About Environmental & Cultural Diversity in China
This Global Seminar explores a stunning part of southwest China, where historically preserved cities frame views of snow-capped mountains and green valleys. The province’s name, Yunnan, means “south of cloud [Yun] mountains.” Tourists are drawn to Yunnan’s gentle, spring-like climate, abundant scenery and bustling market centers. China’s three parallel rivers flow through the province and shape agriculture, culture and trade. Yunnan Province is one of the most diverse regions in the world, in terms of both biodiversity and human cultural diversity, with 26 ethnic minority groups. An important topic for the course will be how ecotourism affects communities, particularly ethnic minorities. In this seminar, students will balance learning about people and the environment.
This Global Seminar will emphasize experiences outside the classroom, focusing on exploring market squares, rural villages, farms, monasteries, waypoints and scenic areas in Yunnan Province. Opportunities to interact with community members and to observe at a slower pace will be a highlight. Time spent in several remote communities and cultural sites will inform discussion on interactions between ethnic minority groups and the dominant Han Chinese culture.
Students will notice incredible variation in topography, vegetation, animal life and climate in Yunnan Province. More than 30,000 plant varieties are present, representing half the varieties present in China. Blooming rhododendrons and wildflowers will be abundant in May, as well as flowering herbs, firs and dwarf junipers at higher altitudes. Yunnan Province also leads in animal varieties. Rare animals like golden snub-nosed monkeys, black-necked cranes, snow leopards, and Tibetan bears have evolved and adapted in Yunnan’s remote high valleys. Students will learn how animal and plant diversity are made possible by Yunnan’s varied topography, mild weather and abundant freshwater.
This will be a very physically demanding program. The class will gradually adjust to higher altitudes, while ascending to over 10,000 feet, with rest at each ascending community to avoid altitude sickness. Students will spend time at trailhead areas prior to any lengthy hikes and take many planned rest breaks during hikes, which will be to the foothills and the mountain valleys, with no dangerous climbs. Hiking paths will be well-traveled and well signed.
Housing & Meals
Program participants will spend the first part of the program acclimating to China and learning about Yunnan at a relaxed pace from the homebase of the Linden Center, which offers beautiful, simple accommodations and years of experience hosting eco-tourists and many international visitors. The second part of the program will move to more remote, far northern Yunnan, to an area known as Deqen, in the autonomous Tibetan portion of China, higher up on the Tibetan plateau. Students will stay in backpacker-syle lodging, such as hostels and hotels, with other program participants. Additionally, students will stay (in pairs) with family homestays for a few nights in a lush, green, mountain valley east of the Upper Mekong River, at Hongpo Village. Two meals per day will be included in the program fee through group meals or stipends. Additional meals can be taken at local eateries.
Excursions will illuminate the program coursework. Highlights and excursions may include:
- Staying the first week at the relaxing ecotourism Linden Center in Xizhou
- Viewing the landmark Three Pagodas of Dali, between Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake
- Discovering the bird and flower carvings in UNESCO world-heritage city Lijiang
- Trekking off-road, on well-marked trails, to Yubeng village on the Tibetan plateau
- Birding and nature- observation in forests and valleys, with a knowledgeable guide
- Staying at the home of a Tibetan family, eating with them and helping with farm chores
- Visiting a Buddhist lamasery and learning about the local “guru,” or living Buddh
All program participants will be taking the coordinated group flight to and from the program site. The cost of the group flight is included in the program fee that will be posted to your student account. Do not book your own flight, you will recieve information from the Learning Abroad Center regarding your seat on the group flight once your participation has been confirmed.
- Develop independence by challenging yourself in a new environment
- Function as an effective team member by utilizing your personal strengths in a group setting
- Explore a specific topic through experiential and interdisciplinary approaches
Faculty & Staff
This Global Seminar will be led by Beth Mercer-Taylor the Sustainability Coordinator in CFANS.
About the Learning Abroad Center
Learning Abroad Center programs are:
- Affordable: our programs are cost effective.
- Academically strong: many programs have strong University of Minnesota departmental support and offer pre-approved courses for many majors.
- Culturally rich: regardless of the program you choose, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
- Expertly managed: our staff in Minnesota and abroad are trained professionals and are always available to answer your questions from extensive pre-departure advising and online orientations to reentry programming. Your safety and well-being are paramount, and we work hard to ensure you have a rewarding and safe experience abroad.