Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection
Most people do not seem to go out of their own comfort zone frequently, and that is mainly because we feel intimidated. However, another impacting factor is because we do not get numerous opportunities to be able to try new things. As one of the 10 students who were chosen to be part of the Microcampus experience, I am lucky enough to be given the opportunity to go outside of the "bubble" of Shanghai. However, with a great opportunity comes great responsibility, and like all other students, I need to plan out my inquiry project for the 28 days in which I will be staying in Xizhou. The inquiry project seemed quite grueling to me at first, and initially, I had no idea what project I would like to research.
Some of my priorities that I had in mind while searching for topics included how unique the topic was, probability for success, how interested/motivated I was at learning this topic, and availability of resources. These priorities allowed me to find many topics that seemed fitting for me, but it was not an easy task. Below are some possible choices that I considered:
- Propaganda Posters: We learned about propaganda posters in social studies, and we had to create our own as a project. In the end, I dropped this topic because I realized it did not interest me as much since I already know some information on this topic.
- Religion of Xizhou: Religion is diverse, and I had always taken a special interest in Chinese minority religions. However, after taking a look at works of other students, I realized many people have researched the religion of Xizhou, and this would not leave much space for me to investigate.
- Migration: The migration unit in 7th grade allowed me to take a look at how migration affects China, and I wanted to learn how it specifically impacted the people in Xizhou. Although this was interesting to me, this was a topic that could be easily studied in any other part of China, which would not make it unique to Xizhou.
- Great Leap Forward: How did this affect the people in Xizhou? However, this could be asked in any village, which was why I did not choose to study this topic further.
- Local Cuisine/Food: I want to study more on how the food in Xizhou is different from regular Chinese food, and also how agriculture impacts the food. This topic was popular for many previous students, which did not leave me a lot of space to investigate.
- Tea Ceremonies: The tea ceremonies in Xizhou are famous around China, and I would really like to learn more about that. But like local cuisine, this topic was studied many times, and it did not leave that much space for further research as all the information is out there already.
In the end, I chose the topic of studying the Bai language, or 民家话. One thing to keep in mind is that the Bai language goes by different names for different people in the village. Generally speaking, the elders of the village think of the Bai language as 民家话, while the younger locals refer to it as 白族话. This topic is important to me because languages have always fascinated me, and I want to delve deeper into my curiosities and find out more about the Bai language. I would like to study how to locals are able to keep their language from disappearing, as well as connections of the language to Mandarin. My main question was, "How does a person go about studying a language?". This was something I had worked on answering prior to the trip, and below are some questions I will be asking at the village:
- How does the Bai language tie in with Mandarin?
- Over the years, has the Bai language had any changes?
- Has migration affected the number of people who speak the Bai language?
- Do locals speak the Bai language?
- Do local schools teach the Bai language to students?
In order to have authentic and factual information, I may need to visit some experts on the language, along with going to some museums that have information on the history of the Bai minority. Overall, I believe choosing this topic will prove to be a success, and I look forward to learning more about the Bai language.
I realized that nobody has ever chosen to study language before, which is both exciting and challenging. This means nobody paved the road for me, and I will be studying a unique topic. I will also be completely on my own in terms of help from previous Microcampus students. I did, however, find some useful reflections that will help me with the process. One particularly useful reflection was YingTing N's Reflection. In her reflection, she showed that time management plays a crucial part in success, and that I should capture the opportunity to interview someone when I can. It also showed that preparation before arriving at Xizhou will be imperative. Overall, I believe I will be able to take the responsibility, and this will be a great topic.
In Phase 0, I introduced my cause and looked over possible topics, along with choosing my final topic: the Bai language, or 民家话. In Phase 1, I will be researching more about my chosen topic and finding more knowledge to ensure success for my days in Xizhou.