Our Service Learning partner is Ms. Yang; she is 67 years old and owns a stand of embroidered crafts near Baochengfu. From this opportunity, I have discovered so much from her past stories and the lessons that she had learned from hardships. I have learned the difficult times that she had to endure, especially during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, and so many new ideas and values that were instilled inside of her from those experiences. In the meantime, I have also discovered so much about Xizhou's history, such as what living here was like back in the 1960's as opposed to now. Since Ms. Yang was born and raised in Xizhou, she touched upon many of the events and how it had impacted the village as well as her life. Last but definitely not least, I have gained such a deeper understanding of Chinese history in the 20th Century, as well as the conditions and situations it was in as the century progressed. Before, I had vaguely known the Cultural Revolution and the impacts it brought upon the entire country, but nothing else. Now, I know the chain of events that had befallen China in the midst of the 20th Century and am glad I have learned so much from this Service Learning project.
One of the most important aspects of our final showcase is that we, as a group, have to sit in the front and face the audience as we watch them watch our final film. The experience was definitely unlike anything that we had done back in Shanghai, as in school, we would just sit among the audience and squirm as the product plays. I think that we should do this more often—it conveys that it is not about ourselves anymore, but rather it is about the audience, whom we are gifting our product to. As normal middle school kids, we would assume that everything is about us, especially when we are the creators of this product, but the purpose of this film is to be gifted to the people that made this possible. Therefore, this moment is about them and not us. I think that watching them while they watch our final product represents perfectly how a gift should be given. When one gives something to another, one does not just stand there to giggle and squirm as the receiver unwraps the gift. One should watch the receiver's expression as they unwrap the gift, as this moment is no longer about the giver but the receiver.
When I watched my Service Learning partner, Ms. Yang, watch the film, she reacted quite positively, which is the most I could expect. If I had not been sitting in the front of the room, I would most definitely be squirming and acting like an eighth grader, but from this, I, along with the rest of us, learned that not everything is about us. We could never have learned this back in Shanghai, and it adds to the list of lessons and values I have learned in Microcampus that I could not have ever had if I stayed home.
The most important piece of advice that I would give future Microcampus students engaging in Service Learning projects is to stay atop of your work. Always have backup plans A to L—all the way to Z, even—because if your Plan A does not work, you still have a multitude of other options to go with. Our group had gotten off to a relatively rocky start, as Ms. Yang was at times not available, but we were lucky enough to still have the opportunity to have her as a Service Learning partner. Though we had some other poorly-established plans, we still did not to transfer to Plan B, or C, or D. The most important lesson that I learned from this project was to always be prepared for whatever happens. The next piece of advice is to start early. One does not want to arrive at the scene and find that one's potential Service Learning partner is out of town for the next few weeks, which ties in with the third piece of advice, which is to plan ahead. Always make sure that you have concrete, thoroughly-planned options to roll with if your first plan does not go the way you had expected it to. Follow these three recommendations, then Service Learning would carry out smoothly and not initially commence hectically, like ours.