Our Service Learning partner is Yan Ze Min. He is a 74 year old retired farmer. We found our Service Learning partner through other local connections that introduced us to him. Mr. Yan was very kind and welcoming the first time we met him. During our interview, I learned a lot about him. Mr. Yan had a very unique hobby when he was younger. In his free time, he would make sugar paintings and sell them to young children. I also learned that Mr. Yan, as a parent, has the same views as every other parent. He only wants his children to be successful and happy. Finally, I learned that Mr. Yan has two sons and three grandchildren. They both live in XiaGuan and one of them learned how to do the sugar paintings as well.
I learned that Xizhou changed a lot over these past few decades. Some things stayed the same, such as the food (except the baba did not have meat back then) and the economic state of the area. He talked about Reform and Opening, stating that it was a good thing to do. Also, he talked about how things were becoming more modern. He talked about technology and how he can use some devices, and cannot use others (due to various reasons). We also talked about the increasing pressure that some children feel because parents expect too much. Mr. Yan replied that it is good to expect things from your children, but they should also focus on family orientation and success.
20th Century Chinese history is a sensitive topic for many people, including Mr. Yan. Before we began the interview, we told Mr. Yan that he was not required to say anything, and that whatever he was not willing to share, he did not have to. So, we did not speak of 20th Century Chinese history except for the goodness Reform and Opening. He supports Reform and Opening, Socialism, and Communism.
Finally, I have a few suggestions for future Microcampus students:
1. Make connections from the very beginning of the trip. Do not wave this advice away. Some people do not open up easily, and in order to find a Service Learning Partner, you have to have a great connection with them before you film and create a video. Just sit next to a person and start talking to them. Ask if they have eaten, or how they feel today. Just start a conversation and keep visiting those same people while making more connections.
2. Be patient with your Service Learning partner. Sometimes, it is hard for people to speak about certain topics. Bad memories do not want to be remembered, so if you ask an uncomfortable question, make sure that your partner knows that they do not have to answer and act as if nothing happened.
3. Plan your questions before you go. Also, make sure to slowly work your way to the deeper questions. Jumping right in may seem like the impulsive thing to do, but stop yourself and walk in your partner's shoes. Ask yourself, How well do I know this person? How comfortable are they around me? What questions would they be willing to answer on the first, second, or third meeting?
4. Open up. If your partner sees that you are not willing to open up, neither will they.
If people follow these suggestions, their Service Learning Project will go much smoother than expected. It will also make it a lot easier for the partner who is being interviewed.