Updated 4 years 3 months ago


My name is Alba N. and I am part of the O.R.E.O spring Microcampus group. For 28 days, I along with 11 other students and 2 teachers, Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai, from Shanghai American School Puxi Campus went on a trip to a small village in the Yunnan Province called Xizhou. During our time out in the village, we can choose a topic/topics that we are interested in to study them. These are called Inquiry Projects. My Inquiry Project is Photography/Farming. I chose this because everyone else in my family does photography and it is a passion that I wanted to pursue too. Also, since we are in a village, I knew that there would be a lot of farmers and I really wanted to learn about farming in the past compared to farming in the past and the lives of the farmers. My last reason to have chosen these topics is because I love to be outdoors and I feel like with this topic I was able to do that a lot. After arriving in Xizhou I started researching about my Inquiry Project. Later on in the process, we started going out with teacher support to talk to locals about our projects. Since most people in Xizhou have done farming before, my contacts were mainly people who used to farm but who do not do it anymore.

Before doing all this research in Xizhou, a lot had to be done back in Shanghai. We had to complete three phases, Phase 0, Phase 1, Phase 2. In Phase 0, we looked through a list of possible Inquiry Projects we could choose from. We narrowed all these options to our top 3 choices. Without having learned anything about any of these topics, we needed to make our final decision and explain why this was our final choice.

Next was Phase 1. In this phase, we did some background research on our Inquiry topic. We also had to think about what we wanted to learn about for our final Inquiry Project. The next step was generating a list of possible questions to ask the locals to gather more knowledge on our topics. These are called the 10 big questions. I split my questions into 3 sections; Life as a Farmer, Farming Techniques and Others.

The last phase we needed to complete before coming to Xizhou was Phase 2. In this phase, we needed to contact an expert about our topic and have conversations to people who might be able to help us find good resources. This phase was also about completing our "3-to-5's". Three to Fives are where we have 3-5 minute long conversations with 3-5 people to get information on who would be able to help us out with our inquiry topics.

After arriving in Xizhou, we added some of our work into Phase 3. In that phase, each person went out for teacher support and we talked to the local contacts we were recommended. Click on the link to view all the information I have learned so far.

Throughout my Microcampus journey, I have had personal growth starting from before the trip, in the trip, and after the trip. Before the trip, I had some struggles but I managed to overcome them. During the trip, starting off was tough but I soon started to get the hang of it. After the trip, I will share my goals and what I plan to achieve.

Sharing My Learning

For my final Inquiry Project, I have created a short video which is possible to view above. I chose this because I thought the video would help me show exactly what I want to say in the most effective way possible. For those who can not load the video, click here to view my final product.


Our time in Xizhou is almost ending and we have time to reflect on our experience. I took away many life lessons and memories from this Inquiry Project experience. I learned how to communicate with local people even if I have limited Chinese. By communicate I do not mean asking them questions, I mean sitting down with them and having short conversations. This helped making them feel more comfortable around me. Walking to Si Fang Jie we see so many familiar faces. We always wave to each other and sometimes we talk for a while. I am so happy I have made these connections. I learned how to communicate with adults well. Before coming to Xizhou I would talk to adults in a similar way to how I talk to others around me. Throughout this trip, I have learned the proper way to speak to adults. Another big part of what I have learned from this Inquiry Project experience is how to deal with stress and how to stay on task at all times. I used to always procrastinate but now I know how to uni task. When focused on one thing at one time the stress levels decrease. This is a strength that will help me a lot in the future. Last but not least, I learned how to live life out of the bubble life in Shanghai. In Shanghai the people around us do not let us experience the real word. Out here I needed to make connections and in the beginning I felt a little uncomfortable. I had to get out of my comfort zone and experience the real world. Throughout time, I became used to the surroundings and environment around me and immersed myself into their culture and their lifestyle. I have learned so many valuable lessons out in the village while doing inquiry work and I will remember them forever.

My Inquiry Project; photography and farming changed during the course of my study. This was not because I was not interested in the topic, it was because I found an idea that I thought was worth sharing. I changed to talking about my personal journey. I think I changed for 3 reasons; I did not have enough information, I did not have enough local contacts, I thought the other story was worth telling. I had a walk and talk with Mr. T. about what I should do for my final product. He said personal journey would be the best option for me. He said my journey was an interesting one and I had so much to tell. I was allowed to include some facts that I have learned but mostly focusing on myself. I did not change all my previous phases but I talked about my personal journey in the video above. My journey different than I thought it would be so I thought it was worth sharing.

