ANU offers an immersive learning experience in rural China

Last day of language teaching. Photo supplied by Jiawen Lin.
Last day of language teaching. Photo supplied by Jiawen Lin.

Led by Associate Professor Ben Hillman and PhD candidate Mr Jiawen Lin, 15 ANU students embarked on a once-in-a-life-time trip to Yunnan, People’s Republic of China, between 26 November–16 December 2023. Yunnan is one of China’s most culturally and naturally diverse provinces. It is home to tropical jungles and snow-capped peaks as well as 25 of China’s ethnic minority groups. The three-week program, offered through ASIA2220 Chinese Language Training and Rural China Field Study, consisted of a two-week intensive spoken Chinese-language program followed by a one-week study tour in rural northwest Yunnan.

The combination of structured language and learning activities alongside student-led exploration and education allowed for a more in-depth understanding of and immersion within Chinese culture.

For the language component of the program, students engaged in half-day, intensive small group classes tailored to their level, followed by after-class assignments, such as conducting interviews with local residents, and visits to local markets, businesses and surrounding villages. Unlike conventional spoken language training, students were able to participate in real-life conversations and gain invaluable insights into various aspects of daily life in China through practicing their language skills.

On the study tour, students visited Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Haba, and Shangri-La within the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Being surrounded by spectacular natural scenery and navigating old town alleys, students met with farmers, business people, and local policy makers, gaining a first-hand understanding of the development challenges in China’s countryside, including food security, agricultural modernisation, and environmental protection. The homestay experience in Haba village stood out as a highlight for many students as it broadened their perspectives on China’s social, economic, and cultural diversity.

The entire experience was incredible and so unique on top of the invaluable insight I gained throughout the trip. The learning and education aspect of the course was amazing, far beyond the standard courses taught.

ASIA2220 Chinese Language Training and Rural China Field Study was made possible with funding from DFAT’s New Colombo Plan, the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, and the Australian Centre on China in the World. It will be offered again in late 2024; no prior training in Chinese language or Chinese affairs is required. Stay up to date about deadlines for this exciting program by following CIW’s Facebook and X or subscribing to ANU Global Programs newsletter.

From breathtaking views to feasting at a local wedding banquet in Yunnan, we invite you to enjoy this collection of photos supplied by the students and Mr Jiawen Lin!