I have been chosen to be a part of Microcampus, a program that lets a group of sixteen students go to Xizhou for 28 days. We all come from Shanghai American School so the contrast between Shanghai and Xizhou is enormous, which is part of a reason why the Microcampus program exists. Each of us chose topics to investigate throughout our time in Xizhou, and we all worked really hard to get information from people in the village about our topics, as well as building connections with them. The topic that I decided to investigate during my time here is farming.
I decided to choose farming as my inquiry project topic because my family comes from a farming background, and I am the only one who hasn't really farmed in my life so far. I've always been interested in farming so this was a really good chance for me to gain some knowledge and experience in farming. I also wanted a new perspective of farming and food in general because, in Shanghai, my knowledge of food comes from supermarket aisles and take-out apps. I wanted to get a new perspective of how food is grown and learn about the farmers who do it.
The sources that I found were most people living in Shen Jiang Cun. Shen Jiang Cun is a village near Xizhou with a lot of family-owned farms around the area. I found a lot of people to talk to and learned a lot about their lives and stories. Everyone that lives in Shen Jiang Cun has a surname of Li, so it got confusing sometimes. I really appreciate everyone that I talked to because they all gave me very valuable information during our conversations, and many of them let me work alongside them in their farmlands. I chose to talk to people in Shen Jiang Cun because I wanted to after arriving in Xizhou, I decided to focus much of my learning in the daily lives of the farmers living there. Many of the people that live there are really nice people, so I kept going back to meet different people and getting more information and stories. They were all very open towards me about their stories and opinions, and I value the time I spent there.
During the preparation stage of this process, I was focusing on a very broad range of questions regarding farming such as the tools, process, financials, etc. After arriving in Xizhou and doing my 3-to-5's with the teacher support, I decided to shift most of my learning to the stories and lives of farmers instead. I think that learning about stories and lives of farmers is more special than learning about other facts and aspects of farming because those are things that could be easily found through more online research.
Towards the end of my field research, I have come up with a thesis statement that I believe will encompass all of the learning I have done. My thesis is as follows: In order to determine whether or not I could survive as a farmer in Xizhou, I would need to consider the lifestyle, financials, and government policies.
Sharing My Learning
If you are interested in looking at my Final Product, click here or watch the video above.
This Inquiry Project experience taught me so much about Xizhou, people, and even myself. I got a new perspective of life that I always recognized but never cared enough to look into. I took away so many lessons and information from this project, as well as connections that I will value for a long time. This opportunity to learn impacted me in ways too many to count.
My topic never really changed during my Microcampus journey, although I did try to narrow my research and learning into one specific lens. I figured that instead of looking at such a broad topic, I could focus my investigations into one part of the overall topic of farming. I ended up choosing to look into the lifestyles of farmers because I thought that it would be the most interesting to learn about because it would require a lot of experience and conversations to truly understand.
I think the most difficult part was building up the courage to go up to and have conversations with farmers during my field research. I'm usually pretty shy, and I have a hard time approaching people I don't know, so I was a little timid at first when talking to farmers. But as time went on, I began to build up more and more confidence in myself and I found myself talking to people without any hint of hesitation.
I think this trip was filled with a-ha moments on a daily basis because every day was a chance to learn something new that you didn't know before. I think the biggest a-ha moment I had during Microcampus was when farmers allowed me to work with them in their land. I think this impacted me a lot because it's something I've never tried to do before and it opened up a whole new perspective in my mind.
This project helped me to understand my project in many different ways. Farming would not exist without the farmers that do it every day. This project really helped me to understand a lifestyle that is different compared to how I live every day. Even though I knew what farming was, I never really acknowledged the farmers that do it as a living. After this project, it really opened my eyes to an aspect of farming that I never really understood until now.
This project allowed me to communicate and interact with so many different people. I made a lot of connections that I value in Shen Jiang Cun, where I met a lot of really nice farmers that were very open to me and my questions. I really appreciate everything they did for me because, without them, my project would not have been able to come together. In order to get the experience and knowledge I needed, I had to find people to talk to, and I'm so glad that farmers were open to me and open to conversations.
This project taught me a lot more about myself than I expected it would. because of the lifestyles as a farmer in Xizhou and an average worker in Shanghai, it gave me two polar opposite perspectives on life. It taught me that I am very fortunate to be in a place that I am in now, because of the opportunities that I am offered such as Microcampus. many farmers told me that I should be very thankful for everything I have, and to take advantage of every opportunity I get to make the most of it.
I think the inquiry process taught me that learning does not just involve sitting in a classroom reading articles on your laptop. just by being out in a community and talking to people can open up a lot of opportunities to learn as well. I think that is one of the biggest takeaways that I got from this project.
If I could go back to the beginning of this project, I would tell myself to not be afraid of making connections and initiating conversations with people. Asking people to talk is not going to hurt anyone, and there is no need to feel shy. I really regret not making the most of inquiry time the first few days of research because of my hesitation, and I won't make that mistake again.
I think this topic is a very interesting and also fun topic for future Microcampus students to investigate. If someone were to continue on the work I've done, I think one new direction they could take would be to have conversations with farmers about the future of the farming industry in Xizhou. Because of the sudden spike in tourism in Xizhou, farming has started to slowly decrease due to the younger generation going to pursue other jobs. I think that getting farmer's opinions on the future of farming would be really cool and would be an interesting topic to research.
First of all, I would like to give my sincere thanks to Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai for taking me on this journey and making sure we all made the most of our time. Also, I would like to thank all the teacher support that guided me through this process and helped me find helpful resources. Thank you all of the Linden Centre Staff, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Linden for providing us with a space to learn and grow. Finally, thanks to everyone that I talked to in the village, and for allowing to make valuable connections that I will never forget.
Being a member of the 23rd Microcampus group is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I'm so grateful that I was fortunate enough to be chosen for this amazing experience, and I am so glad I decided to take part in it. This trip truly has impacted me and has changed my life for the better.