CET Kunming

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Looking to improve your Chinese by leaps and bounds while studying in the breathtaking "City of Eternal Spring"? CET Kunming students undertake a full-time Chinese language pledge and cover an entire year of university-level Chinese in 9 weeks. Outside the classroom—with the language pledge still in place—excursions give an inside look at issues particular to the Yunnan region, such as environmental conservation efforts and ethnic minorities. And to round your experience, you'll live with a local roommate to bring language and culture immersion into your home life. This program is open to students with at least 2 semesters of previous Chinese study.

  • Small, intensive Chinese language course
  • Full-time language pledge
  • One-on-one sessions with an instructor for targeted language learning and practice
  • Live with a local Chinese roommate
  • Out-of-classroom learning & assignments

Questions & Answers

If you're looking for culture and history and cultural landmarks, definitely go to Beijing, not Kunming! That's my honest answer!


based on 8 reviews
  • Academics 9.3
  • Support 8.9
  • Fun 8.4
  • Housing 8.9
  • Safety 8.5
Showing 1 - 8 of 8

A Summer of Intensive Language in Kunming

If you choose to undertake this program, prepare to have your life changed forever. My two months of language study in Kunming shattered my preconceived notions about Chinese life and culture, and gave me an opportunity to truly assimilate into local life (as much as a foreigner could, at least!). By the end of the program, I was actually reluctant to return home! The language instruction is indeed rigorous, but all means doable, and within a few weeks of arrival, speaking Chinese became more natural than speaking English for me. I found the campus of Yunnan University and the surrounding area to be an incredibly warm and welcoming environment for international travelers and students. To top it off, the rich ethnic diversity, history, culture, and comfortable climate of Kunming, in my opinion, made it the ideal city in China to study. I will forever consider Yunnan in general, and Kunming in particular, to be a second home to me thanks to this experience.

How can this program be improved?
There was very little, if anything, that I found lacking or needing improvement in this program. Virtually the only thing I can think of would be that our classroom building had no bathroom available to students. Our dormitories were only a two minute or so walk away, but as we all know, many students may encounter stomach issues as they adjust to Chinese cuisine, and may need a bathroom at a moment's notice during an emergency. Other than that, nothing comes to mind for suggestions, the program was truly expertly organized.
Yes, I recommend this program
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2 Months Later, Substantial Improvement

I chose the CET Kunming Program chiefly because of its Language Pledge component, and its reputation as a first-tier study abroad academic institution. Individually, I was not disappointed in either respect; classes were rigorous, and the Chinese roommate kept me honest to the Language pledge as much as possible. By the end of the two-month program, I was speaking fluently and with confidence. Also, my character writing improved substantially; I struggled at first with strict standards for handwriting, but over time adjusted my habits and found success. Also, the Chinese roommate component is fantastic; every roommate (not just your own) is excited to chat and exchange with you, and most are eager to share local sights, pop-culture, and restaurants with you.

On the flip side, making friends with classmates using only Chinese was challenging in the beginning, due to varying levels of Chinese ability and the strict Language Pledge. Also, the class schedule truly keeps you working hard weekdays, which although exhilarating left me quite tired by the weekend. In short, I didn't get to travel in-country as much as I'd hoped on the weekends, and only near the end of the experience found space to bond with my American cohort.

I would recommend this program to any student who is eager to improve their Chinese ability across the board, and excited to spend a summer studying hard in a beautiful city. Opportunities for engagement with Chinese students are copious, and I have made lifelong friends on this program.

How can this program be improved?
Front-loading more cohort activities in the beginning weeks of the program will catalyze group cohesion, using shared experience as an avenue to friendship.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Challenging and Memorable

Simply put, my summer in Kunming was both intellectually challenging and an overall memorable experience. I truly appreciate the dedication that the program staff, teachers, students and Chinese roommates had to the success and progress of every student. Perhaps the highlight of the summer is the language pledge, which is both exhausting but rewarding by the completion of the program. For anyone who is dedicated and determined to become fluent (or at least proficient) in Mandarin Chinese, the intensive program is the perfect way to do so. The Kunming staff are exceptional. Alex especially was very helpful in helping students feel welcomed in Kunming, as well as very involved with our lives and studies.

