My name is Lily H. and I came to Xizhou for four weeks as part of the Microcampus Voyagers group. I chose to study love and marriage before I arrived here and started researching it back in Shanghai. I spent a large amount of time working on my preparation and research for this project.
I chose to study love and marriage because I thought it was one of the topics that would help me build connections with people and assimilate into Xizhou. I worked really hard on my research as I thought it was essential to my making strong connections with the residents of Xizhou.
I talked to younger females such as Xiao Shuang from the Linden Centre, Ms. Ying from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao, Ms. Li from a wedding photo shop, and some younger women in Sifang Jie. I spend 9 sessions going out into Xizhou for my field research to talk to these people and plenty more.
I chose these sources because they either knew about love and marriage and worked in a field related to it or represented young women in Xizhou. As I walked around Xizhou, I talked to a bunch of young women to hear their own, unique ideas about love and marriage. Then, I talked to people like Ms. Li who knew about love and marriage because they work in a field surrounded by it.
I was trying to answer questions I had about why people married, how their belief systems surrounding love and marriage were formed, and what they wanted future generations to know about love and marriage. I then became increasingly interested in the belief systems people have surrounding love and marriage, so I focused in on that for my project.
The thesis statement I will be using for my project is: In order to understand the modern ideas women have about love and marriage, one might consider common reasons for marriage, origin of ideology surrounding love and marriage, and perspectives of women in their 20s or younger.
Sharing My Learning
I have created a video to share my learning that you can either watch above or by clicking here: https://youtu.be/PsM99fcHnWg
The inquiry project process and experience left me with a plethora of major takeaways, but the key ones that will stick with me through high school, college, and adulthood are the ones related to work ethic and behavior. Working on my inquiry project helped me learn to keep myself organized, mono-task, and stop procrastinating. If I had not learned these skills during the process, I would not have had time to finish my video. This project has also taught me about how to act and behave with maturity. Because my topic was very personal, I had to become good at talking to people and starting conversations without being an awkward 8th grader. I am so happy that this project has taught me so much and pushed me to become a more mature and organized person.
My topic took a couple big twists and turns throughout this process. I started out wanting to research the differences and similarities between the views different generations had on love and marriage, but this changed quite a bit after my first couple of days doing field research. I became increasingly interested in the modern views people had on love and marriage as I talked to more and more people, eventually leading me to focus mainly on the perspectives of people around their 20s. My plan was to talk to both genders about my topic, but near the end of the process I realized that the perspectives that interested me most were those of women. This was when I took the last turn for my project and decided to focus only on the modern views women have on love and marriage.
Throughout the process of field work, I had one major "a-ha" moment that I will remember for a long time. I was talking to Ms. Li from a wedding photo shop when the discussion we were having helped me to realize that people are not given lectures about love and marriage, but they learn most things from an invisible set of guidelines and rules. Prior to this conversation, I thought that the only way the rules surrounding love and marriage everyone talked about could be taught was by spoken word. This conversation helped me move my thoughts from some falsified movie-like state into a more realistic idea that I could start relating to my own life. This "a-ha" moment felt like a bubble around me had just popped and I could finally see something that had been foggy during most of the research process.
As the vast majority of knowledge I had acquired surrounding love and marriage before this project had come from books and movies, this project helped me to understand the real-world version of love and marriage in rural areas of China. Before arriving in Xizhou, I had this idea in my head of parents lecturing their children about all of the love, dating, and marriage rules. I knew that my idea of love and marriage in Xizhou was not accurate before arriving; however, I did not realize in the slightest just how wrong the image I had was. This project has really helped me to understand the reality of this topic that western media talks about often without ever doing it correctly.
This project really helped me to make really strong connections with the community in Xizhou. One of the things that attracted me most about this topic was that it would help me to become very close to the people I talked to because it is such a personal topic; however, I did not realize just how close it would let me become with people. Besides a couple awkward conversations, most of my research process felt like I was just talking to friends. People would laugh and joke about this topic and it made research really fun. The conversations I had really helped me build strong connections and friendships with people in Xizhou.
This project taught me about who I used to be and who I now want to be. One of the conversations that has stuck with me most is the one I had with Ms. Yang from the store across the street from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao. She told me how she was married earlier than she otherwise would have because she was just following the example her friends and family set. After her divorce, she said that she wished she waited before marriage and listened to her own instead of following what everyone else was doing. This helped me realize that I used to follow what my friends were doing even if it was not something that would make me happy. Ms. Yang really helped me to understand that I need to listen to my own thoughts instead of following the example of others.
The inquiry project process has helped me learn what I need to be able to do my best work. I have realized that I need to set a schedule for myself and actually follow it. This not only helps me know what I need to do, but congratulate myself for what I have already done. I also learned that I need to allow myself to take breaks every once in a while. Before Microcampus, I would never give myself time to take a breath. I thought this made me more productive, but it actually does the opposite. Not taking breaks makes me have trouble focusing and, in turn, makes my work lower quality. Taking a break for a healthy snack or a walk outside helps me work harder and better when I return to my work.
If I could go back in time and give my former self advice, it would be to try and film some of my conversations and to take pictures as often as possible. Having an immense amount of pictures and videos makes the creating a final product so much easier. These pictures and videos would also be great for me to document my learning so I could look back on it later. I wish I took much more pictures and videos than I did during this process.
If I to continue researching my topic, it might take a turn back to the views of both genders or even the views of different generations. I think that each turn my topic took made it more narrow and easier to research, but if I had more time with the research I might make it broader and include people of all ages and genders in my work. I think that having a deep understanding of everyone's perspective would be very interesting, but impossible during my time. If other Microcampus students were to build off of my research, they could either follow the path I took or expand their research to include many different perspectives.
I would like to thank the many people have helped me during this process. First, I would like to thank Mr. T for helping me build the study and work habits that I needed for this project and pushing me to do my best work. I would also like to thank Ms. Mai for always being encouraging and making me feel at home even though I am far away from my apartment in Shanghai. I would like to thank Ms. B and Mr. Chen for helping me find many people to talk to. Thank you to the Voyagers for making being away from my friends and family in Shanghai bearable. Thank you to everyone who made the Microcampus trip possible. Finally, a huge thanks to the Xizhou community for welcoming me and teaching me so much about life.
Microcampus and the inquiry project process have been such an amazing experience that I will hold dearly for the rest of my life. I have learned so much about love, marriage, and myself through this 28 day journey. Microcampus has pushed me to grow so much more than I ever would have been able to otherwise, and for that I am so grateful. Microcampus has been a life changing experience that I will never forget.