Discover China’s rich multicultural history and alternative strategies for achieving community health and environmental protection in Yunnan Province and Beijing.

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  • Learn, observe, and practice Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophies and treatment methods.

    While on this unique program, you will have the opportunity to learn from and practice alongside doctors and other professionally trained medical professionals from our institutional partner at the Yunnan Provincial Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, learning the skills of Chinese massage (tuina), acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal medicine. You will learn the theory of the energy channels and meridian through which vital life force (qi) flows through our bodies and the various pressure points that are used in healing. You will also learn about the ancient Daoist philosophical underpinnings of what is now a modernized and increasingly scientific system, often used in conjunction with western medicines and surgical practices. Then, under the guidance of medical professionals, you’ll practice techniques such as acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and the Five Animal Movements yourself. You’ll also learn 24 forms Taiji through daily exercise.

  • Visit China’s ancient capital, Beijing.

    Orientation takes place in Beijing. Here, you’ll visit the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and have the chance to visit other UNESCO World Heritage sites on your own. You’ll also visit an international clinic to see the integration of new technologies and traditional healthcare practices. You will meet top Chinese academics at Tsinghua University and learn about Chinese identity and government healthcare policies. Lectures may focus on China’s healthcare system and reform, rapid urbanization and its impact on health and the environment, the role of indigenous knowledge, aging in China, and/or reproductive policy.

  • Be immersed in Chinese cultures while living in Yunnan Province, an area rich in natural beauty and home to Bai, Yi, Naxi, and Tibetan ethnic cultures.

    You’ll live in the beautiful capital of Yunnan Province: Kunming, a city situated at nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, and known throughout China as the “City of Eternal Spring.” Kunming is also home to spacious parks and green spaces that are well loved by its friendly and ethnically diverse population. Kunming enjoys some of the best air quality among Chinese cities and was recently named one of the world’s most biodiverse cities.

    In addition to two homestays, in Kunming and a rural minority community, you’ll meet students in Kunming and during excursion to Northwest Yunnan. Through the Yunnan Exploration Project, you can also design a five-day trip to meet local residents and gain field study skills.

  • Receive small-group instruction in Chinese language from ACTFL-certified instructors.

    You will undertake 90 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 program’s highly skilled language instructors have completed ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview training and have obtained ACTFL OPI tester certificates. 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 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.

  • Travel throughout Yunnan to study the role of indigenous knowledge in health preservation, environmental protection, and sustainable development in China.

    You’ll travel to the Daoist mountain Weibaoshan, the ancient city of Dali, the town of Shaxi on the ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Route, Lijiang World Heritage site, and Zhongdian Tibetan area. In these locations, you'll learn about the vast differences in daily life, medical care, and medical practices in urban versus rural settings. You will also discover the unique qualities of Bai traditional herbal medicine, Naxi Dongba shamanism, and Tibetan medicine. These excursions will help you understand the historical and social factors that have shaped China and the challenges indigenous people are facing today. You’ll engage in observation and discussion and workshops and hands-on activities on ancient Chinese philosophy and religions.

  • Customize the program to fit your academic and professional goals.

    Choose between independent research, internship, or language study for the last four weeks of the program. With independent research, you can explore a wide range of topics based on your interests. Internship opportunities are varied, allowing you to intern in the fields of healthcare, environmental protection, education, business, or cultural preservation at a diverse range of hospitals and organizations engaged in traditional healthcare initiatives and environmental sustainability activities throughout Yunnan Province. For both options, you can take advantage of SIT’s broad networks in China, built over more than two decades. With the language option, you’ll work one-on-one with a tutor and take a language pledge, ultimately earning a total of 10 credits of Chinese.

Critical Global Issue of Study

Global Health

Global Health

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Key Topics of Study


Key Topics of Study

  • The role of traditional Chinese cultures and belief systems in contemporary life
  • Health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and additional indigenous health care knowledge systems in Yunnan
  • Chinese minorities’ healing systems and their views on health preservation at the community level
  • Relationship between ethnic minority tourism, cultural change, and environmental sustainability
  • Historical, religious and social factors that have worked to shape the Chinese healthcare system
  • Role of indigenous knowledge in health preservation, environmental protection, and sustainable development
  • View of western and Chinese health concepts and practices within China and on the global stage




Access virtual library guide.

