in Kunming, Xian received a bachelor’s degree in Chinese literature from Yunnan Normal University in 2006 and a master’s degree in Chinese linguistics from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She taught Chinese to high school students in Thailand from 2006 to 2007 and taught Chinese to foreign students at Yunnan Normal University from 2007 to 2008. Since 2008, she has taught SIT students on semester and summer programs while pursuing her master’s degree in Chinese linguistics at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Xian completed the training for ACTFL OPI tester certification in 2014.

Wang Juan, BA, Language Instructor

Wang JuanBorn and raised in Yunnan Province, Juan, a Hani nationality received a bachelor’s degree in teaching Chinese as a second language from Beijing Language University in 2006.

Juan taught Chinese at Tai Haad School in Thailand from July to August of 2005 and taught Chinese to foreign students at Yunnan Normal University from 2006 to 2008. Since April 2008 she has been teaching SIT students on both semester and summer programs. She obtained a Certificate of Mandarin Chinese Qualification and a Certificate of Professional Chinese Proficiency in 2004. She completed the training for ACTFL OPI tester certification in January 2014.

Xiao Huaguo, BA, Language Instructor

Xiao HuanguoBorn and raised in Hubei Province, Huaguo received a bachelor’s degree in English from Yangtze University in 2004. Huaguo earned a Certificate of English Proficiency in 2003 and a Certificate of Accreditation in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language in 2010. In 2015, Xiao Huaguo obtained certification as an ACTFL OPI tester.

Huaguo taught English at Yunnan New World Foreign Language School from 2005 to 2008. He also taught English at Yunnan Art Institute from 2008 to 2009. In 2009, Huaguo taught Chinese to foreigners at Kunming Dongfang Language School. He has taught for SIT since 2009.

Other lecturers include:

Duo Lin, MA, HIV/AIDS Expert

Lin earned an MS in sexually transmitted infections and HIV from the University of London and has been involved with HIV/AIDS research since 2002. He manages the Yunnan Province HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Project, sponsored by the Australian government, and has participated in and managed other HIV/AIDS-related projects. He has contributed to numerous publications and has served as a consultant and participant in national and international conferences on the subject. Since 2006, Lin has been a senior lecturer and ISP advisor for SIT’s China semester program and a senior lecturer with its summer program.

Xiong Bin, PhD Candidate, Lecturer on Regional Economics and Business

Bin holds an MA in economics from Chulalongkorn University of Thailand and is a PhD candidate in world economy at Yunnan University. She has lectured at universities and worked in private businesses in China and Thailand. She is associate professor of management and economics, specializing in regional economic development and international business and management, at the Kunming University of Science and Technology. She’s participated in international collaborative research and economic development conferences and published articles and has won teaching awards. Bin has been a senior lecturer and ISP advisor for SIT China since 2002.

Shen Haimei, PhD

Haimei holds a PhD in ethnicity studies from Yunnan University. She is a professor of anthropology at Yunnan Provincial Ethnology Research Institute, Yunnan Minzu University. She researches Yunnan history, women/gender and ethnicity in southwest China, HIV/AIDS and public health, and the trafficking of Asian female immigrants in China. She has authored books and numerous articles in Chinese and English that are important resources for understanding Yunnan’s unique peoples. She has received fellowships at universities in the US, the UK, and Singapore. Haimei has been a senior lecturer and ISP advisor with SIT China since 2002.

Yang Hui, MA

Hui holds an MA in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana and studied anthropology and political science in China and the United States. She is a professor at the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology at Yunnan University. She has taught sociocultural anthropology at undergraduate and graduate levels and has been a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley and a visiting professor in Hong Kong. Her numerous articles, edited works, translations, and documentary films often focus on Yunnan’s minorities. She is an important contributor and authority in these fields and in tourism in ethnic minority areas and economic development among transnational minority groups in the region. Professor Hui has been a senior lecturer and ISP advisor for SIT China since 1998.

