IES Abroad Alumni Network
93% Rating
(22 Reviews)

IES Abroad Alumni Network

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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North America
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Program Reviews

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Program Reviews (22)

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J.Z.
Female
24 years old
Pennsylvania
Franklin & Marshall College

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

9/10

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!

How can this program be improved?

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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Matt
Male
24 years old
Claremont, CA
Pitzer College

Learning on Adventures in China

9/10

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:
http://www.iesabroad.org/study-abroad/blogs/author/154341

How can this program be improved?

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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Eloise
Female
24 years old
Walla Walla, Washington
Whitman College

Unpolished and untarnished China

9/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

I think that it would be great if some of the classes were with local students

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IES
Female
24 years old
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Temple University

An intensive program in a great location

9/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

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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Richard
Male
24 years old
Annapolis, MD
United States Naval Academy

I miss it already

9/10

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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A.C.
Female
24 years old
Washington, D.C.
George Washington University

Study in China & Southeast Asia

9/10

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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Nick
Male
24 years old
Kunming, China
University of Portland

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

10/10

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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D.G.
Female
24 years old
Williamstown, MA
Williams College

Regionalism in Yunnan and Southeast Asia

9/10

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.

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David
Male
24 years old
Columbus Ohio
Morehouse College

Expect the Unexpected

8/10

This program is new so there were a lot of knots that needed to be untied, but overall my experience was not a bad one as so much as me getting out of my comfort zone. From day one I had to learn the bus system and how to navigate the city and to be totally independent. My host mom though really sweet was not the doting mother, she cared but she still gave you boundaries. The classes were OK as with any institution you will have some good some bad. Overall I had a good experience

How can this program be improved?

More thoroughness with communication between the faculty and students.
Better surveys for when pairing roommates together
Overall organization needs tweaked a little

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Kenny
Male
24 years old
Charlottesville, Virginia
University of Virginia

Traveling through the Mekong

8/10

At first I thought that it would be difficult to acclimate to Chinese culture and society. However, this wasn't as hard as I thought when I arrived in Kunming. The people on my program, whether he or she was a teacher or friend, in addition to my homestay parents really made the experience. Taking class at Yunnan University, being able to explore Kunming as well as travel through Thailand and Laos were all great highlights.

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Erika
Female
24 years old
La Jolla
University of California- San Diego

India Lives in My Heart

10/10

Through this program I was able to live an incredible experience in India. I learned how to get by on the daily, which made me feel like a local. New Delhi became my home, the one I yearn to go back to everyday. I met some incredible people from just walking around "my neighborhood". Through this program I was also able to learn so much about India that I would have not gotten the opportunity to have learned otherwise. Just being in India was like talking 2 course because of everything I learned. And I was able to experience all of this because of IES Abroad New Delhi, India.

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Kalen
Female
24 years old
Berkelye, California
Santa Clara University

A Semester in Delhi

10/10

I cannot say enough good things about IES Abroad: Delhi. Delhi, India although a challenging place to live for a little over four months, is possible with the right support system and guidance. Yes, I was apprehensive upon arrival, but after meeting the staff and experiencing life in Delhi for just a few days I knew it was possible. IES Abroad: Delhi does an amazing job of helping its students feel comfortable in the country they are studying in. Our first two weeks were solely learning what to expect during our time abroad along with site seeing and many firsts. We learned how to navigate around Delhi, took various field trips trying Indian food rom different regions and much more. The IES Abroad Delhi staff accommodated issues that arose with unsatisfactory home stays, student illness, and a variety of other concerns that came ip during out time in India. Not once did I feel uncomfortable about asking my IES family about something and found them to be great resources when traveling outside of Delhi or even when just looking for a nice place to eat or visit during our free time! I found a love for India and all it has to offer its visitors with the help of IES Abroad Delhi

How can this program be improved?

I would recommend that they improve the courses offered by some of their partner institutions as well as offer more time for students to travel during their time abroad.

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ZJ
Female
24 years old
Claremont, California
Claremont McKenna College

Five Fabulous Months with IES in China

10/10

This study abroad experience was filled with adventure! I was given the opportunity to visit several incredible locations in China, Tibet, Thailand, and Laos. I do not know of any other study abroad program that infuses this much travel into their itinerary.

If you are looking for routine, this program may not be for you. Every week is filled with something new. If we have a destination to visit, our classes are shaped around our trip, making the weeks very different from one another. Classes shift around constantly, so flexibility is a must!

