Kristen F. (Alumni-J)'s Journal

For my last journal post, it will be about why I came to Microcampus. 

In the beginning, Microcampus was what I thought would be a fun learning experience. However, I did not realize that it is much more than just fun. Microcampus is about engaging in and understanding a whole community of people, and, through that process, learning both about yourself as well as Xizhou. 

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This is our last full day here at Xizhou. Everyone is pretty sad that we have to say goodbye to everyone because, throughout these four weeks, I have made so many wonderful connections and experiences. 

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For evening activity tonight, it was Girls Night Out, Boys Night In. 

The girls met at the courtyard at 7:15 to get together before heading out. We first went to a small convenience store to stock up on snacks for the rest of the night. Since I already had a chocolate bar, I decided to just buy a drink. The night time in Xizhou was quite different than the one I'm used to back in Shanghai. Most stores were already closed when we were walking by, although there were some old ladies who were dancing in the middle of the playground. 

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Today, the Jailbreak group finally finished their inquiry projects. After months of preparation and work, the videos and powerpoints are done and ready to be shared. Along with the end of inquiry project, service learning filming finished by noon. This is so that we have enough time to edit it today and tomorrow, where it is due by 10 AM. 

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Like before, this day was dedicated to finishing up Inquiry Projects since the due date is Monday. 

In the morning, I woke up earlier than usual on weekends with Kristen L. and Cynthia, so that we could squeeze in a bit more work time. We had a hearty breakfast before heading upstairs, our minds already switched to work mode. Our main focus was the inquiry project as it's already due tomorrow. 

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Here in Xizhou, it is much clearer as to where we get our water as well as major water sources. Back in Shanghai, most of us don’t realize where our hot shower water comes from or where the water from the sink comes from.

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For evening activity today, ten of us went out to Sifangjie to go on a horse cart ride. The cart was essentially made up of three benches, one in the front, middle, and back. The horse was harnessed in the front while the driver sat in the front, reining it. The middle and back were dedicated for the passengers to enjoy the ride. The seats were quite soft, and it is was surprisingly comfortable to sit on. However, the ride was a bit bumpy since the horse was riding up and down.

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The food in Xizhou is definitely a big plus to living here! The restaurants are quite different than the ones we are used to in Shanghai because here we don't have fancy malls with commerialized restaurants. Not only is it authentic, it is also really delicious to munch on.

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Xizhou is not only known for its friendly locals, its also famous for the wonderful weather. The weather here is definitely a drastic contrast from Shanghai, where the weather forecast is mostly gray skies all day every day. This is just one additional thing that adds on to the amazing experience I have had here in this village.

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This weekend, the Jailbreak group went on our three-day hike. On the first day, we climbed from 2000m to 2600m on CangShan Mountain. On the second day, we ascended another 600m to 3200m. The third day we descended down to 2000m back to Xizhou.

For my choice –sphere, I decided to observe the lithosphere. The hike was a great opportunity for me to observe the mountains close up. As stated before in my previous journal, the CangShan Mountains formed when two tectonic plates, the Indian and Eurasian, collided.

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The last day of our hike was bittersweet. On one hand, I was excited to get back to Yangzhouran, but I would still miss the challenge of the hike.

We packed up the tents and were on the road by 7:30. The hike down was not as tough as uphill, but it was nice to savor the last few steps before we returned to flat ground. As I was walking down, there was one cluster of pine trees that were standing right in the golden sunlight. The leaves reflected back the color, making it look like a forest of gold. This was just one of the many amazing views I got to experience on this trip. 

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We woke up bright and early for the second day of our three-day hike. Today's climb is supposed to be more difficult than the first day's, which was why we ate a big breakfast of noodles to help prepare for the 600m climb up. Preparing was easier than yesterday because we only needed to pack our day bag. We were ready to hike by 8:30 AM, and took the stairs straight up. 

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We have finally embarked on our big three day hike! After eating a hearty breakfast, we headed out to the bus. Twenty minutes passed by extremely fast, and before I knew it, we were at the base of the mountain. 

The first hour was definitely the hardest. I wasn't used to the weight of my bulky hiking backpack yet, so the straps rested uncomfortably. To add to the discomfort, the hill gradually grew steeper, so I was sweating quite a lot. However, I got a nice view at the Three Pagodas, whose golden tips glistened in the intense sunlight. 

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The day before the big hike everyone is buzzing with excitement. The three day hike is one of the huge events that happen on Microcampus, and requires a lot of preparation on our part to make sure we have the best experience. 

On the first day, we will be hiking up to 2600m from 2000m. Apparently, the route will be quite hard, so it's apparent to make sure that our hiking backpacks are comfortable on our shoulders. During the night, we will be staying at ZhongHeSi, a temple located on the mountain. 

