Welcome to Kunming
At CET, our goal is to make study abroad accessible for all. We believe that learning happens best when your class reflects the world around us—complex and diverse. So we work hard to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. No matter where you are coming from, we want you to have a study abroad experience.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
Race & Ethnicity
The average Chinese person is not surrounded by the racial diversity that exists in the US and as a result racism in China manifests differently than in the United States. You may hear racially insensitive comments or notice some staring, but these instances can mostly be attributed to the lack of knowledge about and/or exposure to people of other races and ethnicities. Students have reported being approached by strangers for photos, questions, and other interactions born of their perceived foreign identity.
In contrast, heritage students and others who may be mistaken for a local sometimes feel less welcomed than their peers with more obviously foreign features. Interactions with locals are typically initiated in Chinese and their language skills may be held to a higher standard. However, past students have reported this to be beneficial to their language learning and provide a living experience more similar to that of a local.
LGBTQ issues are not something that most Kunming residents are informed on, but younger generations are often more open toward these issues and LGBTQ individuals. While homosexuality is legal in China, only heterosexual marriages are recognized by the government at this time.
Chinese culture is very gender binary. Locals will likely be unfamiliar with gender terminology that is more commonplace in the US and may ask blunt questions out of curiosity. A non-binary student would likely find it difficult to explain what being non-binary means to their Chinese friends.
There are five religions officially recognized in China: Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism. There is little knowledge of or exposure to other religions in China. Chinese people—while not usually religious themselves—are on the whole very open to religion and generally interested to learn about different faiths. It is a fairly common occurrence for students to be asked about their faiths. Proselytizing is illegal in China, but personal religious observance and practice is fine for foreign students.
Cost of Living
Day-to-day cost of living in Kunming is significantly cheaper than that of most places in the United States. Within China, Kunming’s status as a Tier 2 city means things are often cheaper than in Beijing or Shanghai but can still vary greatly depending on your lifestyle. A bowl of local noodles might be 2 USD and a movie ticket a local cinema costs roughly 3.50 USD. Imported goods will cost just as much if not more than they would in the US.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
The Yunnan University (YNU) Hotel is located just across the street from campus, about a 2-minute walk from the classrooms. The location is fairly quiet and the building has elevator access. The YNU hotel is wheelchair accessible and also houses the activity room, which has wifi, a TV, and basic cooking equipment (full-sized refrigerator, hot plate, and cooking utensils). Washing machines are available on the 1st and 6th floors exclusively for CET students.
According to the policy of our host university, students must live with a roommate whose legal gender matches their own legal gender as it appears on their passport. However, arrangements can be made to accommodate gender diverse students if notice is provided in advance.
Rooms are typically double occupancy, but a single room may be provided for those with documented need if requested in advance.
Sidewalks are often uneven and obstructed by dock-free bike shares. Kunming’s subway system is relatively new and therefore fairly accessible and complete with elevators. In general, public facilities designed to help those with disabilities are few in number and often not well-maintained.
Health & Diet
Health & Medicine
There are a variety of health facilities available to students in Kunming, though many are limited to service in Chinese. International clinics will operate at a standard more familiar to foreign students, but are a little further away and may have inconvenient hours. During orientation, on-site staff provide students with basic information and recommendations for seeing a doctor and buying medicine. There are some prescription medications that are not accessible in China—students should do their research beforehand and ensure they bring their prescription and the necessary amount if in-country refills won’t be possible. For example, birth control pill brands in China differ from those in the US.
Keeping Fit in Kunming
Our host university, Yunnan University, provides many campus amenities, including a basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts. There is also a soccer field surrounded by a gravel track, and a few additional higher quality soccer fields that are open to the public after 5 PM. There are several members-only gyms in the area equipped with treadmills, ellipticals, western weight lifting equipment, and classes (taught in Chinese) that have affordable membership.
Managing Mental Health
Students can find counseling services offered by western providers at a nearby center (about a 15-minute walk from campus). Most of their staff are highly experienced and have been servicing patients in Kunming for a long time. Students also have the option for online counseling sessions via Skype through the Beijing United Family Hospital.
Special dietary needs can be accommodated in China, but require patience and persistence as many local people are not used to the idea of dietary restrictions or severe food allergies.Vegetarian students have found Halal restaurants to be more receptive to requests like not adding meat. Vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free students must be patient and clear when ordering food in China.
Resources from Alumni
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad in China (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in China could be like for you or your future peers.
- Navigating China as a Black Woman: The Blacker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice
by Denise Jackson, CET Beijing | Fall 2019 & Janterm 2020
For “Students of color”
- CET Shanghai: Heritage Essay
by Anonymous Contributor, CET Shanghai | Summer 2019
- Support at CET Harbin
by Tatiana Wade, CET Harbin | Fall 2018
For “Students of color, low-income students, and those who want to go to China”
- Black in Beijing
by Minnie Norgaisse, CET Beijing | Spring 2018
- Japanese-American Experience in Shanghai/China
by Anonymous Contributor, CET Shanghai | Summer 2018
For “Japanese (Japanese/American) in China”
China Alumni Insight
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in China may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you register with CET (after acceptance to the program), your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Greater China.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Greater China. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.