From April 18th to May 15th, 2015, myself and 8 other students left our homes back in Shanghai and moved to a small village in the Yunnan Province called Xizhou. During this time, we learn to be independent middle school students.
I was given a long list of topics to choose from before delving into one. Phase 0 was where we narrowed down to one topic to investigate. Initially, I had about five topics I really wanted to know more about, then I began eliminating them one by one. Soon after, I chose to research about the Linden Centre and its surroundings.
The next steps for me was to do some research on the Linden Centre, which I did in Phase 3, and record it all down. With this new information, I formed my 10 main question which acts as the fuel for my project. These questions can be found in Phase 2 of my project. All this happened before our departure to Xizhou.
Once arriving, we began our field work. I thought my Inquiry Project would be quite straightforward, but turns out, not so much. While doing my work, I came across a lady called Shi Ayi. She is a textile producer and seller 2 doors down from the Linden Centre. The day I heard her life story, I was captured. This was the point where I had to make a decision. Did I still want to focus on the Lindens’ or did I want to branch out and make Shi Ayi the center of my final product. That was when I chose to pursue Shi Ayi’s story.
Though I would go out and interview different locals, I would always come back to Shi Ayi and talk with her. I gathered her life story, and it turned into a large pile of information. At this point, all 9 of us were a little confused on how to turn the pile into a polished movie. Mr. T had the answer. He taught us about the hooks and hanger structure. The hanger acts as the thesis and then the 3 hooks are your supporting topics. Using this structure I created my own thesis: To understand Shi Ayi’s journey, one must consider her roots, her life before arriving in Xizhou, and the life she is living today.
Sharing My Learning
If you cannot access my video above, click here to watch it on the SAS portal.
The experiences here at Microcampus have really changed me. I have learnt to be independent and take risks. Especially when it came to my project, I stepped up and spoke in mandarin to all my interviewees. This has taught me that when I immerse myself into something, I am guaranteed to achieve the best outcome.
While doing this project, my topic did get altered from where it was initially. I thought I would do a project on the Linden Centre, but in the end, I turned it into a mix of a case study and the centre. I feel I made the right decision in doing that. Now, I am able to talk to the locals and incorporate the Linden Centre into it.
The one part in this whole process that did frustrate me was, my mandarin. I, personally, wanted to reach out to the locals and have normal conversations with them, but when I attempted to, they could not understand me. It was quite difficult to get my question across 3 people; with me telling my translator, and my translator telling my partner.
Overall, I felt that the communicating was not too much of an issue because I did obtain some interesting stories with my partners. For example, my inquiry partner Shi Ayi, was talking about a strange creature called the Gu. Coincidentally, I had just read about this Gu in my novel and I was shocked to hear about it from her. This was an “a-ha” moment I had. Unfortunately, I could not add this story into my project because it was quite irrelevant to my topic.
My project helped me understand my topic because I was hearing it through a real person. My thesis statement was: To understand Shi Ayi’s journey, one must consider her roots, her life before arriving in Xizhou, and the life she is living today. If I am simply researching about my topic or watching a documentary, there is still some doubt about the accuracy of it. However, since I am hearing it from a real person, I am assured that this is first hand information.
What I wanted to find here in Xizhou was a story of a person’s life. A life that had been changed by the Linden Centre. And I found that 2 doors down the street. I grasped the opportunity to do my project on Shi Ayi and this helped me get out of my comfort zone to interact with people. My Mandarin teacher did not even give us homework because she trusted that we would use our language skills and work on speaking with locals.
As I began warming up to Shi Ayi, I slowly started opening up to the idea of walking down the street and simply greeting the locals. My inquiry project has shown me that I have the ability to communicate with “strangers”. But really, the locals here in Xizhou do not seem stranger like at all. It is as if they have known us for a while. With my stereotype that strangers are bad, I felt that I was a little behind in the communication process. If someone had just pushed me to interact with people earlier on, I feel that I could have been better prepared for inquiry work.
If someone were to continue my inquiry project, I would try to find someone with an even stronger tie to the Centre and do a story on them. Using the background information on the Centre and my final product video, future students could create their own movies on people’s lives.
I would like to thank the Linden Centre and staff for making us feel so much at home. Also, thank you Mr. Tafel, Mrs. Mai, Shi Ayi, Alumni and all of Xizhou for giving us this once in a life time experience.
Microcampus has brought my true identity out. It is a seed that will stay planted in me forever.