The interdisciplinary coursework in the China: Health, Environment, and Traditional Chinese Medicine program informs students on all aspects of life in China, with special emphasis on the environmental and health spheres as they relate to broad societal trends and those specific to ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province. Seminars are conducted in both English and in translation and include lectures by Chinese academics, researchers, development workers, and experts in the fields of health and healthcare, environment studies, 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 an ISP, internship, or intensive language study.

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
  • Kunming University of Science and Technology
  • 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
  • Tsinghua University
  • China Foreign Affairs 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.

Health, Environment, and Indigenous Knowledge 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 Chinese society and China’s minority communities. The course also examines challenges associated with China’s health and environmental issues and governmental, community, and individual strategies underway to assess and manage them. Outside the classroom, experiential learning is integral to this seminar. Lecturers are drawn from institutions such as Tsinghua University, 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 or Internship and Seminar. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study and internship 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, internship, OR additional 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, the Independent Study Project (ISP) is a self-designed research project offering students the opportunity to undertake a personally significant and independent investigation into a topic of their choice. The ISP is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Field Methods and Ethics and the thematic course, while enabling students to further integrate their language skills and the contacts they have developed in the homestay and in the broader community. Each student will plan, develop, and independently undertake a research project, with the advice and guidance of the academic director and an ISP advisor, a local academic, and/or health professional. The topic of study may be anything of interest to the student, within the scope of the program and the immediate region, and is usually developed out of lectures, discussions, and educational excursions. The final project should provide material evidence of student capability in utilizing appropriate methodologies and in synthesizing experiences in the host culture. Students are expected to complete 120 hours of field-based (non-archival, non-library) research on their topic, submit a substantial written paper, and deliver an accompanying oral presentation. It is not uncommon for ISPs to strongly contribute to the student’s choice of subject for graduate studies or professional career.


Internship and Seminar - syllabus 
(ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
This program offers a four-week internship with various organizations or work units that provide unique opportunities for students to gain valuable professional experience in a range of fields, including health education, cultural preservation, traditional medicine, food systems, and local entrepreneurship. The internship is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Field Methods and Ethics and the thematic course while applying their language skills. This experience is aimed at enhancing students’ skills in an international work environment and establishing networks for their future career. A minimum of 120 hours must be spent interning with the organization. Students also participate in a weekly seminar, write a paper, and give a final presentation.


In lieu of the ISP or Internship, engage in intensive Chinese language study with a language pledge.

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 or internship, this intensive one-on-one or one-on-two immersive 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 4-credit course.




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



You’ll begin the program in China’s 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.

You’ll visit an international healthcare facility in Beijing to understand the integration of technology and traditional healthcare practices, healthcare access, and environmental health issues in China’s capital city. You will also meet top Chinese academics and learn about Chinese identity and central government policies on healthcare and environment protection. Lecturers may include faculty drawn from Beijing institutions of higher education, including Tsinghua University and China Foreign Affairs University. Lectures may focus on China’s concept of health in ancient philosophy, rapid urbanization and its impact on health and the environment, the role of indigenous knowledge in sustainable development, aging society in China, and/or reproductive policy and implementation.

You will also visit historical sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.

You’ll deepen your understanding of Yunnan’s place in modern China and in imperial times, clarifying the relationships between the majority Han Chinese and ethnic minorities and their political, military, and cultural contributions to China. You’ll see China’s millennia-old urban sophistication, witness the fast pace of cultural change, and get a sense of China’s political centralization. You’ll 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.

Alternative Healthcare in Yunnan

Embark on a two-week excursion focused on alternative healthcare practices and the intersection of food, environment, and health in a diverse range of community settings. You’ll get insight to alternative health practices within 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. In the process, you will meet local people through visits to temples and monasteries, nature reserves, markets, cultural preservation organizations, villages, schools, and factories. You’ll also visit clinics and explore Bai herbal medicine, Tibetan medicine, and Naxi Dongba traditional healing practices.

