China Semester

South of the Clouds

A 3-Month Gap Year Program

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Duration
84 Days
Description

Study Mandarin, trek on the Tibetan Plateau, delve into the complexities of the world’s most populous nation.

Spring Dates

Feb 7 - May 1, 2020


Spring Availability

open

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Dec 6, 2019


Fall Availability

open

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-22

Spring Begins In

46 Weeks

Fall Begins In

26 Weeks

Land Cost

$15,200


Estimated Flight Cost

$1,750

Beijing

Kunming

Chengdu

Xiahe

Xi'an

Program Overview

China. Few countries evoke the same curiosity and intense fascination.


With 5,000 years of history and an expansive tapestry of cultures, China offers Dragons semester students insight into China’s diversity and opportunities to form deep relationships with people and strong connections to place. We go beyond the contemporary image of China, represented by booming cities and rapid economic change, traveling also to remote wilderness areas and living with rural host families in the mountains of the southwest. By exploring little-seen sides of this vast country, we challenge many of the preconceived notions we have about China and about our home communities. Inventive travel experiences are balanced with a strong language curriculum and a comprehensive, inter-disciplinary exploration of Modern Chinese history and economic development, society, and cultural tradition.

Kunming – southeast of the Tibetan Plateau, within a day’s travel of Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam – is our home for six weeks of the program. This “City of Eternal Spring” is the capital…

With 5,000 years of history and an expansive tapestry of cultures, China offers Dragons semester students insight into China’s diversity and opportunities to form deep relationships with people and strong connections to place. We go beyond the contemporary image of China, represented by booming cities and rapid economic change, traveling also to remote wilderness areas and living with rural host families in the mountains of the southwest. By exploring little-seen sides of this vast country, we challenge many of the preconceived notions we have about China and about our home communities. Inventive travel experiences are balanced with a strong language curriculum and a comprehensive, inter-disciplinary exploration of Modern Chinese history and economic development, society, and cultural tradition.

Kunming – southeast of the Tibetan Plateau, within a day’s travel of Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam – is our home for six weeks of the program. This “City of Eternal Spring” is the capital of Yunnan Province, and it is an ideal base from which to explore Han Chinese/minority relations, economic reforms and development, environmental concerns, and China’s rich history. Through guest lectures, discussions and mentored community engagement, we explore traditional Chinese approaches to healing, cooking, fitness, martial arts, dance, and music. In Kunming, students live independently with Chinese host families, many of whom represent the “new middle class” within contemporary urban society. At the Dragons Program House, we gather for Chinese language study, work on Independent Study Projects, hear from visiting scholars, and cook traditional meals with fresh foods purchased at the local market.

Building on all we’ve learned and experienced in Kunming, we begin our travel phase, focusing on China’s western corridor and exploring Guizhou, Sichuan, Qinghai, Ningxia and Gansu Provinces. Each semester’s travel itinerary is different, guided by the contacts and regional knowledge of the instructor team as well as group decisions and interests. Past groups have traversed the dramatic valleys of the Hengduan Mountains in Northwestern Yunnan, through deep river valleys between snow-capped peaks, along mountain roads that connect remote Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, through ethnically Tibetan, Pumi, Lisu, Yi and Naxi areas. Others have hiked through dense bamboo forests to visit isolated mountain homes in northeastern Guizhou, where family elders look after young children whose parents have left to work as laborers in the cities. We visit Qinghai Province, historically part of the Tibetan kingdom of Amdo, living there with families who still rely on their yak herds, and learning at the feet of master tangka painters. During our travels, the student group takes on greater leadership, culminating in a week-long student planned and led “Expedition Phase.” With a broad curriculum and an itinerary designed to explore all of the variety this country has to offer, our semester program offers an unparalleled comprehensive overview of China today.

 

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

For-Credit Course Option

Students participating on the China Gap semester may choose to take courses for-credit. Those who enroll in these optional courses will be invoiced additional fees on top of the land cost, as noted below. Students who take one or more courses for-credit will receive a transcript from Dragons School of Record after successful completion of the program.

For-Credit Course Fees                         Type
$800 Flat Transcript Fee 
$400 For-Credit Academic Fee (per course)
$1,200 TOTAL COST (1 course)
$1,600 TOTAL COST (2 courses)

 

To read more about the for-credit courses visit our FAQ Page.