In regards to life in Kunming, the weather is pleasant, though be prepared for lots of rain! Compared to Northern parts of China, it's definitely much nicer weather-wise. The dorms are part of Yunnan University's "Hotel," so unless you request it, there are staff who come in and clean/straighten up your room on a daily basis. I also fell in love with Yunnan cuisine, and there are plenty of cheap options on and around campus. You also can dine at the campus cafeteria, which is both cheap and decent, though meals can be a bit repetitive.

Your roommate is the best resource for integrating into Chinese life, picking up some recent slang, discovering Kunming and learning of China's rich ethnic and linguistic diversity. My roommate in particular was not a Kunming native, so I got to learn about her experience in learning about Kunming.

Finally, Kunming has its own local dialect! I highly recommend interacting with as many locals as possible, and maybe pick up some of the dialect. Though the academics are challenging and the language barrier is perhaps a bit higher than other parts of China, I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who is willing to dedicate themselves to Mandarin Chinese and Chinese culture and challenge their current self to a new experience.

How can this program be improved?
Although I appreciate the academic standards and quality of this program, I do have a few qualms about the rigor and opportunity for exploration. As I believe part of the experience going abroad is to explore the city and gain experiences and memories beyond the classroom setting. The academics are paced rigorously, but they leave little room for exploration. I was also slightly disappointed as I assumed that the lesson plan would integrate more excursions into the city that required applying what we were learning. However, we went only 2 places for the duration of the program. In the future, I hope that the teachers integrate more hands-on learning opportunities into their lesson plan.
Yes, I recommend this program

Learn Through Experience

Not only was this program very challenging because of its high language requirements and heavy workloads, but it also emphasized the importance of personal experience and growth. Students spent a large amount of time drilling vocabulary and grammar, but were often given opportunities to become familiar with Chinese traditions. Intermediate level students learned the necessary vocabulary to talk about traditional Chinese medicine. In addition, they were required to talk to doctors specializing in this type of medicine, and encouraged to convey utilize the practice if they saw it necessary. As always, this type of program is only as effective as students are willing to participate.

How can this program be improved?
Due to new leadership, there were several aspects of the program that clashed with other coordinators as well as the ideas and needs of students. Often there were no clear ideas of general program requirements and massive confusions about large projects such as the final research paper. While I do not doubt that this aspect will be improved upon in the future as the program, it is an active and vital change.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Biking in Kunming

One of my favorite memories from this summer is biking around Kunming with two CET roommates, Wei Hao and Tai Xiong. We biked to the big bus station to buy Tai Xiong's little sister a ticket home. We set off in the morning and the weather was perfect, as always taken for granted in Kunming. Three of us on cheaply bought bikes peddling away, weaving through traffic, and sprinting across intersection. We would wait for each other and sprint passed each other shouting things in Chinese that weren't always understood. It was a brilliant way to see the city, and a brilliant way to connect with friends.

I love biking in Kunming--it is so dynamic. The traffic reminds me of a reef. There are big fish and little fish. Fat buses and skinny motorcyclists. And all of us swim together on roads around the city. The little ones give way to the big ones, but all are aware--and forgiving. When a little fish, young and unwise, sprints across an intersection a bus will squeel to a halt, waiting for the kid to join the other scooterist in an effective little school, with a nudge and a smile.

We bought duck for lunch and talked about our siblings. High from the thrill of biking, our eyes were sparkly and awake. I felt like a kid again with eager playmates and a whole new world to explore.

I remember this day vividly. To biking with friends, to a new world to explore.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, I would hope that the small class teachers were selected more carefully. The large class teachers were very good, but the small class teachers weren't always the best.
Yes, I recommend this program
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The Invaluable Summer of 2014

The word intense does not even begin to describe this program, but I would have it no other way. There are three things that make this program unique: the language, local roommates, and the city itself. The program's language pledge seems like it will be extremely hard to keep up, however by the end of the program it seems weird to speak English. Still I have to admit, this was the most challenging thing I have ever encountered in my life.
The city allows students to fully immerse themselves in the culture and the language. Kunming is a city in which the majority of the population does not speak English. Also, in the city there are places to take local classes such as Jiequandao or Jeet Kune Do. I took group classes from a local master and it was a great way to meet locals while learning a fun skill.
However, the best part of the program is the roommates. They are the source of information about the campus and where to get great, cheap food! They are also so supportive. They become more than just a roommate, they become a friend. I still keep in touch with my roommate as well as a few others.
If you are looking for an intensive program where you can learn the language and have fun, then this is a good choice. Though, you need to prepared to be under stress and be dedicated to staying in Chinese the entire duration of the program.

