This is Microcampus. 14-16 students going outside of their bubble to explore in a different side of China- a small village called Xizhou. Directly translated, the happy village. Here, we will stay for 4 weeks, 28 days. During this life-changing experience, we must choose a topic that we find interest in, and research about it in Xizhou. For me, this topic was farming.
There were many reason why farming was chosen over the other various other topics. First of all, whenever I think of a rural place, one of the first thing that would come to my mind would be farming. Not to mention, I was originally interested with farming because I knew that this is how people get their food, and I wanted to know the process of how the crop comes from a seed to somethign that people eat. I also chose farming as my topic because I wanted to know how it impacted people in a rural area, because I already know that farming makes a big impact on their lives, and this may be something that I would not personally experience in my life myself.
Before going to Xizhou, I had already done a bit of background research on farming in Xizhou through different websites. After coming to Xizhou, the first thing that I realized that it was mostly fields everywhere. I realized that there were a lot of sources for me. I could just go into the fields and ask almost anyone. This is basically what I decided to do. There were also a lot of day workers that worked in the fields. These were people who actually do not own the land, but are hired to help take care of it. However, there were some farmers that I developed closer relationships. One of them was Mr. Yin who is the husband of the woman who owns the cheese factory here. I also became close to two farmers who had a small plot of land near the Linden Centre. One woman was called Ms. Yang, and the other was called Grandmother Duan. Other than the farmers, I also spoke to people at the market selling food, and owners of a farming supplies shop in Xizhou.
I chose these people to interview and talk to because they all had something to do with the process of farming. The farmers were the ones who actually farmed and took care of the crops. The day workers also knew quite a bit about the crops that they were help planting or harvesting. Day workers usually were not hired to help with the process of the actual growing of the plants because watering the crops and tending them required less manpower. The owners of the farm supply shop not only could show me the tools used to farm, but also had seeds which they informed me a lot about. People at the market usually were the people who planted the crops sold their crops to. They did not know as much about the crops, but still were able to give me some information.
At first my topic was pretty broad, because I did not know what to focus on. As time went by, I found more interest in the process of farming. Not only that, but how this process changed over time. The questions mainly had to focus on seeds, farming tools, what must be before planting the crops, what is done when the crops are planted, and how the crops are harvested.
At the end of the entire research process, I looked over all my information, and decided on a detailed topic that appealed to me. Then, I asked myself, how much do I know of the evolution of farming in Xizhou, and what are some basic things that I need to know about the evolution of farming in Xizhou? In the end, I came up with a statement that reflected what I know about my topic. That statement was: In order to understand farming in Xizhou overtime, one must consider the process of farming, the supplies used to farm, and the organization of farming in Xizhou.
Sharing My Learning
After long hours and weeks of research and work, I finally finished my final project! Please view the video above to see my final report or can be found here: https://youtu.be/ajRI14weURg
As I was researching on my inquiry topic here in Xizhou, I did not just learn a lot of different facts and information, but I also had a life-changing journey. This was something I had never done before, where I go out and talk to people to find information. Unlike using a computer and going on the internet and different websites to find out information on what I want to know more about, these were real people. That meant going outside of my comfort zone and communicating with them and connecting with them to know more about my topic.
I only slightly changed the direction that I was heading my topic in after coming to Xizhou. I wanted to know the process of farming of farming before I came here, but after talking to different people, I noticed certain differences that occured with farming as a whole overtime. This caught my eye, and I decided to do more research on it. I spent more and more time finding out how farming was different 20-30 years ago, and why things had changed. This did not just have to do with the process of farming, but how the whole thing was organized. Finally, nearing the end of my project, I found something else quite interesting, which is how the seeds used to plant the crops changed. Before, the seeds were completely natural, but now, most are genetically modified. I then extended my topic to include seeds as well.
Overall, there was not much that was too difficult when researching. Probably the biggest difficulty was the language barrier. My Chinese skills are not the best, and some times I did not know how to communicate properly with the farmers because I did not know how to say it in Chinese. Other times, I could not understand the farmers clearly mainly because they spoke with a different accent, which made it hard to understand at times. To cope with this, I asked for language support from my chaperones to help communicate.
There were a few occasions, however, when I was able to get a lot of information and I felt very accomplished. I had one of these moments when I was talking to the seed shop owner about the seeds. I was able to learn a lot about where the seeds came from, what had been done to them, and how they are different from the past.
After gathering lots of information, I can say without a doubt that I have become much more experienced with my topic. It helped me understand my topic so much more because I was able to ask people whose lives were greatly impacted by farming. This is different from doing research back in Shanghai because I am not reading everything out of a textbook or online. I am actually personally experiencing it, which impacts me much more.
This project benefit me in many ways. One of the main ways was because it helped me connect with the locals in the village. Often times, I had to go into the fields and be more open to people and connect with them in order to get information. I did not just learn about different things about farming, but about their own lives and how farming impacted it. I was also able to come up with a lot more questions and think of a lot more things to say to the farmers at the end of the process than when I first started. I feel like this experience has helped improve my communication skills as well.
This project not only helped me understand my topic and Xizhou better, but it also helped me understand myself better because I often had to get out of my comfort zone. I was able to learn new things about myself, like where my weaknesses, strengths, and limits are. Since I was learning "outside the bubble", I had to do many things that I was not exactly perfectly comfortable with, and that gave me a chance to understand myself better.
If I could go back in time to when I first started this project, there would be a few things that I would change in order to make this a better experience for me. I would sign up and ask for chaperone support sooner. I feel like I was a lot more productive when I was out with a chaperone, because they could help me understand more of what the farmers were saying. I also would try going to different areas not just Xizhou, but around the area. This could help me get a broader sense of what farming is like- not just in Xizhou itself.
I believe that in the future if someone builds off my work and is interested in the topic of farming, different paths that they could take would be either be more about the organization of farming and different patterns that happen in the course of history, more about the seeds that are planted in the area, or how farming impacts the lives of the people here. These are things that I would personally look in to if I had more time here.
There are many people that I want to thank who helped me through this process. First would be Mr. T, who helped guide the way through this path. He made it clear to all of us even before the trip that this will be a different experience for all of us, and nothing like what we do at school. He also said that this would be out of all of our comfort zones. However, he still helped us through this process and I could not imagine what it would be like if it was not for him. Next, I would like to thank Ms. Mai for helping me a lot when I went to go research out in the fields. She helped me translate some things, and even helped me think of questions that helped me gather more information.
My experience in Microcampus has been truly wonderful and irregrettable. I went out of my comfort zone and tried many new things and gained a lot of personal growth. The inquiry project was espeically helpful because it was the main reason that I started lots of conversations and connected with many of the locals here. I loved being at Microcampus, and it was truly and amazing experience.