IES Abroad Alumni Network

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IES Abroad consists of a passionate team of international educators who have been facilitating programs since 1950. To date, they have established over 125 programs operating in 35+ locations worldwide. With a network of 6,000+ students, you’re sure to find a program that fits your specific needs! Not to mention, IES Abroad provides $2.4 million in scholarship funding annually. Their aim is to make study abroad a reality for every student!

This page is dedicated to programs that have come and gone, but nonetheless greatly impacted the lives of the participants. Feel free to leave a review on this page if you are an alumni of a program no longer in session. Also, be sure to check out the IES Abroad website for an up-to-date list of all their current programs.


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Questions & Answers


9.32 Rating
based on 22 reviews
  • Academics 7.7
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 1 - 8 of 22
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Yes, I recommend this program

A Semester in Kunming...One Heart, Two Homes

My semester abroad in Kunming, China was definitely one of the most adventurous seasons of my life so far. Having been interested in China from a very young age, I began learning Chinese in college, in addition to working on my environmental studies major. The Regional Development in China and Southeast Asia program centered in Kunming, China seemed like the right study abroad ‘fit’ for me because of the academic options (an environmental studies course is offered and nearly all of the courses offered interested me), the ability to live in a home stay without being a language-intensive student, the opportunity to visit a city I had never been to (I had visited other cities in China briefly before), and the promise of cleaner air and beautiful scenery (Kunming is located away from most of the heavy pollution in the east of the country). My experience certainly delivered on all of these.

The program was richly packed with valuable academic curriculum, travel to different areas of the province and other countries in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand), the homestay experience (optional), and flexibility for personal pursuit of adventure. Travel planned into the program itinerary nicely complemented topics discussed in classes, and really helped me to understand the material. I also had time to travel to locations such as Chengdu, Lijiang, Jianshui, and Yuanyang throughout the semester, independent of the program. After several months, I was surprised by how much I had grown over such a short period of time; I feel more independent, capable of coping with new situations (like living in a big city where pretty much everyone only speaks Chinese!), and empowered to explore. The semester experience was more than enlightening and continues to influence my life back in the States. Along the way, I made friends with locals and my fellow program members, while braving my comfort zone with things I never would have dreamed of doing (such as joining a local public dance group). I came to consider my dance group to be almost like a family to me. Though I have one heart, I now have more than one home.

While not everyone may be interested in dancing, the city has numerous other venues to explore and the travel opportunities are amazing. I highly recommend this program for people who are interested in the environment, international relations, adventure, travel, and so many other things!

What would you improve about this program?
Three downsides are the tricky Internet connections, occasional encounters with La Duzi (“the runs”), and the chaotic traffic pattern of the city, but most of these are problems throughout all of China. More specific to the program, organization of due dates for major coursework could have been a little better.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Learning on Adventures in China

I have always been interested in the word beyond my immediate grasp. To see what other cultures and lifestyles there were elsewhere, to experience this firsthand as opposed to learning about it in a book, or being presented with the misconstrued images through forms of media. I have always loved languages and after studying Spanish and then moving onto Chinese, knew that I really wanted to get out and live somewhere where I could utilize these skills.

As I have been studying Chinese I learned more about there culture through my teachers and knew while it as incredibly different, different is good, it stretches your brain and pushes your levels of comfortability. My college only offered a program in Beijing, China and it did not have as many cultural aspects as I hoped to have. I also do not like big cities, let alone one such as Beijing, at such a size, population, and of course the reputation for haze. I searched for programs that were located in smaller cities, but were also developed enough to make daily-life still enjoyable to the level that I am used to (rather than one such as Guilin, decent sized city but still dirty throughout and construction everywhere). I also was looking for a program that had a focus on the development of China along with a focus on its environmental and social issues. IES Kunming definitely hit the spot on all of these notions, I took a core course on regionalism throughout SE Asia, an economics course on China's development, an environmental course focused on the different issues within China and the Greater Mekong Subregion (strongly focusing on hydroelectric dam development on the river) and of course an intensive Chinese language course.

The program's location was incredible and just what I was looking for. Kunming, Yunnan, China is situated in Southern central China one of the most biodiverse provinces as well as ethnically diverse compared to the other regions throughout China. While the friction of distance is much greater in China than here in the USA (in the sense of time to reach a certain distance), travelling by train is incredibly easy and a great way to meet new people and practice your Chinese. The semester was incredibly fun, always being encouraged to get out and explore the city on weekdays and the province on our weekends. Kunming is known as the city of "eternal spring," and it truly lived up to its name, being warm almost the entire semester that I was there, encouraging you to get outside and explore the city. The city has many different places that you can go on day-trips to as well as weekend trips (Tiger Leaping Gorge, Stone Forest, Luoping Flower Fields, etc). Or you can plan for a fairly epic adventure to Shanghai, Hainan, or Chengdu for one of your 3-day weekends, as some of us did.

Here's a quick glimpse into my daily life while there:

Weekday: Wake up around 7:30am walk downstairs and out onto the street our dorms were on and make my daily visit to the Baozi (steamed buns) Shop, get breakfast for 7yuan ($1 USD), cross the street to the university's campus and up the stairs of the international students dorms (those enrolled w/ the university) go to Chinese class for an hour and a half, go to our center's library/study room do some homework, then go down to my 1-on-1 Chinese lesson where I spoke with a local Chinese professor on my recent chapter entirely in Chinese for 45 minutes, meet up with my classmates and go to the dining hall ($1USD/meal) or a nearby restaurant for lunch ($3USD) before returning to the building for an afternoon class (either regionalism, economics or environmental; other options were Chinese society, sociology), after class would battle it out with our student programs coordinator on our program's ping pong table for a few hours before heading out and exploring the city in search of a new restaurant to eat at, then would return to the dorms to complete readings and Chinese homework, and if we didn't have much, hung out in the RA living room (our lounge open to all students) watching movies or tv shows before bed.

