Updated 3 years 9 months ago
Our service learning partner was Mrs. Zhang. She is 59 years old and is the owner of an antique shop. Mrs. Zhang is from He Qing, but she moved to XiZhou 3 years ago. She was extremely open to us, and I learned a lot about the lives of children coming from rural families. External conditions are extremely hard on them, and many of them do not recieve proper education. Mrs. Zhang, the oldest child in her family, had to take care of her siblings because her father was sick. Because of this, she was not able to go to school. Her childhood experiences make me feel very lucky for having such a great family. The important thing, however, is that she is happy today as the mother of 3 caring daughters and the wife of Mr. Zhang.


Over the past years that she has been at XiZhou, she has seen many changes. The number of tourists visiting XiZhou has increased exponentially, which has allowed for Mrs. Zhang's business to flourish. She also mentioned economic development; her rent went from 4,000 rmb per year the first year to 15,000 the third year. 

Mrs. Zhang's grandpa was a landlord, so he was a victim of the Cultural Revolution. They shot him many times to punish him for having two wives, and Mrs. Zhang was telling us about how the Cultural Revolution affected their family. Families that lived in rural areas of China were divided into work groups and recieved work points for the food that they produced. This was a harsh time, Mrs. Zhang said. Ironically, she also praised Chairman Mao for his actions. This shows that a huge amount of the population was unaware of the fact that Chairman Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution in order to regain his political power. 


Sharing our Service Learning Video was definitely a different experience than all of the other things that we have done this trip. Watching the facial expressions of the other elders change as our story developed was quite fascinating. Even though we could not see our video, we could hear the words that were being said. Sadly, our Service Learning partner had an emergency where she had to go back to He Qing to help her family with farming. Mr. Zhang and their second daughter came instead, and I was especially glad that they were able to attend our celebration. Their second daughter had tears near her eyes at the end of our video, and she hugged us to express her gratitude. Our story may have brought back childhood memories, and I hope that the Zhang family enjoyed our small video clip as a token of appreciation for their kindness and patience. I was a little bit worried about the technical aspects of our video at the start, since we had struggled with technical difficulties early on in the morning. What I had to do to address this worry was to sit straight, relax, and remember that I was part of the performance. This helped me maintain confidence throughout the process, and enjoy my time together with the local elders, the Linden family, the Linden Staff, and other guests. 

What I would definitely recommend to future Microcampus students is to make connections as early as possible. Have as many connections as you can because many of your options might not end up working. They may have been a service learning partner before, or they may end up backing away from the final part of the process, where we invite them to our sharing of the Service Learning videos. It is also important to collect contact numbers as soon as you think you have found a potential service learning partner. That way, you will be able to contact them if you cannot find them in person. Finally, always prepare beforehand. Be sure to confirm with your potential service learning partners whether or not they have time to come watch your final videos. Always visit them a few times before you make your final confirmation with Mr. T. Some elders might seem welcoming at first, but as soon as you are explicit with the whole committment process, they may feel uncomfortable working with you. 

About This Learner

My name is Alexis Y., and I am 13 years old. I was born in Paris, France, and returned to China with my parents when I turned 6. My favorite sport is basketball, and I found a passion for debate since 6th grade when I joined MUN. Our Phenomena group has left XiZhou and is back in Shanghai. The Microcampus Experience has helped me explore "me" and find out more about the history of XiZhou and its people. Over the course of this trip, I have become friends with 40, 50, and 60 year-old adults. I have made bonds with the rest of my peers, some of which I had not even talked to before. I have grown so much in just one month, and I am sure that the good habits that I have adopted on this trip will stay with me forever.