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When we first signed up for Microcampus, I'm sure all fourteen of us had no idea the amount of freedom and responsibility that comes with it. In Shanghai, Microcampus seemed to be just a fun month-long trip to a small village in Xizhou. However, now that we are finally here, all of us have had a harsh reality check. The old habits we had back home might not help us here. We're used to having our messes magically disappear, our laundry miraculously done, and having other people have to bear our own consequences. As we have all come to realize, this won't help us here in Xizhou. 

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With the trip almost halfway done, it's necessary that I reflect on the people here at Xizhou. 

Here at Xizhou, everywhere you go, there are so many connections you could make. As you walk down the street, streetkeepers will wave and say 'Hello' to you in Mandarin. There are so many intersting people here, which means endless possibilities. Sifnagjie is one of the main hangouts here with various delicious restaurants and food stalls with delicious aromas wafting out in each and every way. 

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With our first weekend behind of us, we all settled down into the normal routine again. Our second week will be much more important as we are no longer in orientation, and must pilot the 'plane' by ourselves. As I venture into new territory this week, it's a bit daunting to all of a sudden have everything depend on you, but at the same time I'm sure this responsibility will teach me a lot of new things. 

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Sunday is a day for relaxing before another busy week at Microcampus. Most of the day is dedicated for down time or pitching in, so this journal post will be about the events of last night, camping out at the Tongue of the Lake. 

To get to the camp site, we had to ride our bikes around ten minutes there. Not only did we have to carry our heavy enormous hiking backpacks, we also needed to strap on our tents. This all made for an interesting and slightly dangerous ride. However, we all managed to get there in one piece, something that I'm sure all of us were proud of. 

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Saturday marks our first weekend here at Xizhou. We were lucky enough to have a few more hours of sleep today, which made a lot of us happy. The start of our service learning project was also another exciting journey that started. However, Mr. T explained to us that in order to understand what our service learning partner is saying, we first need to learn about the history behind the events mentioned. 

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Today, I decided to try to make more connections with the locals. 

While out for lunch with two other students, I greeted people we passed by. Xizhou was as beautiful as ever, and I observed how cheerful all the locals were. They were all making small talk with each other, their body gestures open and welcoming. We decided to try the Golden Flower Restaurant as one of our friends recommended it. One of the shop workers seated us at our table, and we quickly ordered some fried rice and eggplant. 

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Day 5 was just another normal day here in Xizhou. 

For wellness, three students and I decided to bike to the basketball court in a nearby village for Wellness. The bike ride took around ten minutes, and I still wasn't that confident on it. However, the only way to get good at something is to practice, practice, practice. The sky was a deep blue, like always, and fluffy white clouds floated across. The town was buzzing as we rode past it although we didn't enjoy it that much because we were busy trying to get time in zone. 

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Starting today, we were officially on our own. The chaperones took a huge step back, and trusted us to complete all the tasks we were supposed to do. It felt nice to have the freedom, but a little daunting because it comes with a lot of responsibility. 

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Waking up, we were all gearing to get ready for another day of exploring. However, before we started going crazy, we had a delicious breakfast supplied the kitchen staff. We were then introducted to another new task: SAS Essentials. For today, we were required to do Math. The Geometry students and I reviewed for our upcoming assessment this Friday. Our first daily meeting was next, and I was assigned as minute taker. After eating lunch, we divided into two groups: one to a biking ride and the other to learn about HRMs and start their 3-to-5s. 

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Our first full day of Xizhou started with a new food dish for all of us. We each ate a bowl of rice noodles called ersi topped with freshly cooked vegetables, and had the choice of whether or not to make it spicy. I decided on the spicy option, and was not disappointed. The noodles were chewy and soft, making it really enjoyable to eat. After the filling breakfast, we started our first complete day at Xizhou. 

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Today, all sixteen of us (including Mr. T and Ms. Mai) arrived at Pudong aiport, tired and sleepy-eyed, ready to start our Microcampus journey. We first traveled on airplane for around three hours before heading onto a bus for another six long hours. Besides a few lectures from Mr. T, all of us enjoyed the wonderful scenery outside our windows. The time past pretty fast, with the occasional restroom stop, as we all anticipated our arrival. 

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Today, I officially started working on the pre-Microcampus assignments. Although Microcampus is still about a month away, I'm already anticipating the start of the trip. The October group, Ignite, came back last week, and they all seemed to really enjoy the whole experience. Judging from the inquiry projects that they presented when they came back, I can tell they really did some in-depth research and learning about their topics during their time there. One thing I'm excited to do in Xizhou is interact with the locals and interview them about my inquiry project.

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Hi! My name is Kristen and I'm currently 13 years old. I'm in the 8th grade at SAS Pudong. I was born in Palo Alto, California, but moved to Shanghai the summer before 4th grade. I've been living in Shanghai for more than four years already. Since elementary school, I've been learning Chinese, although I don't consider myself fluent. Also, I have an older sister who is in 12th grade. My interests include reading novels, such as the Harry Potter series, writing short stories, and traveling to new places. Xizhou was such an amazing experience, and I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to embrace all that it had to offer.