For me the most difficult part of the research process was Phase 3. In this phase, we needed to communicate with local contacts about our inquiry topics and ask them questions. I had a hard time approaching people in the beginning and the teacher supports were really helpful. With my limited Chinese I couldn't be the one creating conversations with them. I would say ‘ni hao’ but other than that, my support teacher needed to help me talk to them. Sometimes this would result in an awkward situation as while the teacher support was explaining to me what the local has just said the local just sat/stood there not doing anything. Over time I learned some new vocabulary and managed to have some basic conversations with people. At the end of this experience I learned so much experience from the locals.

The most memorable ‘a-ha’ moment I have had is when I was out for teacher support with Mr. Tafel. At that point I realized something important. Before I was focusing on talking to the locals about farming in general but when Mr. T and I met Mr. Zhao he was talking about life as a farmer. He was talking about a sensitive topic in his life and he talked in a quiet voice. At that point I saw that farming is not only about the tools and techniques but also in their life. This discovery helped me have more conversations with locals.

This Inquiry Project helped me understand my Inquiry Project more than any class would have ever been able to. When I was out talking with the locals I learned lots of information on my topic. I learned about farming in different point of views. Everyone said different things which allowed me to compare the differences between the ideas. The process of the Inquiry Project has also taught me how to make connections with locals. Since a lot of people have done farming before in their life, I was able to create conversation with many different people. I did not only learn about my topic, I learned about their lives.

As I mentioned before, my inquiry topic has helped me connect with many people around the community. Since most people in the Xizhou area have done farming before in their lives. When I was talking to them I was able to connect with them a lot. When I was out for teacher support with Jo, Gao Li Chuan, a farmer close to the Linden Centre was talking to us about how tough her life was as a kid. I felt honored that she was able to be this open to us about her life. I have seen her a few days ago working on the fields. I waved to her and she waved back. I was happy to have that connection with her.

This process has also helped me learn about myself as a person in general. I learned that if you have confidence you can do anything. My example is that in the beginning of the trip, it was very hard for me to make connections with locals as I was not confident in my Chinese. Later on, I started feeling for confident in my speaking I was able to make connections. I would go to people and I would wave and talk to them for a while about their life. Sometimes I got rejected but this is a normal process and I learned that not everyone is going to want to talk at all times. I have made connections with many locals now and I am so happy the inquiry process has helped me do that.

The inquiry process helped me learn about myself as a learner. I mostly learned about my work ethic. Back in Shanghai I would procrastinate a lot but I know that it does not work like that at Microcampus. I learned from my mistakes and stayed on task at all times. I used to always multi-task but that is not a term used at Microcampus. To stay focused on work, it is not possible to multi-task. Something else I have learned about myself during the Inquiry Project process. I learned that I learn the best through experience. If I am experiencing something I can understand the content better than if I read something off of a textbook. I work better outdoors and this Inquiry Project process has helped me notice that.

If I could go back to the beginning, I would have organized my time wisely. Also in Shanghai I would need to work at least fifteen minutes a day as I did not do that which resulted to me being behind on work. Some days I worked up to 1 hour because I had lots of work to do. Those days I ended up being stressed out and rushing through work. I would have stupid errors in my work. For example spelling mistakes. In his revision messages he would need to remind me as I was so exhausted that I would barely pay attention to what I was doing. I would tell myself to organize my time wisely if I could do this again.

If I were to continue researching about my topic for another month I would go into deeper details about the lives of farmers. I would like to have conversations with elders so they can tell me all about their life. I would also like to have conversations with kids about what they do for work instead of farming. I hope that someone is able to continue this research for me. I strongly recommend that students learn about farming as it is a very interesting topic.

I would like to thank many people with all the help they have provided me during this journey. I would like to thank all my local contacts, my teachers and my peers. I would like to thank my peers for supporting my throughout my struggles in the inquiry process. I would like to thank my teachers for going out for teacher support with me and for giving me advice on how to make a better project. Lastly I would like to thank my local contacts. They have helped me gather information on my topic but they have also made connections with me that I love to have.

Being part of this Microcampus trip has completely changed my life. I learned so much that I could have never learned in a classroom. I got to experience things and learn from my experiences. This was one really excellent opportunity and if I had the chance to do it again, I would say yes in a heartbeat. Microcampus has helped me get out of my comfort zone and experience something new. Seeing the world outside of the bubble was a memorable and I will never forget it. Xizhou brought the best out of me and helped me realize so much about the world. The key is not thriving in the bubble, it is thriving outside, in the real world. Microcampus has been a once in a lifetime experience and I am so honored I got to be a part of this group of twelve students.

Hello, my name is Alba and my time in Xizhou has now ended. I am 13 years old and I attend Shanghai American School. I have lived in Shanghai for 8 years now. Before that I lived in Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan. I wanted to join the Microcampus program to experience living out of the "bubble" life. I was a part of the O.R.E.O spring Microcampus trip of 2016. I am so happy I got to come here and learn about my inquiry project, bond with locals, have personal growth and develop more intercultural understanding!