For four or five days in the farming community Shaxi, you will be in a homestay where you can experience a more traditional way of life and learn about the Bai minority culture.

Immediately preceding the Independent Study Project (ISP) period, this excursion exposes you to myriad possibilities and contacts for your ISP.

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’s views on health held at a local mosque during Friday prayers
  • An introduction to Buddhism and health preservation given in a Buddhist temple
  • An introduction to Christianity and health in China given at a Miao (Hmong) Christian village
  • A lecture on China’s environmental issues and food security held at an organic farm
  • 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 and field excursions 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.

Stone Forest and Jiuxiang Scenic Region

Enjoy a relaxing program wrap-up in the Stone Forest and Jiuxiang Scenic Region, where you’ll be surrounded by the magnificent limestone formations of the Stone Forest and where you’ll get to go inside Jiuxiang Cave.

Five Reasons Why: China Video

Faculty and Staff


Faculty and Staff

Lu Yuan, PhD, Academic Director

Lu Y uan

Yuan holds a PhD in international/China 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, Program Assistant, and Internship Coordinator

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 Minzu University since 2001 and been language teacher and program assistant for SIT China since 2002. Jie is a certified ACTFL OPI tester and started to serve as internship coordinator in fall 2017.

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.  Xiaolei has served as an SIT language program coordinator since the fall of 2007. Xiaolei is a certified ACTFL OPI tester.

Zhou Yan, Student Affairs and Homestay 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 and homestay coordinator since 2013. Yan is a certified ACTFL OPI tester.

Xiao Huaguo, BA, Language Instructor and Field Trip Coordinator

Xiao Huanguo

Born 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. Huaguo is a certified 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 and has served as field trip coordinator since fall 2016.

Edward Grumbine, PhD, Academic Reader

Edward is a visiting senior international scientist at Kunming Institute of Botany’s Centre for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, Chinese Academy of Sciences. His responsibility at the institute includes researching/writing on environmental policy and conservation issues and advising Chinese graduate students. Ed received a master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana in 1982 and a PhD in environmental policy and management from Union Institute in 1991. Besides serving as acting chair for the Environmental Studies Master of Arts Program at Prescott College from 2009 to 2010 and director of the Sierra Institute at University of California Extension in Santa Cruz from 1982 to 2003, Ed has taught environmental studies courses at Antioch College, The Evergreen State College, University of Montana, UC Santa Cruz, Sierra Institute, UC Extension, Prescott College, and IES Abroad in Kunming since the 1970s. Ed has written numerous journal articles on China’s environmental issues and published the book Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River: Nature and Power in the People’s Republic of China (Island Press) in 2010. Ed is an expert on China’s environment and conservation issues and has served as senior lecturer for SIT China programs since 2013 and as academic reader for SIT China programs since fall 2015.

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. Suying is a certified ACTFL OPI tester.

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 is a certified ACTFL OPI tester.

Wang Juan, BA, Language Instructor

Wang Juan

Born 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. Juan is a certified ACTFL OPI tester.

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. Lin is also a member of SIT China’s Local Review Board.

Dai Jing, PhD

Jing is faculty at Kunming University of Science and Technology’s School of Management and Economics. She received a BA in medicine from Kunming Medical University of China, an MA in logistics management from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in health economics from Chiang Mai University. Jing’s research focuses on health economics and medical administration. She is currently studying community perspectives on multi-level risk characteristics of stroke identification and intervention, a project sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China. She has published many articles on China’s health issues and medical administration. Her book on determinants of obesity and hypertension in China was published by Yunnan University in 2014. Jing has been a senior lecturer for SIT China since fall 2017.

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. Haimei is also a member of SIT China’s Local Review Board.

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. Hui is also a member of SIT China’s Local Review Board.

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. Yuzhong is also a member of SIT China’s Local Review Board.

