Shirley X. (Alumni-V)'s Journal

Microcampus has taught me so many valuable lessons and I feel as though it has shaped me into a better person as well.

Everyone on the trip has contributed some part into the end result of these 28 days and I absolutely cannot believe how fast everything has gone by. It feels as though it was just yesterday when we were given a tour of the Xizhou village and were only just introduced to each other at the Hongqiao Airport.  

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Why I came to Microcampus.

Why did I come to Microcampus? 

I had no specific reason for coming other than that I enjoy new opportunities and chances. I remember seeing a few eighth graders in my class disappear for a while and come back presenting these monotonous slideshows. Listening to presentations from 8th graders about this experience, Microcampus, had never actually interested me. Only once reaching grade 8 and listening to Mr. Tafel present about the month long learning program in front of the entire grade that then, I was interested. 

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Sharing the video with Grandma Yang was definitely quite nerve-wracking. I did not know how she would react to the project, if she would regret her choice, or be pleased with the end result. We led Grandma Yang into Classroom 1 and prepared for our video to be shared. She seemed to have friends that she knew and felt fairly comfortable in Yangzhuoran. Later on, while we were sharing the final video, I was intently watching and observing for her expression. She seemed to be quite pleased and was smiling throughout the video.

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Early in the morning, we were re-introduced to a Microcampus Alumni, Barton C, from the Superior group. We eventually started talking to him, and at one point, he even pulled out his iPhone, something we had not seen in at least 20 days. That does not seem like a very long time, but it felt like a long time. We saw the glossy clean screen of the iPhone and were all in awe when he transitioned his screen to WeChat. A few of my peers were even allowed to touch and feel the smooth screen.

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Now, being Day 23, the workload was really starting to pile up I found that work was takingloneger and longer to finis up work. In order to be able to fix this, I thought that maybe I should wake up at 6 AM. Which I did. I ended up walking in the dark to find my computer which I evetually saw on the dark table of Classroom 1. I brought it back to the TV room and got comfortable to start a work session of around 3 hours. 

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Now being Day 22, the work is really starting to pile up, so when given free time, Sonia Z and I went out to Sifangjie to do some shopping. We left the stress and pressure of our computer screens and head out for the bustling area outside the door.

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Now having been at Microcampus for 21 days, the work is finally starting to pile up a bit. As of now, we've just finished our Phase 4 work and is starting on our Final Product. It's absolutely unbelievable how quickly the time has gone by and how much is left. I don't know, I might be starting to miss this place a little already.

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Although today is Day 20 of Microcampus, Day 19 was too good to not write about. All sixteen of us were allowed to take a bus to Dali Old Town for an opportunity to explore the area for two hours.We split up into groups of four and in my group, was Anders L, Clark W, and Sonia Z. The four of us set off to find a restaurant called, Bad Monkey. Bad Monkey was described as a heavy metal restaurant/ bar, and the people there were described to us by Mr. T as people with piercings, tattoos, who drank beer. We were determined to find that place.

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Monday, Day 17: the start of our third week at Microcampus. I just came back from my Inquiry Project work and almost completely forgot about my Wellness activity until I saw Anders L. and Brandt L. getting ready to leave for wellness. I asked if I could join, and thankfully, they said yes. I quickly put on my heart rate monitor and we set out the door, for yoga that is.

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Monday, Day 17: the start of our third week at Microcampus. I just came back from my Inquiry Project work and almost completely forgot about my Wellness activity until I saw Anders L and Brandt L getting ready to leave for wellness. I asked if I could join, and thankfully, they said yes. I quickly put on my heart rate monitor and we set out the door, for yoga that is. They said they had planned to do set up the yoga mats in the middle of the street, which I guess was... exciting?

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Today marks the end of the first half of Microcampus. 

The day before arriving, I was extremely nervous and had even started to regret my choice a bit. However, now having arrived, I can't imagine what my life would have been like without this experience. Everyday presents itself with a new set of challenges to face and encourages new opportunities and passion to explore each and every moment. This can be very tiring and weary, so luckily, today was my day to rest. 

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After arriving back to Yangzhuoran, we rested up and went back to our regular routines. One of the best moments of my day was definitely was when I went to visit our Service Learning Partner with a few of my group-mates. Once we arrived near the brightly decorated wall, we said hello to our other group member and the daughter of our Service Learning Partner. We talked with them for maybe an hour or so and at one point, learned to do tie-dye, well, the tying part at least.

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We left at noon to our 5-8 hour hike. After arriving there, we propped our hiking bags onto our shoulders and backs, and set off on the hike. I was put into the front of the pack and slowly hiked our way up to 2600 meters above sea level. This took around 2 and a half hours of tiredly hiking up. The end result was a beautiful view of old-town Dali. We later walked across the flat Jade Path which was, I'm pretty sure, around 10 kilometers.

