From March 10th to April 6th, 2018, 16 students left their Shanghai comfort zone to embark on a journey called Microcampus, to study and understand how the "other" part of China functioned. Microcampus was a real chance to truly pursue our dreams. Every single one of us chose a topic we were highly interested in to specifically study within Yunan, Xizhou. Our journey has been a long one to arrive here, three months before we even arrived, we were all already working towards the final goal of our inquiry project. Now, after months of hard work and determination, I am proud to be here and share my learning.
I considered many different topics to pursue. With a heavy Chinese influence on me, I was exposed to many different Chinese traditions and lifestyles. However, eventually, I settled on the different views on medicine, especially between Traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine. I believed that China had its own story to tell about what they thought about medicine originated from across the world. I hoped to uncover how far Western medicine has influenced rural China, why it was in the current state it is now, and what perhaps may be the future for Traditional Chinese medicine.
I had many different sources that supported me throughout the journey, however Mr. Xu, Mr. Yang, Mr. Chen, Mr. Dong, Mr. Yang, and Mr. Peng are ones I would like to thank the most, they were the ones who provided much of the basis I needed to investigate different areas of my topic. Mr. Yang and Mr. Dong explained thoroughly on how they choose and distributed medicine to the public and had helpful answers to many of my questions. Mr. Chen and Mr. Xu were very helpful on some of the public opinions that could be noticed throughout Xizhou and how they learned their basic education. Finally, Mr. Dong and Mr. Yang took time out of their busy day to explain their views on a truly professional level! Every single one of them had a big impact on the outcome of this project.
Throughout my journey, I was learning and focusing on the types of views different groups of people had on both types of medicine, as well as perhaps how they had reached these conclusions. As I learned more about their thoughts, I also decided to also question the staying power, the survivability, of Traditional Chinese medicine and its future. This eventually led to my thesis: To understand the staying power of Traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine, one should consider the viewpoints of a local citizen, a medicine seller, and a professional (doctor).
Sharing My Learning:
I created a small video explaining the three different views on medicine and some reasoning and influences behind these opinions which all revolves around the question about the future of Traditional Chinese medicine. Click here to view my final product.
Going through the long and strenuous inquiry project experience, I have had ups and downs and through these moments, I have learned valuable lessons. Perhaps the most important is the ability to hold on to the hard parts. In the beginning, it was tough to figure out where to start when there was such a wide arrange of topics to choose from. However, eventually, I slowly integrated into the process to succeed, it was smooth sailing. In Xizhou, for the first three weeks, the experience was amazing to just have a conversation with people who are willing to take time out of their day just for the connection between us. Yet, good times can not last forever and in the last week, it becomes tedious. As much reporting on the information I have learned throughout the time in Xizhou was important, I just didn't feel very motivated to complete the project. During this time, I learned about my ability to be able to focus and mono-task when a deadline was about to come up even if I felt it was boring. Another lesson I learned was to try and spread things out, even if you do meet a huge road bump early on in the process, you shouldn't just start focusing on contacts you were already comfortable with, don't shrink back into your shell, instead it was best to keep on going and keep on trying. If you retreat, you will never know what it was like to attack.
My topic didn't change during this process, it just became more and more focused on one specific point as I got further into the research. Studying perspectives was a feasible topic since everyone will always have an opinion. But as I dug deeper into the subject, I began to group "everyone" into three basic groups of people depending on their level of skill. Also, the conversation with Mr. Peng inspired the question about the future of Traditional Chinese medicine within a rural village. After widening my scope for my information, I began to direct my information to answer that question. This gave huge propulsion of my inquiry project because after that I rarely started to receive repeated information.
It was challenging to ask many different people difficult questions about their thoughts on such controversial topics. Also, because I needed such a wide arrange of different people, many times I was unable to truly revisit some of my contacts. Thus, I often needed to be 110% prepared and make sure I can gain as much information as possible in under an hour. Part of the difficulty was to not stay at a basic level and continue to dive deeper even if the information seems repetitive.
I had many moments of realizations when researching the subject. However, the real shift in my topic was probably when I found out most people actually didn't think one medicine was better than another, instead it was more of they believed both had advantages and disadvantages, but it was the impact that caused them to use one type of medicine mainly. This had caused me to start and change my focus more onto what they thought about each of the benefits and disadvantages, and how much it mattered to them.