Zhou Dequn, PhD

Dequn belongs to the Dong ethnic group. He received his bachelor’s in forest protection from Beijing Forestry University and master’s in forest pathology from Kunming’s Southwest Forestry University (SWFU). Sponsored by the Ford Foundation and Winrock International Fellowship, he received a second master’s degree in development management from the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines. Dequn received his PhD from the University of Hong Kong. His study focused on fungal ecology and biodiversity. He worked at SWFU as teaching faculty and dean for international cooperation in the Faculty of Conservation Biology for years and hosted and finished more than ten scientific research projects in forest protection, mycology, and conservation biology with the Chinese government awards. From 2004 to 2009, he worked for The Nature Conservancy as a project manager in charge of a conservation project and national park initiative in Northwest Yunnan. Since 2008, he has been a full-time faculty and PhD candidate supervisor with Kunming University of Science and Technology’s Faculty of Environment Science and Engineering. He has published about 100 scientific papers in Chinese and international journals and four books on fungal diversity and ecology. He has been served as SIT’s senior lecturer and Local Review Board member since fall 2016. 

start of quote

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

end of quote

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 everyday skills and field study methods you used to solve problems and successfully navigate China. In the presentation, you will discuss key moments during the project that led to a greater understanding of some aspect of China’s Han and ethnic minority cultures as well as your own culture.




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 program includes two homestays, one urban and one rural, allowing you to experience daily Chinese life in very different settings.


homestay Kunming is Yunnan Province’s largest city and political, economic, and cultural center. It is called “the City of Eternal Spring” and is famous in China for its nice climate, green environment, and good air quality. You 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) or internship field of interest. In many cases, the homestay family becomes an important contact for ISP research and for understanding professional cultures in China.


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 the program’s theme.

Sample ISP 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
  • Tibetan mental health
  • Tibetan women’s experiences with childbirth
  • The impact of the Chinese rural healthcare system on infectious disease
  • A comparative study of the barriers to HIV self-management among Myanmar migrant and Han Chinese Women in Yunnan, China
  • The perceived mental health effects of China’s one-child policy
  • Bai herbal medicine
  • Naxi shamanic healing system
  • Confucianist and Daoist philosophies and their influences on health preservation and environmental protection
  • Treatment accessibility for co-infected injecting drug users in China
  • Preservation and renewal of Tibetan arts
  • Women’s health in China
  • Development of Tibetan Medicine in Shangri-la
  • Traditional Chinese painting, music, and medicine
  • Buddhist philosophy and its relationship with health preservation in China

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


Student visiting a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacy view images full screen

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




This hands-on internship will take place during the last four weeks of the program. SIT academic internships are hands-on and reflective. In addition to completing the internship, weekly seminar sessions, and progress reports, you will submit and present a paper reflecting on your experience and relating it to the program’s themes.

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
  • Helping in the Traditional Chinese Medicine herb farms at Yunnan Wubang Pharmaceutical Group
  • Aiding instructors at Yunnan kindergartens, middle schools, and secondary schools
  • Assisting the work at Sony China Limited, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation
  • Helping out at Hongta Sports Center, which has an indoor swimming facility, a badminton competition area, an Olympic-sized ice surface, and more.

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 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
  • Project manager at Elite Education Global, LLC, Guangzhou, China
  • PhD candidate in anthropology at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

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: $16,293

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • Health, history, and religions
    • Social issues and challenges
    • Sustainability and indigenous knowledge and healing practices
    • Minority area field excursion and indigenous healings
  • 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 or Internship and Seminar (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
  • Advisor fees for Independent Study Projects
  • Intensive language instruction in Chinese, language office hours, and language tables
  • Language textbooks and reading materials for the academic seminars
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period
  • Local transportation

Room & Board: $3,909

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, Internship and Seminar, 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 (two 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:

Airfare to Program Site

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 bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.

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.

In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.

Contact A Former Student

contact a former student

Speak With An Admissions Counselor

Speak With An Admissions Counselor