Furthermore, Kunming is a fantastic location to better your Chinese since the expat community is very small. Everyone is very friendly and willing to help you speak Chinese in restaurants, pharmacies, train stations and the like.

I left with a whole new outlook on environmental issues, social issues, and I left with life-long friends!

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Aleksandr
Male
24 years old
Milford, Connecticut
Connecticut College

Studying the Self Studying Abroad

10/10

The IES Abroad experience was everything I could have imagined and more. IES Abroad: Delhi did a phenomenal job of getting students from all different backgrounds acquainted and immersed in the culture. In sum, the program was a seamless transition, a well-oiled machine. IES Abroad: Delhi's semester calendar was also very lenient and laden with many cultural activities for students to enjoy. The semester calendar even afforded me the opportunity to meet my family in India for the first time! Program staff was simply amazing, and with such a small centre of only eleven students, everyone in the program became very good friends. I miss IES Abroad: Delhi every day and I am forever thankful that such a wonderful experience had such a profound impact on my life.

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Morgan
Female
24 years old
Rochester, NY
University of Rochester

Thanks to IES, I fell in love with Delhi

10/10

Studying with IES in Delhi was just the experience I was looking for: unique, challenging, and full of opportunity. Adjusting to live in a city and country very different from my own home city in the US is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, and IES was excellent ins supporting that though great tips, cultural immersion, an orientation period which included visiting some less-touristed local stops and ism of the best coursework of my undergraduate career.

How can this program be improved?

Homestays are in very nice neighborhoods with families of higher SES. I was looking for an area a little close to Old Delhi, but understand safety is of utmost importance.

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Veronika
Female
24 years old
I am not in Berkely.

A dreamed semester abroad

10/10

Do you want to spent incredible four mont in India? Are you ready to discover antient culture which is stil living on? Are you willing to learn new things every day? Than Study Abroad in New Delhi might be an option.

You may choose to live with an India family, which is a lot of fun, or you can live more independently. The programme is full interesting field trips, culture events, lectures and volunteering possibilities.

You can visit Taj Mahal, famous city of Benares, become yoga expert, learn classical Indian dance or classical music, explore unconventional part of the city, discover Indian religious diversity, learn Hindi, explore Indian cinema and literature, volunteer with interresting NGOs and much more in IES abroad programme.

Life in Delhi might looks challenging, indeed it is overpopulated city full of chaotic traffic, everyday noises and smelles. But on the other hand, it makes the city even more attractive and special; in New Delhi, you can also explore beautiful parks, antient old city and tousands of temples.

How can this program be improved?

Perhaps we missed more contant with local Indian students.

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Megan
Female
24 years old
Sammamish, Washington
George Washington University

Literature, Politics, and Culture in Rabat

7/10

My experience in Rabat was incredible and intense from the beginning, partially because we were essentially experiencing a semester in the course of seven weeks. I had class every day--three classes a day. I chose to take literature, politics, and also had the required Moroccan Arabic course that every student too. I stayed in a host family and through them experienced every day life as well as the month of Ramadan.

My academic experience presented topics that I was familiar with (French literature and the politics of the Arab world) and turned my perceptions upside down. We explored everything from post-colonization sentiment to the concept of "being a stranger" in literature class and I wrote what I feel is the best essay I have written in some time (in English or French) in the politics class. Politics class also included a visit to the Moroccan Parliament following a unit on the Moroccan constitution.

My living situation helped my language skills immensely. I have studied French for eight years and Arabic for two years, and while almost everyone in my homestay spoke French, the one person who did not was the two year old granddaughter, who spoke the colloquial Arabic at essentially my level, allowing me easy communication and a great introduction to conversations.

The program administration felt more like camp counselors or family members than directors, which was excellent, as we were travelling with them for several weekends and were most always in the center.

My only problems with the program were that we were not informed of the medications and vaccinations recommended/required for the weeklong trop to Senegal, which resulted in panic on my mother's end and a very early morning trip to Casablanca--I am unsure if the Senegal trip will be offered in the future, but if so, do your research!

Additionally, it should be noted that since this is a summer course and is very intensive, the opportunities to interact with the local students will be limited. Perhaps the best way to meet Moroccans is through host siblings. However, I did become close with the other five students in the program and we explored the city together.

Altogether, a highly recommended program for both the cultural experiences and the enriching academics.