Academics

Two college-level courses are available for-credit, although students are not required to take any courses for-credit while participating on the Gap Semester program. Students who do not take courses for-credit will still complete an ISP and participate in language study. Available for-credit courses on the China semester include:

  • Independent Study Project (ISP): Methods and Application (ANTH/ISP 325; 4 credits) 
    (Anthropology 325 / Independent Study Project 325; 4 credits) This course is focused on providing students with a basic understanding of ethnographic research methods and skills, while also giving students the opportunity to develop specialized knowledge in a topic of study. During the first half of the course, a series of thematic seminars focus on research methodologies, the importance of ethics in research, best practices in working in cross-cultural partnerships in the host country, and skills training related to designing a study proposal. Students develop an understanding of how to refine research question(s), determine appropriate research and learning methods, and address ethical issues related to their projects. During the second half of this course, students use the plan outlined in their approved study proposal to carry out an individualized and in-depth study on a subject of their choice using primary sources. With the support of an academic advisor and/or a local mentor, students select a topic which relates to the program’s scope, design an approach to study this subject, and conduct an individual project. The chosen topic of independent study may involve either an academic inquiry or the learning of a traditional skill through an apprenticeship. Typical ISP projects include: in-depth study of calligraphy, martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, or the role of women in modern China.
  • Mandarin Language Study Level I, II & III (CHIN 150/250/350; 4 credits) 
    • CHIN 150: Mandarin I 
      (Chinese Language 150; 4 credits) This course introduces students to standard Mandarin Chinese language and is designed for students with no or minimal previous background in spoken or written Mandarin. Students in this course focus on learning essential vocabulary, practicing pronunciation, and understanding simple grammatical structures. This knowledge prepares students to effectively communicate in Mandarin on a limited range of topics related to everyday situations. Students practice listening and speaking in real-life situations, learn to read and write Chinese characters, and examine how culture and language interact in China. In-class activities and course assignments aim to assist students as they develop the oral proficiency and confidence necessary to initiate simple conversations. Out-of-classroom experiences such a field trips and guided interactions with native speakers supplement formal classroom instruction and provide ample opportunities for practical engagement. In addition, language skills gained in this course support students to deepen participation in other program and academic activities such as homestays and the Independent Study Project.
    • CHIN 250: Mandarin II 
      (Chinese Language 250; 4 credits) This course introduces students to more challenging standard Mandarin Chinese language material in order to establish a solid foundation for the use of the language. Students in this course focus on building on past language exposure to improve speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students expand their oral expression abilities by increasing vocabulary, improving understanding of grammar concepts, strengthening pronunciation abilities, focusing on listening comprehension, and building on previously studied Chinese characters. This course introduces new language concepts to allow students to speak about topics pertaining to their daily lives and also focuses on deepening knowledge of Chinese culture and customs. By the end of the semester, students are expected to be able to engage in basic daily conversations, read simple texts, and write for daily needs. In-class activities and course assignments aim to assist students as they develop the ability to appropriately use language and improve proficiency. Out-of-classroom experiences such a field trips and guided interactions with native speakers supplement formal classroom instruction and provide ample opportunities for practical engagement. In addition, language skills gained in this course support students to deepen participation in other program and academic activities such as homestays and the Independent Study Project.
    • CHIN 350: Mandarin III 
      (Chinese Language 350; 4 credits) This course is designed to develop advanced skills in standard Mandarin Chinese language and is intended for students with extensive prior exposure to the language. This course focuses on consolidating linguistic knowledge and development of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Students in this course will develop advanced comprehension of and competence in using spoken Mandarin in a wide-variety of experiences. Grammatical functions will be reviewed and incorporated as they relate to particular communication needs. A mix of communicative and interactive methods are used to develop advanced proficiency and materials are drawn from a variety of media sources and texts. In addition, students develop their understanding of the relationship between the Chinese language and culture. By the end of the semester, students are expected to be able to express sophisticated and nuanced ideas both orally and in writing.  Out-of-classroom experiences such a field trips and guided interactions with native speakers supplement formal classroom instruction and provide ample opportunities for practical engagement. In addition, language skills gained in this course support students to deepen participation in other program and academic activities such as homestays and the Independent Study Project.

    Click on the download button below to view course syllabi.

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Program Components

3/5
Comparative Religion

Introduction to Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Confucianism, Marxism, Capitalism.

5/5
Development Studies

Minority issues and status, socio-economic issues, health, land-use and environment, tourism, human rights issues, cultural survival.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Ancient, imperial and modern history, political studies, social issues in modern China, development of market economy, gender and race studies, cultural and environmental preservation, Chinese philosophy.

5/5
Homestay

5-6 weeks of urban homestay in Kunming, one or two rural homestays in Yunnan, Qinghai or Sichuan villages.

3/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

ISPs facilitated throughout program: Traditional Chinese Medicine, calligraphy, ink painting, environmental issues, Tai Ji Quan (Tai chi)/martial arts, tea ceremony, ethnic minority studies, internships with local businesses, NGOs or English schools.

4/5
Language Study

Intensive daily Mandarin Chinese instruction, options for additional one-on-one tutoring sessions and opportunities for language immersion throughout.

2/5
Learning Service

Small volunteer project in cooperation with Yunnan or Sichuan-based NGOs.

3/5
Rugged Travel

Moderately rugged: extended train and bus travel, village home-stays, bike touring, limited camping.

2/5
Trekking

3 to 5-day trek in the mountains of western China, numerous day hikes and/or additional multi-day treks depending on student interest.