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A student practices working the fields with a water buffalo. Photo by Ming-Jiu-Li, China Summer Program.

Presenting your Yangtze River Itinerary!

Dear Dragons,

Welcome to your course. Over the past few weeks we have been evaluating past courses, our own experience and expertise, and, most importantly, your passions and interests to design an itinerary for our upcoming month together.

We would like to give you a bit of background on the way we design our courses.  While the places we visit are beautiful and deeply moving in themselves, the flow of our course is designed carefully and intentionally to create a progression of experiences.  In the first phase, known as Skill Acquisition, you will be learning important tools concerning how to be responsible travelers and taking ownership over your experience. During the Practicing phase, you will make use of these tools and engage on a deeper level with your surroundings.  During the final Expedition phase, students take on a more active role in the planning and implementation of course elements.  As we move through the course, the challenges will increase and your ownership of the experience and responsibility will increase in kind. Throughout the process, you will be guided by us, your instructors, and by the local people and landscapes.

Furthermore, our Core Values of Awareness of Self, Global Citizenship, and Leadership and Skill Building will act as an undercurrent throughout the course, guiding us through the experience.  At each phase of the course you will find yourselves delving deeper into these themes.  And finally, as always with Dragons, the course will be flexible and spontaneous, allowing us to make changes depending on local conditions, group interests, and other opportunities that may present themselves along the way.

Our excitement has been growing as we’ve put this together, and we can’t wait to share these wonderful places with each of you!  So, without further ado here is our Summer 2018 Yangtze River tentative itinerary!


For those of you traveling on the group flight, we welcome you to L.A. on June 28! We will start getting to know each other, before leaving for our flight to Shanghai (via Beijing). Upon arrival at Pudong International, China’s busiest airport by cargo traffic, we will meet up with more members of our group, and head to the relative quiet of the outskirts of Shanghai city. Here we are not in the shadows of the world-renowned Lujiazui skyline; we’ll catch glimpses of the less-developed side of the municipality, and trace its humble beginnings as a fishing village “upon the sea.” More importantly, we’ll build skills and knowledge to set ourselves up for success in the following month – tips to keep us safe and healthy, goal-setting exercises to clarify who we are and what we want to achieve, survival Mandarin, team-building activities, and a lot more. We’ll come together as a group, and thank our hosts for our first tastes of authentic Chinese cuisine. From our orientation site we’ll transition into the heart of bustling Shanghai where we’ll spend a few days getting to know the city.

JULY 5 – 7: Three Gorges Dam

The first stop on our long journey west is Yichang. This mid-sized modern city sits on the banks of the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. Just outside of Yichang we’ll experience the gigantic Three Gorges Dam. We’ll spend a day there learning about the dam’s impact on the local communities and ecology.


Next we will travel to the hilly metropolis of Chongqing, at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers. Chongqing, like Shanghai, is one of four direct-controlled municipalities in China, and also China’s wartime capital during WWII. We’ll explore the gritty docks and narrow alleys that give Chongqing its unique energy and acquire a taste for the fiery and numbing spices of local cuisine.

In addition to exploring the city we’ll make our way into the countryside to connect with nature, rural life and spirituality.



To get to Tongren (Rebgong in Tibetan), the gateway town to our rural Tibetan homestay, we’ll enjoy Rugged Travel at its best. We’ll take local buses and trains, stopping in villages and Buddhist monasteries along the way. We’ll get out and stretch our legs with some 1-2 day hikes in arguably one of the most beautiful parts of China. This slow, intentional transition from the sweaty hustle and bustle of Chongqing to the cool tranquility of the Tibetan Plateau will help us fully appreciate the dramatic diversity of China.



We will head from Tongren into our rural home-stay with Tibetan nomads. Over the course of a few days immerse ourselves in household routines and attempt to grasp an idea of life on the grasslands. We’ll have survival Tibetan language classes and really take some time to understand the complexity of the Amdo Tibetan Region.


From our nomadic home-stay we head to the largest lake in China, and as our course draws to an end, come together as a group once more. We will reflect on the days we traveled together, show appreciation for the people we shared this journey with, and set our intentions for integrating the lessons from China into our future selves.


In the next couple of days you will be receiving a phone call from one of the 3 of us. In this short call we hope to get to know you a little better and to answer any questions you may have about the itinerary, China, what to pack, etc. You can also reach out to us here on the Yak Board or via email with any questions you may have.

Thank you to those of you who have already posted your introductions!

-Tingting, Jonas & Zack