Discover how the Chinese landscape has changed livelihoods and a community’s sense of place over generations. Spend a semester on three major projects to help you study the land, meet the people, and understand the community. If it’s possible to know China, this is the best way to start.
China’s mega cities get a lot of media attention, but living and studying in rural China allows you to observe how economic, social, and environmental changes are impacting smaller communities. In this interdisciplinary, full-semester program, you’ll discover how the Chinese landscape has changed a community’s sense of place over generations and then compare that to the urban setting of Shanghai at the end of the program.
Xizhou, Dali in Yunnan Province is your home base and classroom for exploring rural China from diverse perspectives through this program’s project-based approach to history, literature, and science. Though your curriculum has courses focused on individual topics, the program’s experiential learning component ties all the different subjects together. You’ll be challenged to speak Mandarin, learn new skills through an apprenticeship, and apply your learning in an entirely new way through individual and group projects. These experiences will more than prepare you for college—they’ll prepare you for life.
Academics and Coursework
This interdisciplinary, place-based approach offers an opportunity to contribute to an ongoing study of the local area. Coordinated individual and collaborative group projects bring to life and connect concepts across the courses as you learn in hands-on work environments. And a semester organized sequentially around six core thematic units—Place, Dwelling, Work, Belief, Diversity, Modernity—ensures a deep and holistic understanding of the surrounding community.
You take all three of these courses:
Grassroots China, Chinese Literature in Translation, and Landscape Ecology
You are placed into one of these courses according to your skill level:
Beginning Chinese, Intermediate Chinese, or Advanced Chinese
Optional Math Elective: If you need to continue math, we will help coordinate a distance learning course with your high school or an online course, along with on-site or online tutoring support.
For one month, you’ll spend half of each weekday working one-on-one with a local craft master, observing and learning a skill practiced in the Xizhou community. Examples have included: silversmithing, traditional tie dye, woodcarving, cooking, wood block printing, wool felting, paper cutting, and traditional instrument playing.
Activities and Excursions
Xizhou, a welcoming community of about 2,500 people, provides endless opportunity for immersion into local life. Take a scenic bike ride to the Tongue of Erhai Lake. Taste Xizhou baba, a Dali specialty pancake beloved by locals. Chat with your apprentice master about ancient woodcarving techniques. There are plenty of activities in Xizhou—movie nights at the Linden Centre, tai chi practice, and exploring old town Dali with friends.
After your first month, the rural homestay program begins. You'll spend several weekends with your local host family in Xizhou. Help your host brother out with work around the farm on Saturday afternoons. Prepare dinner with your host parents and practice your Chinese over food. Play basketball with your host sister before bed. Then head back to the Linden Centre before lunch on Sundays. While each weekend is a little different, you build a better understanding of rural life and culture in China as you get to know your host family over the semester.
As part of your Landscape Ecology course, we’ll take you on a 3-week Traveling Seminar along the Tibetan Plateau and the Three Parallel Rivers region. Trek into the monkey reserve on Baima Mountain and understand ongoing efforts to protect an endangered species. Explore reforestation efforts at Pudacuo National Park. Hike China’s famous Tiger Leaping Gorge. You even learn the 2,000-year-old tradition of making black pottery during a homestay with Tibetan farm families.
The program finishes with a few days in Shanghai, where students can take AP exams as needed, as well as explore urban China before heading home.
Housing and Meals
You’ll live at the historic Linden Centre, an educational facility built in 1939, restored in 2015, and committed to cultural exchange. You share a room with three other students and enjoy common spaces like a shared kitchen, dining area, and courtyards for playing games and hanging out. Catch up on your homework or watch a little TV with classmates to unwind. And after your first month, you’ll spend parts of your weekends at a homestay with a local family.
All meals are included in the program fee, and most of them will be enjoyed as a group at the Linden Centre—your hub for living, studying, and connecting with your group and program staff.