Nina C. (Alumni-H)'s Journal

Day 27 is the last day I will be spending (correction: have spent) in Xizhou. I spent most of the day packing and making sure that I leave Xizhou looking as it had looked when I first came. After all, we leave nothing but footsteps, and take nothing but pictures. The morning was dedicated to making sure my work was all sorted out. In the afternoon, I went to visit my Service Learning Partner one last time, and walked around Xizhou, saying my goodbyes to the locals. Afterwards, I packed all of my things and weighed my luggage. Now, as I sit on the terrace of the Linden Centre, it hit me.

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When I first heard of Microcampus, it was during last [school] year's elective time. Since we had some free time, one girl got up to the podium to speak about how great Microcampus was. I immediately thought, Wow. That sounds like an interesting opportunity for people other than me! At that time, I was really afraid of such experiences, as I had a tendency to worry too much about everything. Little did I know that my parents wanted me to sign up for Microcampus next year. So, my first reason for coming to Microcampus was because my parents wanted me to.

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Most of the day was spent in the Linden Centre working on our Service Learning projects. I went with Kelly after lunch to guarantee that our Service Learning Partner was coming to our presentation on Wednesday. When the time for dinner came, I wanted to try a new restaurant that was a [sort of] hot pot place. I interviewed the owner (Ms. Li) before, so I was well acquainted with her before I came.

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Today was a typical Microcampus day. Our final projects were due and will be uploaded to the website soon. I made my project about my journey and reflected on how I have developed as a person because of it. In the end, I concluded something that I discovered today. Everybody has a religion, and my religion is me! My group and I are also beginning to put together our Service Learning projects. Our Service Learning partner is Mr. Yan.

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Today was the day that we did our Week 3 Wellness Reflection, which included a new section: Returning Home. Reflecting on this made me think about how I will feel when I return home. I'm a bit nervous to return, but I am also looking forward to seeing my family again. But, instead of focusing on going home, I put the thought aside and tried to enjoy the rest of my time here.

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Who could have expected so many things to happen on a Saturday? Today, I met with my Service Learning partner to interview him for the first time. Then, I was nominated MVM (Most Valuable Microcamper). I am so honored! My Service Learning partner was extremely nice, as he showed us his sugar water painting techniques and talked to us for about 50 minutes. Later, in the evening, I had been invited over to Ms. Ma's place with Hugh to try some foods.

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Trying and failing is an inevitable part of life. If there is any person who gets what they want, every time they want it, they are either lying or they are extremely lucky. For my group, finding a Service Learning partner was a challenge. We were rejected by most, and had complications with others. Every time my group would be rejected, we would return disappointed. Despite the fact that things were not looking good, we woke up the next day and tried again.

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Many people think that Microcampus is a month long vacation to escape from work, responsibilities, and so on. If you think that way, you are facing the complete opposite direction you should be. Microcampus is an absolutely amazing experience, and as I spent my day working, I allowed myself to take a moment to realize it. When I stepped away from the work and the To Do List, I saw more than I have ever seen before. Microcampus is a step (or more) outside of your comfort zone. Microcampus reveals character. Microcampus teaches adaptability. Microcampus encourages independence.

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Today, all of the Microcampus students gathered at the conference room after lunch to get started on their Phase 4. Phase 4 is a part of each Inquiry Project that requires for the student to create an outline for their final project using the information they have gathered. I created an outline, and managed to finish in time.

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Today I went with Mr. Tafel to see Mrs. Ma and interview her. Mrs. Ma is a Muslim woman, who is the wife of an antique shop owner in Si Fang Jie. I interviewed her about her lifestyle and I asked about the procedures of life. Apparently, you can't convert from a Muslim to another religion, but you can convert from a religion to a Muslim. Although I had a bit of trouble asking questions, I managed to (partially) get my points across. Mrs. Ma is very nice and extremely open to questions. Also, she seems to be just as accepting and peaceful as Xizhou itself.

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Day 15 (more well known as Day 3 of the Hike), was probably the most challenging day of all. Many people know this feeling: you are almost there, but not there yet. So, those last couple of hours of hiking, running, school, or work, seem to take a lifetime. We began at around eleven o'clock in the morning, and arrived at our final destination (the bus that took us back to Xizhou) at around 6 pm. Throughout the whole hike, I made sure to stay positive and use Mr.

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Day 2 of the hike is the day that we reach the highest point of the hike (3,232 meters high). When we began to hike, I was assigned to the "lead pack". Before I took my first step, I decided to take yesterday's lesson. I was to tell myself that the trip would be easy, and stay positive all of the time. Surprisingly, not only did I not get tired, but I also enjoyed every moment of the 1 1/2 hour climb up to what Mr. Tafel calls 32-32. When we reached the summit, the view was absolutely amazing! It was so stunning, that I will remember that moment for as long as possible.

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Our three day hike has finally arrived. Because of bad weather, it was moved forward a day. So, here we are! Today, we climbed 900 meters up a mountain (Which one? I'm not sure...). The first half of the hike was steep and rocky. The roads were narrow and rugged, and the plants came so close, I swear that they were preparing to give us a nice "warm" hug. One would think that it would be quite challenging, but it was actually fairly easy. The real challenge was the second half of the hike.