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For lunch, I ate out with a few of my group-mates. We went to a small restaurant in Sifangjie where the table cloth was replaced with blue tie-dye pieces. There, I ended up ordering a bowl of noodles, as I was eating it, I realized that I had wanted to "spice it up a bit". That, bit, was was a complete mistake. The more I added spice, the more it seemed like a good idea, and it just didn't seem like a lot.

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This Friday, is our camping trip, so in order to prepare for this, we had to practice setting up a tent. Watching our teachers set up their tent definitely seemed like a simple enough task, but once we actually started to set them up, it was, without a doubt a much more difficult task than any of us-- well, I had thought. The most simple mistake would often lead to confusion within our partners and we ended up having to retrace our steps back to where we messed up. This was painfully apparent while we were putting our tent back into the bag.

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After being here, for eleven days, today was, well, the first "normal day". We had breakfast, shared a few laughs and were off for the day. The majority of the day was fairly uneventful. However, I did go to a tea/tie-dye shop with my teacher support person. That shop was run by two women who specialize in either tea or tie-dye, we eneded up talking with the woman who specializes in tea.

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After two days of thunder, rain, and cloudy days, it was finally a day where we could see the blue hue of the sky. Later on in the day, I was "turned into an American Girl Doll", as quoted by Taylor S. I was just minding my own business, working on my Wellness Plan. When I was asked by Taylor if I was willing to let her braid my hair, which I was very hesitant about, and obviously, said no. However, she insisted and eventually, I gave in. The practice of, well, braiding hair, was never something that I indulged in, nor did I care to (mostly because I couldn't braid hair).

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Today was the day when we finally start our service learning project. We split into partners from our group of four, and I was paired with Ethan Z; we were to walk to SiFangJie and connect withpeople and elders around the area. During this hour long experience, we met and talked with several people. A few of the conversations were quite awkward and short-lived though. My favorite conversations were probably with some of the Baba makers, who actually made Baba for 30 years. Another fairly interesting converstation was with a woman who makes tie-dye and started from the young age of 12.

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Today was the day. The day where we leave the bubble of Yangzhuoran. We had two choices; one being ZhouCheng, a place where tie-dye is famed all around town, to both the locals and tourists. The second being, a wind farm, in which we learn about the science of wind-powered energy and will be provided with the opportunity to stand under a wind turbine. However, before this trip, I will be visiting a silversmith named, Mr. Zhao. As of now, I am waiting to leave for the silversmith business, and will provide an update later on of the trip and of the silversmith.

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The second day of field research was today. Nervous as I was, it was still exciting to go. After practicing my ten questions non-stop before 3:00, I left with my teacher support person to the Cheese Factory down the road. Having arrived there, we walked down a pretty narrow pathway and saw a large variety of products that ranged from tie-dye, small knitted shoes, trinkets and much, much more. After walking into a courtyard that was further down the path, I was greeted by a group of people excitedly talking about the colorful clothing that hung around the yard.

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Today we ended up following a regular daily routine in Microcampus. Food was amazing as always, but above all, it was definitely the Wellness Time. During Wellness, Sarah R, Josie C, as well as Sunny Q and I decided to ride down to lake ErHai again. Except this time, we took a different route down, and once we arrived, we took some pictures by the lake (and even some action poses). After resting and taking some pictures, we rode to a different part of Lake ErHai, passing by a village and saying hello to the community, also while taking some more pictures along the way.

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Day 3, the actual start of Microcampus: SAS Essentials and the introduction to all of the basic rules at Microcampus. The bike ride we took at about three PM really reminded me that I am not so great at biking. This, however, was made of for tenfold in the scenery and history we cycled by. We cycled down to lake ErHai in which we spent about ten minutes having some Still Time. Starring out to the glistening lake and just listening to the sounds of birds and bugs was relatively peaceful and helped put my mind to ease for a while.

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Early in the morning, one of my roommates and I woke up planning to be able to practice with their instrument. Turns out, the room was locked, so we just sat there waiting for the sun to rise; we starred at the stars and watched the sunrise as the sky change from navy to light blue. One of the highlights of my day would probably have been the trip into the village. We went into the rice making workshop and was able to witness the process of making what many of us eat, rice. During our free time in the village, we were allowed to explore and wander for five to ten minutes in small groups.

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Hi, I'm Shirley X. and I was part of the 2018 Voyagers Group. I am from the United States but moved here to Shanghai in the sixth grade. After returning from Microcampus, I feel as though the experience has shaped and changed me in so many different aspects. The month long journey has helped me grow and I have learned so many lessons from the locals, the teachers, as well as my peers and hope to be able to return to the sensational town and community of Xizhou one day. After this, I will continue to apply everything I have learned to my life and onwards.