Highlights from Kunming — by Caitlin Foster (History major, ’16)

We’re a bit more than halfway done with our trip to Kunming, so this seemed like it would be a good time to put together a list of updates from China! I’ve always loved lists, so rather than putting together an intimidating wall of text, I’d like to share some snippets with you in list form instead.

Whitman students along the Bund in Shanghai during briefing by architect Spencer Dodington

Whitman Summer Studies in China students along the Bund in Shanghai during a briefing by architect Spencer Dodington

First impression of Shanghai

  • The thing that really struck me when we arrived in China was how different the flow of traffic is than the United States. Yes, it’s a bit more hectic—lots of honks, abrupt lane changes, and dashing pedestrians—but really, the whole thing seems like much more of an organic system. Unlike the stringent traffic laws of the U.S., which allow drivers to turn their brains off a bit, drivers in China have to be a lot more engaged. A steady stream of scooters and taxis makes for a bit of a stressful time, but I haven’t seen a single accident since I arrived.




Caitlin with her language partner in the Stone Forest

Caitlin with her Chinese language partner in the Stone Forest

Classes at Yunnan University

  • I’m not going to lie—I was a bit terrified when we first began Chinese classes. The prospect of two and a half-hour long language classes (with only one other student) were quite intimidating. Despite my fears, our classes pass by quickly, with interesting and challenging subject matter. Our professor keeps us engaged with snippets about Chinese culture, such as the Cultural Revolution’s influence on modern dating culture.



Whitman students at Bell Tower of Golden Temple

Whitman Summer Studies in China students at Bell Tower of Golden Temple

The Golden Temple and the Tea Market

  • For our first excursion, we went to the Golden Temple in the outskirts of the city and the tea market. I was a bit taken aback by the commercialism at the temple. Each section was surrounded by food stands, vendors, and even booths where tourists could dress up in minority outfits and take pictures






  • WSSC student learning about tea production at Xiong Da Tea Market_Kunming

    Whitman Summer Studies in China students learning about tea production at Xiong Da Tea Market in Kunming

    The tea market, on the other hand, was exactly what I had expected and hoped it would be. I love tea with a passion, and I usually drink at least two cups a day. I did learn, however, that my favorite tea—jasmine green—is regarded as a cheap and relatively mediocre strain in China. I still managed to buy some delicious jasmine pearls at the market, and I maintain that it’s delicious!



Caitlin and Anna Melville with their Friendship Family

Caitlin and Whitman classmate, Anna Melville, with their Friendship Family

Visiting the Anning

  • Last Sunday, my classmate Anna and I went to Anning with our friendship family. They are devout Buddhists, and they took us to see an absolutely breathtaking temple complex, with four branches of Buddhism coexisting within the same facility. At an adjacent table, a woman sat making shoes for the monks. While we were drinking tea at one of the temples, the woman kept bringing us various kinds of fruit, to the delight of Zoe, our host sister. As we were drinking our tea, a boy asked to take a picture with me, and I invited the woman to be in it. Afterward, she insisted that I try on and keep a pair of shoes she had made and embroidered. Shoes in China are almost always far too small for my size 7 feet, and I haven’t seen anything above a U.S. size 6 so far, so I was absolutely astonished when they fit perfectly.

This trip has been an incredible experience for me. It was the first time I had ever been out of the United States, and it’s been everything I hoped for, from the fantastic cuisine to improving my Mandarin skills by chatting with locals.