The Heritage of Chinese Migrations

ACAM 390A | 3 credits

About the program

This course is led by UBC faculty member Henry Yu, History and Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies

DateMay 16-June 21, 2022 | Travel dates: May 30-June 17, 2022

Topic: The histories, cultures, foodways, heritage and geographies of Cantonese migration from Kaiping to North America and throughout South East Asia.

Locations visited: Due to the uncertainties of COVID-19 related travel restrictions, we will be planning for one of the travel options:

  • China (Kaiping) and Hong Kong
  • Malaysia and Singapore
  • Chinatowns in the United States, and Hawaii
  • Chinatowns in Canada (Montreal, Toronto, Victoria)
  • Vancouver local field study

Funding: This is an Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funded program. The ARA program aims to ensure that upper-level international research courses are accessible to academically qualified students, and that scholarly preparation and aspiration rather than financial means are the deciding factors for student participation. Funded by a generous gift from donors, the Faculty of Arts, and Go Global, the ARA program sponsors advanced research-intensive courses involving international travel. 70% of the program cost will be offset for academically qualified students; and up to 100% of the cost may be offset for academically qualified students who demonstrate financial need (as determined by Enrolment Services). 

Students can only be considered for one major International Learning Award throughout their degree e.g. ARA (Arts Research Abroad) funded Global Seminars, Undergraduate Research Conference. 

About the course

This unique field study in Vancouver, Hong Kong, Kaiping (China) and Malaysia will allow you to explore multi-disciplinary perspectives on the histories, cultures, and geographies of Cantonese migration. These migration networks primarily stem from the “Szeyup” or “Four Counties” area of Canton (Guangdong) Province, the home region of many overseas Chinese who went to Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries. These Pacific migration networks include regions in Southeast Asia as well as North America. By visiting the different sites, you will develop an understanding of regional approaches to heritage conservation of historical, cultural, and natural landscapes in Hong Kong, Kaiping, Malaysia and Vancouver that will inform the development of their community-based research projects. 

Key themes include an investigation of the historical context of Chinese migration to North America; forms and causes of segregation; the evolution of food practices and foodways; cultural heritage preservation; space activation and the changing livelihoods of residents and migrants over time and space. Particular to this class, students will be learning about these topics through the investigation of food and its role in culture and heritage. Field excursions in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Burnaby Village Museum, Hong Kong, Kaiping and Penang will complement in-class work.  

You will conduct interdisciplinary academic research while exploring the histories, cultures, foodways, heritage and geographies of Cantonese migration from Kaiping to North America and throughout South East Asia. You will learn in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings locally and abroad to explore best practices in community-based research, and will be asked to compare international examples of heritage conservation efforts that may apply to similar initiatives in Vancouver’s Chinatown. You will be asked to present research findings at a community showcase based in Chinatown in July 2022.  

Find out more about this program by viewing the short films below: 

Experience in the field 

A typical day might include

  • A lecture by Professor Yu, followed by a walking tour to a local site, museum, market, and/or another cultural point of interest 
  • You are expected to dine together for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and will have “off” periods to encourage local exploration 
  • There will be scheduled group work time in the itinerary for you to work on your projects 

Notable environmental conditions

  • Hot, humid weather with mosquitoes 
  • Sometimes we’ll get caught during typhoon season, which has resulted in students catching colds in the past. We recommend that students wear long, light linens to stay cool and to remain protected from the sun and mosquitoes. 
  • Lots of walking and commuting 

 Sensitive or potentially triggering content

  • Some students find that it is an emotional experience (especially if you have heritage/roots in the areas we are visiting) 


Hostel and dorm-style accommodation

Eligibility requirements

  • Be enrolled in UBC Vancouver’s Faculty of Arts.
  • Be in your third, fourth, or final year of study.
  • Be enrolled in at least 24 credits in the Winter Session before the program and be registered in 24 credits in the current Winter Session, or sufficient to graduate.  Please note that students with exceptional circumstances regarding credit loads can identify themselves to Go Global to request an exemption from this requirement.
  • Have a minimum average of 70% with no failed or incomplete courses.
  • Further eligibility requirements particular to each program will be noted below.

Program-specific requirements

No pre-requisites. Priority for ACAM students, interviews and competitive selection for remaining students. 

This course is a good option for Art History, Visual Arts, English, IR, History, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, and Land and Food Systems students. 

Students outside of the UBC Vancouver Faculty of Arts are invited to participate in the program, but unfortunately not eligible for Arts Research Abroad funding.

How to apply

Application deadline 

January 27, 2022

  1. Log in to the Gateway online application program 
  2. Select “Search Experiences” and type "GSP" to explore Global Seminars programs 
  3. Upload the application form for your selected Global Seminar – see Application documents below 

*Please note that you can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars*

Program fees and costs

ARA funding will offset 70%-100% of the CAD 3,800-4,600 in program fees and flight costs.  Students are responsible for covering the cost of 3 credits of UBC tuition. 

Students who do not receive ARA funding will be responsible for covering approximately CAD 3,800-4,600 +  3 credit tuition and flight.

The final fee depends on the number of students in the program. Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee ($415) is built into the program fee and is payable upon acceptance to the program. 

Global seminars refund policy

To withdraw from your program, you must contact Go Global by email to request a withdrawal.  You will not be charged until you officially accept your spot in the program.  Refunds cannot be issued after the program fee is charged to your SSC account. 

In the case of withdrawal, Go Global Award funding must be returned in full.

If you have questions, please connect with your Go Global advisor or email Go Global at

Pre-departure policy

Safety abroad

UBC is committed to preparing students for safe and successful international experiences. In order to achieve this, any student participating in a Go Global Program must complete the following:

Failure to successfully complete these and any other requirements may result in withdrawal from the Go Global Program.


If you are considering applying for a Go Global program and identify with having a disability or pre-existing health condition (mental or physical) which could impact your participation, or if you require academic accommodation, you can contact the following offices and meet with an Accessibility Advisor before the start of your program:

The Centre for Accessibility (Vancouver) 604 822-5844

Disability Resource Centre (Okanagan) 250 807-8053


Drop-in advising hours

Until Fri, Feb 4, Go Global is offering virtual drop-in advising through Zoom during the times below:

  • Tuesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm

Virtual drop-in hours are available until Fri, Feb 4 from 9:30 to 11:30 am PST and from 1 to 3:30 pm PST through Zoom.