Microcampus is a trip where 16 students travel to a village called Xizhou in southwest China. It is 28 days long and throughout those days, the students on the Microcampus trip learn about and experience the culture in the village. While learning, the students make connections with the Xizhou community members and learn about their stories. Prior to leaving Shanghai, each student chose a topic of high personal interest to study throughout the time in the village. This year's spring Microcampus group is called the Voyagers.
The topic that I chose to study throughout the 28 days I am in the village, is Xizhou's food products and cuisine. I chose this topic for my inquiry project, due to the fact that I have grown up with cooking playing a big role in my life. Sometimes, I travel to other parts of the world just to learn about the foods in different cultures. I really enjoy eating a variety of foods and learning the stories behind each dish.
Throughout my journey, I had many helpful sources. For instance, Ms. Zhang, Dong Ayi, and Mr. Xong where all very helpful when answering my questions. I chose these people as some of my sources because they were very welcoming and open to me. Anna S., Luca L., and Kyra L., were also very helpful throughout the Microcampus trip. They each provided a lot of information involving how to professionally share my learning. All in all, I had many helpful sources throughout my journey and I am very grateful for all of them.
In the beginning, I had 10 Big Questions that I wanted to learn the answers too once I reached Xizhou. However, after experiencing life in the village, I gradually changed and limited my questions. In the end, I focused on learning about the perspectives that different people have on Xizhou's food products and cuisine. I wanted to know what restaurant and stall chefs think about the food they were serving. I also thought it would be interesting to understand the views that tourists have on the food in the village, as well as my own thoughts about the food in Xizhou. Lastly, I also had a few questions on the traditional foods in Xizhou and why they were significant to the culture.
In order to further understand the food of the Xizhou culture, one might consider the perspective of a restaurant or stall chef, a tourist, and a welcomed village guest.
Sharing My Learning
To share what I have learned throughout the Microcmapus journey, I have created a video and posted it here.
In general, I took away a lot from my inquiry project experience. For instance, I learned that it is really important to stay on task. Monotasking is really beneficial when doing my work. I also learned that staying positive when times are stressful increases the amount work I can do. I also learned that many people are really open and welcoming to being asked questions. Overall, I am thankful that this project has allowed me to learn a lot throughout the journey.
My inquiry project did not change throughout the trip. However, after deciding my thesis, I needed to go back out into the field and gather some more information about the perspectives that people have on Xizhou's food products and cuisine. Before I knew what the thesis for my final product would be, I was learning about a variety of cooking processes and traditional foods, but when I made my thesis, I had to quickly gather information about a different part of my topic. This caused me some stress, but after I switched gears, I was able to get back into the process of learning something new.
The most difficult part of my research involved talking to tourists visiting Xizhou. This was hard for me because instead of having a long conversation, such as the ones I had with restaurant chefs, I only asked them a few questions and then I was done. This proved to be difficult because having many short conversations with people I do not know on a regular basis, means that I am constantly nervous. However, when having a long conversation, I was just nervous at the beginning and then after a while eased into the conversation.
During the course of my journey, I had a few "a-ha" moments when I made a major discovery. For instance, an "a-ha" moment that I had was when I was making BaBa. When the pre-cooked BaBa are complete, they are put onto a wooden circular board. Then, they are thrown on to the stove. There is a special technique to throwing the BaBa. When I first tried, I could not do it. However, after she showed me again, I understood and did it properly. This was a really exciting "a-ha" moment and I plan to remember it after leaving Xizhou.
Doing this project helped me understand my topic better because I was able to learn about Xizhou food products and cuisine one on one. I was also able to learn about Xizhou's traditional foods as well as what different people think about the food in the village. This allowed me to see the food products and cuisine through a different set of eyes and therefore further understand my inquiry project.
This project helped me interact with the community in and around Xizhou, due to the fact that as a part of my project, I had to make connections with the people in the village. I had many conversations with a variety of stall and restaurant owners and tourists visiting Xizhou. They were all very open and welcoming when I was asking them questions. They all tried their best to answer my questions with as much information as they could. This allowed me to understand the culture and foods of Xizhou and I am very grateful for the opportunity to interact with community in and around Xizhou.
The inquiry project helped me better understand myself as a person. For example, I learned that I am really good at Chinese even though I think I am not. I am also great at making connections with people in the village, due to the fact that every time I see a person that I made a connection with, they smile and wave. I now understand that I need to work on being confident while walking up to someone because this was something that I struggled with during my field work. By doing this project, I was also reminded that there is always room to grow.
The inquiry project helped me understand myself as a learner by showing me that I enjoy working in a quiet space. Before I came to Xizhou, I thought that I could work in any environment. However, after Microcampus, I now know that it is really beneficial for me to have a quiet area to complete my work. I also know that I need to work on taking feedback from my peers, teachers, and anyone else. I struggled a little with this during the journey, but I plan to continue to work on this when I am back in Shanghai.
If I could go back in time to the beginning of this project, I would tell myself to look at what the thesis for the final product should look like before I being field research. This would allow me to focus on a more specific topic and therefor collect more information on what I need. For instance, as I was doing my field work, I gathered a lot of information about random foods or cooking processes that I did not need after finishing my Phase 3. If I looked at what the thesis for the final product might look like before I began my field, I may have been able to gather more information about my 3 hooks.
If I could continue this research project, I would defiantly go in a new direction. For instance, learning about the traditional foods in Xizhou would be something that I would do if I could continue gathering information. Other Microcampus students could build on the work that I have done by studying how the perspectives that people have on the food in Xizhou have changed over time. Because I have studied the perspectives that people have currently on Xizhou's food products and cuisine, research on how the perspectives have changed would be a really interesting addition to the work that I have already done.
I am very grateful for the many people that supported me during this research process. Mr. Chen and Ms. B were both very helpful when assisting me in making connections during field work. They both helped me improve my Chinese while on Microcampus. I also want to say thank you to Ms. Mai and Mr. T for encouraging me to stay focus and go out into the village during my down time. By going out I was able to make more connections with the people in the village and learn more about my topic. Dong Ayi and Ms. Zhang were really helpful during the research process. They both provided me with a lot of information that really made a difference in my project. Lastly, I am very grateful for all the students along with me on the trip, but I want to say thank you specifically to Sarah R. Sarah supported me and encouraged me throughout the trip in many different ways. She helped me while having conversations and learning about my project.
Overall, I learned a lot throughout the Microcampus experience. I was able to improve on my Chinese, time management, creativity, conversation skills, etc. Making connections with the community members also allowed me to grow by being confident while talking to strangers. The inquiry project was really interesting and creative and I was able to gain a lot more knowledge on my topic. I am very proud to be a Voyager and I am grateful for everyone that has supported me throughout this journey.