Weekends: either went on adventures outside of the city to go on a hike in Tiger Leaping Gorge, check out the pandas in Chengdu, or hung around the city and visited nearby lakes or went biking into the mountains surrounding the city, spending the nights going out to bars to meet other internationals or locals to practice our Chinese and make new friends, and maybe made our way to the club district in the city for some hours of dancing.

While personal experiences are great for abroad programs, one must also know about the academics. The type of academic work and how we went about learning was also very cool. Our first week in China, for orientation we travelled to Dali (a city 5 hours north of Kunming) where we became closer with one another, while travelling the city and beginning our studies. We stayed at an artist designed hotel that we more or less filled up except for a few rooms, so felt we had the place to ourselves. While we had classroom lessons while there, we also went on a day-trip, biking to the lake below the city, taking pit stops here and there to learn about the local ethnicity and take a look at their form of architecture, invasive species in the lake and how they were introduced to solve a pollution problem (yet caused another one!), the rice industry and the differences between the different SE Asian states.

At the end of the semester we went on a two-week adventure through the SE Asian states we had been learning about during the semester, allowing us to visualize that which we had read and discussed in class. Travelling by foot over the border into Vietnam, after a night learning about the culture of those travelling over the border daily to trade goods and future potential developments to increase this, meeting with US ambassadors, professors at local universities in northern and southern Vietnam, travelling with Vietnamese students into the Mekong Delta to discuss with locals the implications of climate change and what they knew of it, the leader of the opposition party looking to beat out in the incredibly corrupt government currently in place in Cambodia in the country's capital, etc. etc. etc. Giving student presentations at different destinations to not only see the beauties of the countries but also learn more of their histories.

I was also the blogger for my program and you can check out my adventures and thoughts here:

What would you improve about this program?
Homestays for everyone!

Maybe a little less readings, so I felt I had more time for adventures within the city... Yet, at the same time I learned soooo much and the readings were a part of this, so my feelings are mixed.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Unpolished and untarnished China

Kunming is a vibrant and beautiful city that introduces students to a version of China that has much less western influence than many of the larger cities. I love this place because everyone was excited to meet me and I was constantly challenged both culturally and with language.

What would you improve about this program?
I think that it would be great if some of the classes were with local students
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Yes, I recommend this program

An intensive program in a great location

I learned more through studying in this city, via academics and outside of the classroom, than I have in my entire college career. Kunming doesn't have a lot of English speakers other than the relatively small foreigner population, which can be intimidating, but embracing it was absolutely the best way to improve language skills. Even if you can't speak a word of Chinese, the people there are more than happy to connect with you. The city has tons of worthwhile travel sites, and is a change of pace from bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The academics of the program were intensive. The only complaint I have is about the administration and the expectations of handling the high level of coursework. The classes were challenging, and the workload was unreasonable at times. However, if you can manage your time and remind yourself that learning outside of the classroom is equally as important as the coursework, then the program is nearly perfect.

What would you improve about this program?
I would change the level of intensity of the workload. Balancing schoolwork with getting out and experiencing life in a new and exciting place.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I miss it already

I will never in my life go somewhere as magical as Rio de Janeiro. The cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city) lives up to its name in every way, especially when viewed from breathtaking sights like Dois Irmaos peak, Pão de Azucar, and the wondrous Cristo Redentador. In the spring of 2015 I went on a semester abroad with IES Rio, and I had the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. Simply put, it was the best experience of my life. I learned Portuguese, taught English at Latin America’s oldest institute for the blind, and became a writer for a local NGO—when I wasn’t lounging on the world famous Ipanema beach, Samba dancing in Lapa, practicing Capoeira, or canoeing in the Amazon. Having multiple once-in-a-lifetime experiences during a single week was not uncommon for me and my group of IES cohorts.

IES Rio gave me just the right amount of freedom and guidance, and let me explore the city in my own way. I cannot thank the staff enough for their help, and I would recommend the experience to anyone.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Study in China & Southeast Asia

IES Kunming is definitely worth considering if you are interested in the Southeast Asia regional studies or life in China outside of the country's better-known cities. Yunnan University is in a great neighborhood that has a huge variety of food and a lot of different places to hang out. The academics of the program can be challenging, but small classes and accessible professors make it easy to immerse yourself in the work and learn a lot.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Studying Abroad in China's City of Eternal Spring- Kunming

Studying abroad with IES in Kunming was amazing. While academic were more difficult then many other programs. It was amazing to see how much I learned at the end of the semester after the regional symposium. IES gets us involved with some of the top leaders in Southeast Asia and Yunnan Province. The ability to see villages in China, Vietnam and Cambodia was also incredible. Any one interested in getting off the beaten path should strongly consider IES Kunming

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Yes, I recommend this program

Regionalism in Yunnan and Southeast Asia

IES Kunming offers unique travel opportunities throughout Yunnan province and Southeast Asia. Through our field trips to upland villages I learned much about regional issues of ethnic policy and farming subsidies, among other issues. IES Kunming is not a language intensive program which has both pros and cons. My Chinese proficiency did not sky rocket, but I did become much more comfortable talking to locals Furthermore, I understand the country and culture much better through interviews made on field trips and through interactions with Chinese friends. Overall this program offers unique opportunities to experience Yunnan and Southeast Asian culture while learning about overarching regional issues.