How can this program be improved?
I would have loved to have more time to explore the city and the surrounding areas. The only time to travel is on the weekends, therefore the scope of cities and sights to see is limited. Still, there are tons of outdoor excursions and at least one activity a week planned by the program. I also wish that there was a chance to interact with more students from the university on an educational level.
Yes, I recommend this program
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2 Months in Kunming

I would give this Program 4.5 stars out of 5.
The location of Kunming Is great. The city has comfortable weather year round and the location of the classrooms, your living area and everything else you could need is very convenient. The residence provided during my stay was actually a hotel owned by the school. Complete with a cleaning staff to make your beds and replace anything you might need.
I would say that the local dialect is what I found most challenging. Although it is safe to assume that most people you will come in contact with are able to speak standard Mandarin, especially the younger generation, occasionally I was unable to understand a few of the locals. This was usually avoided because the roommates selected by CET often traveled around the city with us.
Overall I would say this experience was fantastic for me. My first impression of China was definitely a good one, and I can't wait for my next chance to go back.

How can this program be improved?
Although the Kunming summer program was an intensive language program I felt the rate at which we covered topics was a bit too fast. Had we slowed down and put additional emphasis on retention of new words I feel my improvement in Chinese would have been greater.
Response from CET Academic Programs

Thanks for taking the time to write a review on your CET program! It's always wonderful to hear about your experiences abroad and is invaluable to us as we help new students make the most of their study abroad experience. Please stay in touch! Join our LinkedIn group; follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; and feel free to contact us if you'd like to discuss any aspect of your experience further. -Shelley Jessee, CET staff

Yes, I recommend this program
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An Invaluable Experience

CET in Kunming has several defining features: very small class sizes, a language pledge, and Chinese roommates.

The Kunming program is distinct from other CET programs in that students in Kunming are placed in a city where very few locals speak English. This makes it easy to uphold the language pledge, and gives foreign students a sense of authentic Chinese culture, instead of being surrounded by Western influences. Furthermore, we were not overly affected by pollution, which is a rarity in modern China.

My day-to-day activities went like this: get up early to go for a run around the nearby lake (yep, you can go running outside in Kunming!). Come back, shower, and review characters for the quiz of the day. Go to class for four hours in a class of four students. Eat lunch in the cafeteria and then go to a one-on-one tutorial for half an hour. Work, either in my room, the common activity room in the dormitory, or at a local cafe. Go exploring around the campus or in the city center. Come back for dinner with friends and roommates. Work a bit more. Sleep. Repeat.

If you're looking to become fluent in Chinese, this is the only way to do it. The only students who struggled with the program were those who weren't committed to improvement. It takes dedication and hard work to get through this program, but if you have the drive, I can't recommend this experience highly enough.

How can this program be improved?
The program should give us more opportunities to explore the city of Kunming and see the cultural side of the city. As it is currently, we are taken outside the city quite often, to Dali, etc., instead of going to see art galleries/shows or performances within Kunming itself.
Response from CET Academic Programs

Thanks for taking the time to write a review on your CET program! It's always wonderful to hear about your experiences abroad and is invaluable to us as we help new students most of their study abroad experience. Please stay in touch! Join our LinkedIn group; follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; and feel free to contact us if you'd like to discuss any aspect of your experience further. -Shelley Jessee, CET staff

Yes, I recommend this program


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About CET Academic Programs

CET Academic Programs is a study abroad organization that has been developing and delivering innovative educational programs abroad since 1982. Originally “China Educational Tours,” CET began operations in Beijing, and today offers a varied portfolio...