Yang Fuquan, PhD

Fuquan is part of the Naxi ethnic group. He holds a PhD in Chinese ethnic history and culture from Yunnan University. He is a professor and vice president at Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, and directs the Local Historical Studies Department of Yunnan Province. He has authored 28 books and more than 150 articles on cultural and other issues facing the peoples of Yunnan, especially the Naxi. He has given lectures and presentations around the world and led international research projects on resource management, indigenous knowledge, cultural conservation, biodiversity protection, and ecotourism issues in minority areas. Fuquan has been a senior lecturer and ISP advisor with SIT China since 1999.

Dan Smyer Yu, PhD

Dan is distinguished professor and director of the Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies at Yunnan Minzu University. He received his PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California at Davis. He was a New Millennium Scholar and associate director of the Ethnic Minority Study Center at Minzu University of China. He has held positions at UC Davis, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Sacramento City College, and the University of San Francisco. Dan studies religious revitalizations, charismatic communities, commercialization of spirituality, and the relationship between eco-religious practices and place making. He is writing his second book about religion and nationalism and Sino-Tibetan interactions.

Zhao Yuzhong, PhD

Yuzhong is part of the Bai ethnicity. He holds a PhD in ethnology from the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Yunnan University. He is a professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Kunming University of Science and Technology. He was a research associate at Hong Kong Chinese University from 2010 to 2011 and a visiting scholar at Cornell University in 2011 and 2012. He has written numerous books and articles concerning Yunnan’s ethnic cultures and has led research projects in Yunnan, with particular focus on the Bai ethnic group. Yuzhong has been a senior lecturer and ISP advisor for SIT China since 2015.

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The SIT semester abroad in China has given me the resources, training, and unbelievable academic independence

The SIT semester abroad in China has given me the resources, training, and unbelievable academic independence necessary to pursue meaningful research in my field of study (conservation biology). The program staff allow each student to go nearly anywhere to study nearly anything. They granted me the freedom to conduct my Independent Study Project on incorporating local participation into solutions to a dire environmental problem in tropical Yunnan, and through my project I developed invaluable professional contacts for my future involvement in this region. My teachers opened the doors to all of China to me. I gained new direction in my life. This program transcends undergraduate education—it enables students to embark on missions of self-discovery and positive change.

Francis Commercon, Colorado State University

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Yunnan Exploration Project

Yunnan Exploration Project

The Yunnan Exploration Project, a self-designed independent study and travel period in Yunnan Province, allows you to build upon concepts learned in the thematic seminar and to utilize your Chinese language training. The project also develops your flexibility and confidence in your ability to conduct fieldwork in China and prepares you for logistical challenges you may encounter during future assignments outside the classroom, during your Independent Study Project, and on future visits and study in China.

You will identify a site or sites you would like to explore, and, individually or in a small group, will arrange your own travel to these destinations, where you will explore the area and interact with residents over the course of approximately five days. On your return, you will give a presentation on the skills and field study methods you used to solve problems and locate food and lodging during your travels. In a paper, you will discuss key moments during the project that led to a greater understanding of some aspect of China’s dominant and ethnic minority cultures as well as your own culture.

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The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.

The China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities program includes two homestays, one urban and one rural, allowing you to experience daily Chinese life in very different settings.


homestayYou will spend three weeks with a family in urban Kunming. Through this experience, you will likely gain a deeper understanding of China’s increasingly complex and economically stratified society. When possible, you will be placed with a family that shares professions or interests related to your Independent Study Project (ISP) topic. In many cases, the homestay family becomes an important contact for your ISP.


For four or five days in the farming community Shaxi, you will experience a more traditional way of life and learn about the Bai minority culture. You may help your host family with daily chores, including farming, milking, and producing goods for the weekly market. You will witness the profound changes happening in the community because of increased development and tourism.

Other accommodations during the program include hostels, educational institutions, or small hotels.

Independent Study Project


Independent Study Project

In the final month of the semester, you can choose to undertake an Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP provides you with an opportunity to critically examine a topic, community, or situation related to Chinese culture or ethnic minorities in China.