The inquiry project was the chance to find out about what other people (not just my family, friends, and me) thought about such an important aspect of our lives. Medicine was always a topic that needs attention within our society as it may be the reason between if we live or perish. Before, I always thought Western medicine was the best medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine should be abolished, however after listening to all the different people I realized that perhaps Traditional Chinese medicine wasn't as bad as many of the websites described it as, it was just that it was too complicated thus many people had jumped to the conclusion that it was a useless medicine.
Simultaneously, I had meaningful connections with the community of Xizhou. For once, a school trip was just for fun or "saving the community", instead neither of us felt we owed each other anything, we were truly bonding only over our ideas. Although in the beginning, when I found out perhaps some of my 10 big questions could not be 100% answered, I learned to allow the conversation to flow and not turn it into an interview. I learned many new techniques and tips when having the first conversation with someone you don't know which definitely will be very useful later on. After a week, it felt amazing to walk through an area where you never knew it even existed just a few days ago, but suddenly you're getting waves and hellos from the people that live and have their life here. The feeling that can not be described as just being accepted into a community was phenomenal.
Microcampus also showed me how moments of peace, moments of not doing anything, moments of just observing could actually matter so much. In Shanghai, we're expected to accomplish task after task and to never stop working and not waste time. However, in Xizhou, the silence and peace allowed my thoughts to travel on their own and shape themselves into ideas. After the process, I began to value Still Time more than ever, it was a moment to think about who I am, what I want, instead of the expectations that were set on me.
The project made me realize how much could be learned just through conversations and not necessarily a lesson. It made me think about how education doesn't just necessarily have to be tests and quizzes to fact check us. We could learn so much by perhaps just spending a day with a mathematician in his lab or an artists drawing his piece. I also learned that stress is useless, what's the point of worrying about something when you could be doing something about it?
If I could redo this entire experience I would take more photos and remember the experiences all the better. As much as I was aware of the importance of not losing the memories before I started Microcampus when I was going through the journey, I sometimes got too caught up about the future and the questions I was asking instead of truly enjoying the moment. As a result, sometimes I would only be left with the words I had written down during the time instead of actually remembering the conversation we had. Another aspect would be to try and make most of your time here, enjoy the things you can do here but not in Shanghai! Since, once you go back, it is unlikely you'll ever be able to do the same thing again...
I would hope that my work here had contributed to Shirley T.'s project about the current status of Traditional Chinese medicine and Raine-Monet W. project about the experience of healthcare. I hope explaining the different views of different groups would be able to clarify the reasoning behind a lot of the conclusions the other projects have made. I hope a future Microcampus student would be able to dive deeper into the influences of medicine onto these different groups. I had only uncovered the top layer of the influences, I know there are a lot more hidden within the community but I did not have enough time to dig it out.
Finally, I would like to thank every single person who has made this experience possible. Of course, the main hosts of Microcampus, Mr. T, and Ms. Mai must be thanked, for not giving up on Microcampus and giving the other 15 Microcampus students and I a chance to prove that Microcampus was still an amazing experience that was worth to keep on continuing. I would like to also acknowledge them for putting up with us for 28 days. I would also like to thank the village of Xizhou (and especially my contacts) for taking time out of their day to have conversations with us. Without their willingness to answer our questions, we would have never reached these conclusions of our inquiry project. I would especially like to thank Mr. Peng for providing his viewpoint with drove my project into a slightly different direction. Mr. Chen and Ms. B must also be given credit for many of the "behind the scenes" work that had made many activities we done possible. Finally, I would like to thank my family which had supported my decision into joining Microcampus. Last but not least, thank all the other Microcampus Voyagers that have had made this experience so much more fun and allowed me to become friends with you guys even if we used to be on the opposite ends at SAS.
This journey has lasted for 28 days and now sadly it must draw to a close, it was the best and most interesting time of my life that I will ever remember. It helped propel my dream to become pursue a career within Humanities or Social Studies. The chance to learn and study in a new way has completely changed my thoughts and philosophies, it had transformed my life in a way that I never thought was possible. I will never forget this moment, this experience, this time, the stories that I have gained... Thank you to everyone who has been part of this process. I will never be the same again...