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Jennifer
Female
24 years old
Santa Clara, CA
Santa Clara University

The Eternal City

10/10

Rome was the best place to study abroad, and I could not have chosen a better program. My school was right across from the Castel Sant'Angelo, on the Tevere, and only a few blocks away from Piazza Navona. How could it be more magical?! My teachers were so fun and engaging. They really used the city to their advantage by taking us on as many field studies as they possibly could. I also participated in some cooking classes and dinner parties as well. What a great place and program to be a part of!

How can this program be improved?

Sometimes the winter quarter students felt "forgotten" between the J-term and Spring Semester students. However, towards the end they were offering more opportunities for us to go to activities, dinners, and tours.

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Wills
Male
24 years old
Park City, UT
Bucknell University

Great experience

9/10

Following a semester in Beijing, the IES Kunming program provided a lot of perspective on China as a whole. I grew very close with my home stay family and hung out with a very diverse group of friends (We communicated in English and Chinese interchangeably).

How can this program be improved?

Fall 2013 was the first time IES Kunming offered a semester program, so there were multiple academic & scheduling issues that arose throughout the semester. The program's director, staff and professors are all a hard working group of people who care a lot about their students, so I have no doubt that these issues will be fully addressed in future semesters.

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Nikki
Female
24 years old
Columbia, SC
University of South Carolina- Columbia

You will Fall in Love with Brazil

10/10

Rio de Janeiro is by far the most amazing city I have ever visited. I fell in love with the people and the culture there. I loved getting to take courses at a local University so I could interact with locals and make friends. The beaches are absolutely breathtaking but there is so much more of the city to see. My favorite thing to do was take different routes to class everyday and find different monuments, historical buildings, and artwork. I felt safe the entire time I was there thanks to the support and guidance of the staff and my classmates. It was the perfect city to experience Brazil in and I am so glad I did through IES.

How can this program be improved?

I honestly would not change a thing about this program.

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Brittany
Female
24 years old
Lake Forest, Illinois
Lake Forest College

Truly an Indian Experience!

10/10

Studying abroad through IES Abroad in Delhi truly gave be a real living experience and allowed me to immerse myself in Indian culture. I had the most understanding and loving host parents, who gave me a realistic view on everyday life in Delhi. I was able to take courses at the IES Abroad office as well as Jawaharlal Nehru University, which allowed me to make friends with fellow Delhiites and connect with other study abroad students at the same time. The IES program sponsored trips for classes as well as the center throughout the city and country, making us become engaged with the many cultures and traditions around us. These experiences made me fall in love with Delhi, as I had all the opportunities to experience it to the fullest.

How can this program be improved?

I would try to change a few of the homestay situations. Some people complained about wanting single accommodation or housing without host parents as well as non-vegetarian food. The tensions in the larger households seemed to cause the most troubles for some of classmates.

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Rebecca
Female
24 years old
Beijing, China
Lafayette College

Want to have the best experience of your life? Go to IES Kunming for China/Southeast Asian Studies!!!

10/10

I cannot say enough about the IES Kunming program. I did it in the summer 2012 and was hands down the best summer. It kicked off my study abroad experience in China (first time over here!) and I am grateful for the opportunities that I had. There were 9 students and 4 incredible staff members (both American and Chinese), which made for a fabulous group, very close knit. The staff are well tuned in to the group feeling and dynamic, as well as can offer an abundance of knowledge about China and the Greater Mekong Subregion/Southeast Asia.

The first 4 weeks I took Chinese classes where my Chinese improved exponentially. I also took the Environmental area studies course, which is great because Yunnan is a biodiversity hotspot. We took weekend trips to different cities in the province to supplement our learning by actually visiting the dams, rivers, and relocated villages we were learning about.

But the best was taking a 17 day trip through Thailand and Laos, down the Mekong River, meeting with officials from organizations like the Asian Development Bank, visiting Buddhist sites, staying over in a mountain village, and riding elephants! I learned so much about this region, especially about the growing importance of Southeast Asia and China relations.

While you should unhesitatingly do the summer program (also offers an economic track that can take you through Vietnam and Laos!), the Kunming program is now also offered for the academic year starting Fall 2013, which I am quite jealous of anyone going for that!

The city of Kunming itself is wonderful. The weather that stays around 65-75 F is the origin of Kunming's nickname, "city of eternal spring." It's a slower paced city but still plenty of things to go out and see, in and around the city! There's a growing music scene, as well as delicious food that has some Southeast Asian influence. Unlike any city I've been to before, highly recommend doing this program!

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IES Abroad offers 140 programs worldwide for college students. We are a highly charged force of study abroad enthusiasts. Every day we have the privilege of witnessing how study abroad changes our students’ lives. We also believe that every student should have the opportunity to

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