By definition, Microcampus is a trip where a group of sixteen 8th graders go live in Xizhou for a month to learn more about Chinese culture, their inquiry project of choice, and to grow as a person. By definition, an inquiry project is a task we were given when we signed up for Microcampus, wherein we were to research and learn more about a certain topic involving Xizhou that we chose so that we could expande our knowledge. When I was given a list of possible topics back in Shanghai, I was very overwhelmed. The word document was scareily long, but I finally managed to narrow it down to 2 topics. In the end, I finally decided on the visitors guide. This is because when I go on holiday, I am always aware of the little part of my subconcious that says' "What if you are missing out on something big?", so I wanted to create a tour guide to make sure nobody else had to go through that in Xizhou. Also, I hope that this tour guide will encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.
My main sources were locals who know Xizhou well. As well as them, I also asked around the town for tourist gathering places to find Western and Chinese tourists. When I found those tourists, most were happy to talk to me, so I asked them what they liked to do here in Xizhou. Lastly, I asked people in the Linden Centre. Since they work in the tourist industry, they all knew sufficient information about my topic, espacially Mr. Linden. I had many ways of finding these useful resources. The first and foremost resource was Mr. Tafel, Mrs. Mai, and Yeling. During my 3-5s, they told me all sorts of different people in different lines of work who would know about my topic. My secondary source of resources was the contacts themselves. When I asked a lot of the locals who might know more about tourism, they pointed me in the right direction.
Throughout the process, I had a set of questions to guide me along the process. Mainly, my questions were about what tourists like to do in Xizhou. Also, I also threw some questions about what tourists did not like to do into the mix. Around halfway through the process in Xizhou, I realized that there was a big difference between what Western tourists do and what Chinese tourists do on a typical vacation. Curiosity took over, and I decided to add that question into my list of questions. The last type of question that I asked was about the locals opinoun on tourists, which I thought was important because we are visitors to their home village after all.
At last, I developed a thesis to support my topic. The thesis is as follows: in order to write a 3 perfect days tour guide, one must know what a tourist is to do on the first day, the second day, and the third day.
Sharing My Learning
For my Sharing My Learning, I have published a website sharing my tour guide. Click here to access the website.
Remember up there when I said that by definition, Inquiry Project was a task given to students to research a topic of interest when we got to Xizhou? Well, I lied. Inquiry Project is so much more than that, and has taught me many valuable life lessons. First of all, I learned more about my topic, more than I expected to. Also, I learned more about what locals thought about Xizhou as a village, and what they thought about tourists. However, I also learned some things that I will be able to put into use for the rest of my life. Firstly, I gained better communication skills. In Shanghai, I never really needed to communicate with anyone other than the people in my bubble; everything else was done for me. Here in Xizhou, I have to use Chinese on a daily basis, both for simple tasks and for my Inquiry Project. Also, Inquiry Project has made me a more open person in general. Approaching people and having conversations with strangers was not something I did a lot, as it was not required of me. Here, you are expected to simply go up to someone and say, “Hi, this is my topic, what do you know about it?” I used to be slightly uncomfortable with the idea of doing that, but in this trip, I have done it so many times that I cannot even imagine a day without at least one conversation with a stranger. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I have learned to never dawdle when doing a task, and that life is so much easier if you just get to it. We were given a lot of free space to plan out our schedules, and doing our work diligently was simply expected of us. In Shanghai, when given this kind of freedom, I would probably run wild and waste all my time doing useless things on the computer. Then, I would freak out and try to do everything in the last minute. Here, everybody is so disciplined; so doing so would result in you falling behind everybody else. I have experienced numerous occasions when I have done my work when I was supposed to, and enjoyed a lot of free time later when other people were scrambling to catch up. Inquiry Project has taught me so many valuble things, and I will never forget those lessons.
During the course of this trip, my topic did not change drastically. My core idea of making a 3 Perfect Days tour guide remained the same, as did my method of approaching Inquiry Project. However, my questions did change a little. Firstly, I removed the one about the locals opinion on tourist destinations because most of the people I interviewed were locals, making most of my information their opinion anyway. Also, I discovered that interestingly, Western and Chinese tourists liked to do different things. My curiosity peaked, and I decided to make one of my questions about the difference.
The most difficult part of my Inquiry Project was getting information from the locals. All the locals were friendly and open; however, they did not enjoy being specific. Frequently, I got answers such as “Oh, they just like to wander here and there,” when I asked about what tourists liked to do here. Also, they did not give shop names unless I asked persistently for them, which was frustrating in some ways. Additionally, my Chinese is not the best, so I have experienced many awkward situations of me flapping my arms around trying to explain something to the locals. However, I have started to regard this as a normal situation, so it does not bother me as much anymore.
My most a-ha moment was when I talked to Mr. Linden. The reason for this was because he cleared up a lot of foggy information I had about many tourist activities, especially the morning market. Since I had spent a long time wondering about these questions, I was so relieved when they finally cleared up. I was a little worried at first that I would not be able to fully answer my questions, but Mr. Linden really helped me with that.
