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Internet access in China

You all have surely heard of internet censorship in China. This is a very big and complex topic that we will definitely be chatting about during our time in China. Many websites we often use in other parts of the world will not be available without the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Long story short, a VPN basically makes your computer think it’s in a different country where internet is not as highly censored. You can legally have a VPN in China but you can only obtain one before entering the country. The vast majority of people in China do not have a VPN and therefore simply work within the level of internet provided locally. Your instructor team will have a VPN that you can use from time to time but be prepared to spend the vast majority of the next 3 months without access to sites like Google/Gmail, Facebook/Instagram and other social media and a wide variety of news and entertainment websites. Its also important to note that even though the instructor team does have a VPN…it doesn’t always work! (The Yak Board does not require a VPN and the instructor team is in regular communication with the office through multiple channels that also do not require a VPN).

So what should you do?

  1. If you want to continue to use your Gmail account the first thing you need to do is make sure its set up for you to go overseas. Often when you travel and then try to log in abroad from a device that is unfamiliar your Gmail account will think you are being hacked and not let you log in. It will ask for your phone number and will send you a text. That’s fine but you won’t have your phone and, even if you did, your US number probably wouldn’t work in China. So, you need to set up a recovery email address that is not a gmail account (yahoo is a good choice). Then when you get blocked you can use your yahoo account to unlock it. This trick is not 100% effective. Sometimes students have been locked out of their Gmail and unable to access it for an entire program, sometimes its fine. Your safest bet is to use a China-friendly email server like Yahoo. You can even set up your Gmail emails to be forwarded to your yahoo account.
  2. Tell all your devoted fans on social media that you are going off the grid for a bit. (Tell them to follow the Yak Board and reach out to you via your snazzy new Yahoo account)
  3. Go old school and write letters. You can send letters from around China and you can receive letters when we’re in Kunming for our extended homestay. Here’s the address:2404, 3-2, Yunshang Cheng, Jianshe Road, Wuhua District, Kunming, Yunnan (云南省昆明市五华区建设路云上城3-2-2404)Postal Code: 650221

*A few notes on sending letters to Kunming: Give them plenty of time to arrive (a couple of weeks). Don’t send anything bigger than a letter. Don’t send anything valuable. There’s a chance that your letter may never arrive.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Marcus, Zhaoling, Qianping