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Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities


According to the Project Atlas study conducted by the Institute of International Education, China is the world’s third most popular study abroad location. With over 390,000 international students currently studying in China, there are more opportunities for cultural exchange and mutual understanding than ever before. However, there is still relatively little existing research on how different study abroad program structures impact students’ Chinese language skills and cultural literacy.

This study examined the impacts of experiential learning and intensive language study abroad program structures on students’ language acquisition and intercultural competence development. Two study abroad programs based in Kunming, SIT China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities (SIT) and Middlebury School in China: Kunming (Middlebury), were selected to represent, respectively, experiential learning and intensive language program structures. Semi-structured, one-on-one interviews were conducted with eight students, four Chinese language teachers, three program staff members, six homestay parents, and one local roommate. The final product of this study is a description of the most effective components of experiential learning and intensive language program structures and an analysis of how different program structures contribute to the students' linguistic and cross-cultural development. Aside from examining students’ academic experiences, this paper explores the impact of program structure on students’ interactions with locals, from both student and local perspectives.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Chinese Studies | Higher Education | Language and Literacy Education | Modern Languages | Other International and Area Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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