This project has helped me understand my topic better immensely. When I first came here, my knowledge about Xizhou was all based on other people’s insight on websites. Needless to say, website information is nothing compared to what you learn when experiencing things first-hand. I had limited information on what people did here in Xizhou, as not many people in the tourism industry knew much about Xizhou. Because of this, I could only find about 2 tour guides on Xizhou. When I came here, I was a little surprised at first. I had initially thought that Xizhou would have more designated tourist spots, like the Tower Bridges in London or the Twin Towers in Malaysia. Turns out, most tourists come here for the relaxed atmosphere and pace of life. Most of them do not want to be rushed around from place to place; they came here to get away from all of that. However, the sheer amount of things to do in Xizhou that was not a tourist spot also surprised me. When I first found out that there were no real tourist spots in Xizhou, I was a devastated because I thought that what mean that I could not write a successful tour guide. However, as my facts accumulated, I ended up having to eliminate some facts because they would not fit into 3 days.
Without this project, I would not have interacted with the local people as much as I did. Since my project was a visitor’s guide, I could basically go up to anyone in any line of work and ask him or her about my topic. Let me reword that. I basically had to go up to everyone I saw and conduct a short interview with him or her. Do not take that as a bad thing though. Along the way, I have met so many fascinating people, and had so many interesting talks. I am, in many ways, thankful that my Inquiry Project required so much interviewing. It has helped me get out of my shell, and has made me more willing to approach people on the street. Also, I have learned more about this world through different perspectives such as from wise elders, conflicted middle aged people, and from the eyes of innocent children.
Other than life lessons, Inquiry Project has also taught me more about myself. I had thought that when I learned something about myself, it would be a huge deal, but it really was not. Throughout this trip, in each and every day, I have been learning more about myself in the smallest ways possible. I learned that although I was not comfortable talking to strangers, I still could do it just as well as anybody else as long as I tried. Also, I learned that it does not matter if you stand out from everybody else. Here, I have gotten many judging stares from the locals, for speaking English, for the way I dress, and for going up to shopkeepers to casually talk to them about tourists. However, as time went on, I learned to ignore those stares. I think Inquiry Project has made me a better person overall, which I am thankful for.
I think Inquiry Project has also developed me more as a learner. Most significantly, it has taught me to not procrastinate. When I first came here, I realized what a procrastinator I was. When I was given a small break in the middle of work, I constantly found myself off task even when the break was over. Eventually, I finally realized that that was not going to get me through this project, so I tried to stop doing so. When I did, I saw how much free time we actually had later on in the day to do everything we wanted to do. It has taught me that discipline truly comes from within you. Also, I realized how much I learned through experience without actually realizing it at the time. Something I really like about Microcampus is that you are learning 24/7, even though most of the time, it does not have that classroom feel to it. I learned how much more I liked this style of learning, the kind that comes naturally without requiring you to memorize facts and numbers.
If time travel was possible, there is much I would have done differently. I am not saying I am not satisfied with my final product; I really am, it is just that some tweaks to my process would have made things a lot smoother. First of all, I would have put in more effort back in Shanghai. Phase 1 was honestly the most stressful phase, but it was only because I did not put in 15 minutes of work a day. If I worked like I did now, it would have been much faster, with less stress. Also, I would have started on my final project a little earlier so that if technology problems arose, they would not affect my turn in time.
New Microcampus students can definitely build upon my project some more. Firstly, they could include more complex maps so that the visitor has more of a visual guide. Another direction that this project could take is that future students could extend the time of stay, or they could maybe find a new hotel to move to for a more authentic Xizhou experience. Finally, other people could maybe expand the scope of place to include Lijiang and Dali, which is where most of the tourists who go to Xizhou go to as well.
I would not have been able to do this project alone. For that, I give my thanks to:
Mr. Tafel, for having the crazy idea of Microcampus, for putting up with the Ignite group, and for providing me with countless tips and information along the way;
Mrs. Mai, for always being there for us, for looking out for our wellness (sometimes more than we do), and for being so helpful and friendly;
Mr. and Mrs. Linden, for opening the Linden Centre and for hosting us in YZR;
Every single local in Xizhou, for agreeing to help me, for always waving to me, and for being the wonderful, open people they are;
My parents, for allowing me to have this unique experience;
Lastly, the entire Ignite crew, who made this experience feel like a family trip and for giving me all these wonderful memories.
Overall, the whole entire Microcampus trip and Inquiry Project experience was so incredible, especially for a mere 8th grader like me. I am extremely grateful for this huge learning opportunity that taught me not only facts and numbers, but also about this world, other people, and myself. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to be able to go on this trip. Throughout this trip’s ups and downs, its high and its lows, I have not regretted for a single moment my choice to go on this trip. Although there were a lot of bumps along the way, we got through them, and came out as better people. By the end of this trip, everyone has made their fair of mistakes, but it does not matter, because at least we made them in our attempt to reach the stars.