Destination 1: KunmingKunming, Summer 2012

I am currently on a bus travelling from Amherst, MA to New York City as I write my first blog entry, and this four-hour ride is the final leg of my pre-summer travels before I board a morning flight from JFK to Kunming, China (with DC, Beijing, and 25 hours in between). This is one of the great unrealized perks of being a world traveler – so much time spent bored on a plane, bus, or even boat inspires the best moments of thought, self reflection, and much needed sleep. After spending the last six months studying for semester abroad in Europe, I can safely say that finding things to occupy my time while travelling has become a forte of mine.

Now that you, my readers, know where I am, welcome to my blog! IES must have thought fondly of my personal blog ( because I will be doing the same for the Environmental Studies summer program in Kunming. I must honestly say I feel rather unprepared for this trip to Southeast Asia. I flew back from London two weeks ago and spent the past 1.5 weeks working on my senior thesis at Amherst College, which means the math says I was home for a good three days this entire year. This is one of the great unrealized downfalls of being a world traveler – the time spent experiencing new places and things brings homesickness.

Despite my busy schedule the past couple of weeks, I wonder and highly doubt that I would have felt any less unprepared had I spent weeks packing and planning for this program. I suppose that at least one of the reasons why my 8 fellow undergraduate students and I chose this specific program is because we will be in a part of the world that we’ve never been to before. Kunming, the Land of Eternal Spring, is a developing region of southern China that has peaked global interest with its potential for becoming a gateway to Southeast Asia. It’s culturally more relaxed than Beijing or Shanghai but rapidly becoming more urbanized and business-oriented, resulting bright blue skies being replaced by smog and pollution. This makes Kunming ideal for studying China’s economic development and the resulting environmental issues, a topic that I can’t wait to learn about without the stress of school. It’s certainly going to be a drastic change from Europe/America.

With my bugspray and umbrella ready to go, I can only hope that I packed the essential necessities to prepare myself as much as possible for the next 7 weeks in China, Laos, and Thailand. Sneakers, check. Raincoat, check. Plan of action for no Facebook social connections, unchecked.

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