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Today, we had room inspections after breakfast. Thankfully, the room, was kept clean and when Mr. Tafel checked it, we got a 5 star rating! Knock on wood! Next, I continued with my Pitching In work by meeting my potential Service Learning partner during lunch. She didn't let us film, but we kept the conversation going anyway. Later, I found out that she was already a service learning partner. So now, my group and I are contemplating on who to turn to next. Hmm....

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This afternoon, I went to the Mosque in Mei Ba Chun (a neighboring village), to ask questions about the prayers and practices of the Muslim religion. I interviewed Ma A Hong (the imam) about their practices after I watched them pray. At 2 o'clock sharp, a loud bell rang and the men all gathered in a line. They began praying and turned towards the opposite wall. At different times, the men would stand and then kneel, bowing their heads to the floor as a sign of respect towards Allah. They put their hands to their ears and begin to speak "holy words".

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Connections and learning experiences are an essential part of developing your character, knowledge, and maturity. Today provided an equal mixture of both that I believe impacted my Microcampus work and me. My first connections came from our trip to ShaPing, which is a market about 20 minutes away from Xizhou. Everywhere I walked, I would see stands selling items ranging from, clothing to giant white melons. This greatly reminded me of Serbia (a neighboring country to Macedonia and Bulgaria, not to be mistaken with Siberia, which is above Russia).

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Today is a Sunday. Since it is the weekend, we have no responsibilities or things to do. I went out to lunch with Brandon and Sasha. We had conversations that were casual and very entertaining. I am beginning to realize that it is not so hard to connect with people. We all have something in common. So, I look forward to connecting with other students in the future. Despite the fact that I find some things easier, I also find some things challenging.

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This afternoon, Mr. Tafel introduced us to the last 150 years of Chinese history in order to further understand the topics discussed in our Service Learning project. He explained the exchange of power that led to the largest economic growth in history as well as what we consider to be China, today. We began with the Qing Dynasty and progressed from there. Personally, I love history. It answers so many questions about the present and about what to predict.

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Yesterday I learned that every Friday, prayers at the mosque are extended and many men gather inside and take turns reciting from the Qaran. I watched as men took off their shoes, sat with their feet under their legs, and took our their copies of the Qaran. I noticed that all books are written in Arabic and the text is read from right to left, top to bottom. Above each line of text, there are markings that guide the reader how to read or "sing" the words. The process takes about two hours in total. This prayer time is an addition to the five mandatory daily prayers.

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Today I went with Ye Ling (one of our amazing chaperones) to visit temples as part of my Inquiry Project. We first went to visit a benzhu temple that worshipped the nine benzhus that prayed to the Water Dragon when Xizhou was experiencing a drought. A while ago, the temple had been torn down because the area was needed for other purposes, but was rebuilt in 2008.

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Unfortunaltely, today's half day trip is cancelled. If you are wondering where we were going to go, I will honestly say that I have no idea. So, today is just a normal day. The morning went by as usual with schoolwork and pitching in. For lunch, I went with John, William, and Sasha to Si Fang Jie for Er Si (rice noodles). They were delicious, but we got back a bit late.

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Today is the first time that Hailstorm experiences a typical Microcampus day. We followed our schedule, moving from SAS Essentials, to the Daily Meeting, to Pitching, and finally to lunch. Half of Hailstorm went to Si Fang Jie (the town center), and the other half (including me), stayed at the Linden Centre to eat.

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Today we finally got to (sort of) get into the "swing of things". I am learning my role in my committee (this committe is an assignment to take care of an aspect of the responsibilities at Microcampus. I am the Banker and the Daily Shout Out coordinator), understanding the schedule, as well as learning the expectations and certain deadlines. Today is a beautiful day, so I decided to go for a morning run. Erhai lake is amazing, especially when the sun is rising. Later today, I will be going bike riding and learning the Heart Rate Monitor process.

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Today is the day before tomorrow. What is tomorrow? Tomorrow is the day I go to Xizhou! I have my bags packed, my checklist finished, and have set up my alarm for 3 am. Today is a busy day, because I am watching a musical and my family is taking me out to dinner, so I have to hurry up if want to sleep! I am really nervous and excited at the same time, and I have no idea what to expect. I've heard millions of amazing things about Microcampus from previous trips, but I can't help but worry. What if its a lot of work? What if I get homesick? The list goes on.

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Today was the day that I got to settle in and to learn more about the Microcampus processes, as well as finding my way around the village. Everyone got together in the morning, and took a tour around Xizhou (with Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai leading the way). I found and labeled multiple areas of interest on a map such as Happy Silk Embroidery (an embroidery shop) and the morning market. We also exlpored the town center called, Si Fang Jie.

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Today, I gathered with the rest of the microcampus groups at Hongqiao Airport at 5 am. We said our goodbyes to our family and headed off for our new adventure. Today had been planned out to be a long day: three hours of flying (plus a slight delay), and a seven hour bus ride. Throughout this "travel time", Mr. Tafel explained Microcampus, the expectations, rules, and a typical Microcampus day. Once we arrived at the Linden Centre, we were introduced to the Linden family and to the area in general.

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I am 13 years old and a member of a family of five, yet the number of people living in my house is always seven (grandparents). I currently live in Shanghai, where I have stayed for the past 2 years. Before that, I spent my life in Pennsylvania. I love school, animals, anything that has to do with activity, the outside, and playing/fun. I am also a Model United Nations student. I have gone to seven conferences. Microcampus was an amazing experience! I loved researching religion and making connections with the locals! I miss Xizhou!