Highlights: The highlight of the trip, again, is hard to choose. I really enjoyed my ISP experience, which is what most students tend to say. It is a period of independence, hence the name, “independent study project”, and it truly feels a beautiful culmination of everything that you’ve learning up until that point. I chose to do my ISP on Tibetan traditional music, and so I took a long bus ride up to Shangri-la, a Tibetan city located at 10,000 feet in Northwestern Yunnan. It was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Another highlight for me and the rest of my group was the rural home-stay, which took place in a small valley called Shaxi. We each stayed with a Bai minority family for about a week. This was during the traveling period near the end of the semester before ISP period, where the whole group travels together around Yunnan.
Morning: My experience with SIT in China was one of the best times of my life. Life there was so dynamic and vibrant that it is a bit of challenge describing the “average” day. The first part of the program we were all living on the campus of Yunnan Minorities University and our schedule was the most regimented it would be on the program, so I’ll describe a typical day during that period. We had classes five days a week, starting with Chinese language at 8 in the morning for an hour and half, after which we would have a break that we spent doing Taiqi with a Taiqi master. We would go to another hour and half of language study after this. Our group was broken up into small language classes based on level; mine consisted of just me and another student.
Afternoon / Evening: After language, we would have a couple hours to rest and get lunch. There were a few spots around campus that I would frequent because they were tasty and cheap and had good people watching. Our final class of the day would be our cultural seminar, which we rotated through three different overarching topics throughout the semester. The first topic was History and Culture, the second was Religion and Minorities and the third was Field Research, which was designed to prepare use for our ISP research. The seminars were split between us meeting in the SIT office on campus where usually a speaker working in the field of the day’s topic would come and give lecture and us actually going out into the “field” to a location that represented our day’s topic. For example, when we had our lecture on Islam in China, we went to Kunming’s largest mosque and were given a lecture by the head of the Yunnan Muslim Association. SIT stresses experiential learning, so any student looking for a truly engaging cultural experience will not be disappointed with this program. After seminar class, we would typically get dinner somewhere around town and then start our language homework. That was a typical day during this period.