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Service learning is an important part of Microcampus, and arguably the most challenging as well. The final project, created after interaction and conversations with a partner, consists of a short film or video from interviews, a short biography, and some reflecting on what we did. My group consists of Henry, Vivian, and Grace. Our Partner for Service Learning was Mr. Bing Xiong Yang, a retired teacher and Islamic group leader.
From this learning experience, I learned that Mr. Yang has been a teacher at Kunming for thirty or so years, from 1959-1990. There he taught mostly mathematics and a little bit of language. Since youth, he was taught to follow Islamic beliefs, and still continues to wake at five in order to participate in the morning activities of the local mosque. When he was younger, his dream was to become an educator, and he was the first to leave his family courtyard in order to work after the Liberation. I also learned a bit about Xizhou's history from him. For example, he said that, only due to heavy tourism and development in Xizhou, taller buildings were being constructed. He is very proud of the education in Xizhou, and says that Xizhou is a place where all the families encourage their children to study well. Through the interviews, I also learned a bit about Chinese history. China's development these few years have been great, and the value of education has gone up by much. Mr. Yang is proud to say that many students from Xizhou and China in general can get offers for elite schools overseas. China's 20th Century changes are too many, and mostly positive, he says.
On the last days of Microcampus, the groups displayed their final projects. We invited our service learning partner, and he came on time with his nephew, Mr. Yang the antique dealer at Sifangjie. After a rush of trying to finish up final details and exporting videos, we quickly set off to get Mr. Yang after inviting him the day before. Then entire way back was nerve-racking with myself trying to hold a conversation with my broken Chinese. However, we made it to the Linden Center after a short history lesson from Mr. Yang, and guided him to the upstairs TV room. After brief introductions, it was finally time for the videos to begin.
The first few groups flew by quickly, all far better than our own. Thoughts rushed through my head. What if he didn't like it? What if there's an embarrassing Chinese translation error? Is my American-Chinese accent too heavy? It seemed as if everything that could possibly go wrong would go wrong. Suddenly, the final video, our video, started. For a moment, I was calm-- unafraid and unaware of anything except for the pride in our work. Then, past the intro, I began to fret. Every so often, I would glance at Mr. Yang behind us and then to our partner. It was a tense moment, but he gradually began to smile after the first few minutes. Occasionally, the audience would laugh at an answer, which made us feel amazing inside. When the video ended, we were all exhilarated as the feeling of deadline-stress was lifted off us. I think that we worked hard, and it was absolutely breathtaking to be complete and ready for further presentations.
For next Microcampus students, my suggestion is to make as many connections as you can. While finding a partner, you may encounter problems such as unwillingness to be filmed, lack of time to film, or a heavy communication barrier. The best thing to do is to have many other possible candidates in mind before dedicating everything to that partner. Next, make sure that you have a well-off connection with the person before you begin to ask sensitive questions such as ones about Chinese history. It would be more comfortable for them to answer if they know you better. Remember to develop good relationships, and always check in on them even if they don't end up as your Service Learning partner. They are human as well, and neglect isn't a good feeling to leave them with. Remember that you are representing our school here. Finally, do not pile up all your work at the end. It's best to finish all filming before the last weekend just incase a surprise glitch happens. Save and export (not in highest quality) often so you always have a back-up. Check through translations many times, and identical fonts make the overall video seem a lot more professional and clean. Organize, stay responsible, and remember to keep interacting with the elders.