Sample ISP topic areas:

  • How the outside world affects Luoshui village and the Mosuo culture
  • Working with locals to restore biodiversity to a rubber-dominated landscape
  • Philosophy and practice of taiji
  • Treatment accessibility for co-infected IDUs in China
  • Traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable food sourcing
  • An analysis of China’s energy sources and the case for clean energy
  • Investigation of family and religious practices of the Hui
  • Naxi Dongba shaman practices
  • The impact of the Chinese rural healthcare system on infectious disease
  • Growth and inequality in modern China
  • Domestic tourism and its impact on Dali and Lijiang, and other minority areas
  • Preservation and renewal of Tibetan arts
  • Addressing disparities in China’s health, education, and social welfare systems
  • Women’s health in China
  • Development of Tibetan medicine in Shangri-la
  • Traditional Chinese painting, music, and medicine
  • Buddhism philosophy and practice
  • The Burma Road and World War II in Yunnan
  • Changing markets and the implication for 21st Century Mali China migration

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

Intensive Language Study

Intensive Language Study

You may choose to study up to 10 Chinese language credits during the semester. The 6 + 4 language credit option includes 6 required credits and 4 additional credits of intensive study during the program’s final month. Offered in lieu of the ISP or internship, if you pursue this option you will spend this period participating in intensive and often one-on-one language instruction, which includes taking a language pledge.

Having one-on-one tutoring with my teachers allowed me to learn more Chinese in a month than I learned in the two years I took Chinese before attending SIT. The language pledge pushed me and inspired me to be more confident by forcing me to step out of my comfort zone and practice my Chinese with locals. While the language pledge was one of the most challenging months of my life, it is what I will remember and treasure most about my experience in Kunming.

Caroline Marso, Occidental College




You can choose to do an internship during the last four weeks of the program. SIT internships are hands on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, you will submit a paper processing your learning experience on the job and analyzing an issue important to the organization you worked with, and/or you will design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization.

The internships offered as part of this program are another great way not only to deepen your understanding of an aspect of the program that you find particularly interesting but also to build experience that will help you define your goals beyond college. Internships may encompass a range of sectors and fields, such as food and food production, tourism and the environment, health-focused NGOs, and others.

Sample internships:

  • Learning about traditional healthcare practices and techniques and the holistic philosophy behind Traditional Chinese Medicine at a Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital or clinic.  
  • Developing photographic materials and assisting cultural preservation efforts at Mosuo Culture Research Institute
  • Assisting HIV/AIDS prevention efforts at Yundi
  • Learning about traditional tie-dye and local community’s efforts to preserve the indigenous knowledge at Lanxu
  • Taking care of Tibetan Children and developing new activity plans for the kindergarten at Ren’an Tibetan Community Kingdergarten in Shangri-la (Zhongdian)
  • Organizing cultural activities for the local community and assessing the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives targeting small businesses at Yunnan Mountain Handicraft Center
  • Learning about Tibetan Thangka painting and helping to organize activities related to Tibetan cultural preservation at Gyalthang Association of Culture Preservation
  • Working in the areas of organic food production and marketing with community farming organizations near Kunming

Career Paths


Career Paths

A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Positions recently held by alumni of this program include:

  • Graduate student in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA
  • Researcher at the Stimson Center, Washington, DC
  • Graduate student in Chinese studies at the University of Michigan’s Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Graduate student at Columbia University Law School, New York, NY
  • Feature reporter for The Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia
  • Princeton in Asia fellow and director of travel curating at The Linden Centre, Dali, China
  • Curator at Lijiang Art Studio, Yunnan, China
  • Administrator for ENREACH International Education, Shanghai, China
  • English interviewer at Vericant, Beijing, China

Cost and Scholarships


Cost and Scholarships

SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students. 

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $14,920

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Social issues and humanities
    • Minority issues
    • History and religions
  • Field Methods and Ethics and Human Subjects Review
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Dali and Lijiang, Tibetan areas of Zhongdian and other rural locations, Beijing, and the Great Wall, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Intensive language instruction in Chinese
  • Language textbooks and reading materials for the academic seminars
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period
  • Local transportation

Room & Board: $3,580

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Kunming), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or independent language study, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
  • All homestays (three weeks in Kunming and several days in the rural Bai community of Shaxi)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $130

Immunizations: Varies

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.

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