For 28 days, 16 students, including me, came to Xizhou, Dali in Yunnan Province as part of the Wildfire group of the Menwai Program, also called as MIcrocampups, to become part of the community. Before coming to Xizhou, every student chose a topic of high personal interest. Everyone had an interesting topic, that they really wanted to learn about. The topic that I chose was 'Hobby and managing Stress in Xizhou'.
At first, the topic I chose was the health and mental wellness of the people here in Xizhou. However, while preparing for our journey for 28 days, I changed my topic. I chose this topic, for a personal reason. This was my first year in China, and I was not used to an American School since I have lived in Korea for so long. I got a lot of stress from school work and making new friends at school. The new environment was stressful. My hobby to manage my stress was sports and playing computer games. Soon, I was able to make friends who had the same hobbies as me. However, I started to have conflicts with my parents, and I thought of my own hobby, and how I manage my stress. I wanted to know what people in Xizhou would do, and the opinion of the people about a good hobby. I wanted to know the real definition of a 'hobby' and listen to the voice of the people in the village. My topic had no answer. Furthermore, I thought that my topic was a good topic to interact with people and build strong relationships by listening to different opinions.
I had many people who I got information through many conversations in Xizhou. Before I came to the village, I researched some background information to have a basic understanding of the hobbies and recreations in Xizhou. I think the people I met in the village was really helpful for my understanding of my topic. I met Mr. Yang, who was a Xizhou baba maker in the Si Fang Jie of the village. Ms. Xun, was really helpful as she talked about her business and the stress she had in the past and the pressure she is going through currently. The Zhong sisters were a great mentor. They told me so much information that might be personal for them. They were really open and told me about their children, who was my age. He Chun Liu was really kind, talking about her favorite music from Taylor Swift. I also met Mr. Yang, who played Ma Jiang in front of the biggest temple in the village. The Linden Center staffs like Max, Sury, Hua Long, and Chen Xue Zhou were very interesting. They had different perspectives on living their lives and their hobbies were very exciting to hear about. Ms. Chen was a quite modern person, who was very opened. Ms. Zhao, the owner of Old Town Snacks, the restaurant that sells the famous 'Tafel Fried Rice', was a great mentor. I learned so much information and her own perspectives of the world. I would like to thank every people I met, and the people of the village who were kind to the 16 8th graders.
There was not a special reason I chose the people who gave me lots of helpful information and were nice to me. At first, I decided to meet the elderly of the village, because I wanted to know what they did when they were young and how the hobbies and stress of the people in the village changed as the time went by, and new technologies were introduced. Then I went to the Linden Staffs and young adults of the villagers who felt like brothers and sisters, to ask their opinion on games, and the hobbies their age have, as well as the different reasons for their stress.
Before starting my journey in Xizhou, I came up with several questions I wanted to be answered by the time I went back to Shanghai. Some of the questions I asked were related to their hobbies and stress. Others were asking about what makes a good hobby, and the definition of a hobby. I also asked some questions related to the relationship between managing stress and a person's hobby.
I came to Xizhou to learn about the hobbies and how they manage their own stress. However, I believe that my experience in Xizhou, and as I connected with the people of Xizhou, I was a chance to grow and learn about myself.
Reflecting on my journey at Xizhou, I would consider three lessons I learned during the 28 days in the Xizhou community with my community of Microcampus.
Sharing My Learning
I have made a video for my final product. If you want to watch it, click here or the video above.
The 28 days was a journey for me that was so magnificent. I learned so many lessons and have takeaways. The first one is how I become part of a community and how I behave in front of people. People who know me always told me to calm down and be quiet, and I knew that myself, too. So, when I came to Xizhou with other members, I acted like a quiet and calm person. But then, it was for me to make new friends and talk with other students, which made me feel very lonely. I decided to stop the act and behave how I used to do back in school. At first, my friends were annoyed and were not pleased but as time past, I noticed myself with other members of the Microcampus. This did not only apply to the MIcrocampus community, but also to how I was accepted by the Xizhou community. I focused on making good relationships. I had a goal to get closer with the people. However, inside me, I did not enjoy becoming part of the community. The first day I went out for my Inquiry Project, the Zhong sisters told me, I seemed like I was not enthusiastic with my work, and my face looked very serious. I realized if I wanted to make friends or become part of any community, I need to enjoy and be positive. I should change to become the person who is comfortable for other people to talk to me, and smile. The first takeaway of my journey was that if I want to become part of a community and open myself to the people, the people will accept me and notice me. Another takeaway was working through challenges, by myself. We had many challenges of our journey from things that might seem very small, like going up and down the stairs quietly, to big challenges that might affect more people, like leading a group and being aware of my impact to a community. During days 14 and 15, we went to Shi Long Cun, a village near Sha Xi, with a lake in front of us. There, we set up our own tents in our campsite and hiked through the mountains. We had a front pack during the hikes, who would lead the rest of the group. I learned leadership as I lead other friends. I had to look back frequently to see if everyone was following well. Mr. T said every leader has people who follow the leader, and not only is leading the people to the right direction of a path an important responsibility of a leader but also taking care of the people who follow so that they can follow is very important as a leader. I also had to set a pace that everybody would feel comfortable, as well as waiting for the people after a difficult course of the path. However, the most important lessons of the hike and camping experience were overcoming challenges by ourselves. One of the biggest goals of Microcampus is the students doing everything without an adult helping us. We had to find a solution to every problem we faced. We had to make decisions every second, in every situation. During the two days of challenges, I was able to grow not only physically, but also grow mentally, as my personality was built up and revealed. The last lesson I would like to share is how I learned about myself. My topic is the hobbies and stress of people in Xizhou. I chose this topic to learn about the community of Xizhou. I asked questions like, 'What is your hobby?, 'What makes you get stress?', and 'How do you manage that stress?', which are very simple. However, the conversations will often go deep into the concept of 'life'. Ms. Zhao, who runs the 'Old Town Snacks'. She started off by talking about her son, which somehow lead to how I should use my talent, my effort, and my hobby to find a good job for me. There were more situations like this. I was not disappointed, because they were conversations I was able to learn from. After I come back to Yang Zhuo Ran, I would think about 'What about me?'. 'Everybody thinks a lot of their future and life. What have I done when I was back in Shanghai? Was there a time I really thought about myself?' For few days, I thought about what I like, what makes me happy, and everything about me. As I tried to learn about others, I was able to learn and reflect on myself.
Before I came to Xizhou, I had changed my topic, from the 'Health and Wellness of the People' to 'Hobbies and Stress'. I changed it because I was more interested in the pressure and the leisure activities that the people would do than the physical health of the villagers. After I came here I focused on my big concept for or inquiry project. However, the questions had changed a lot. Even though some questions were not even related to my topic, they were something I was really interested in and wanted to know. They were mostly the opinions of life and technology use for hobbies these days. Instead of only focusing on questions that are always the same, I felt in order to have a more opened and deep conversations, questions that might differ from every people would be better. I thought that the main goal 16 8th graders came to Xizhou is not to learn about our topic, but instead to connect with the community and learn about ourselves.
The most difficult part of my research was that there was no answer to my topic. I had to talk to a lot of people as possible. In the case of my topic, the more people I met, the better for my inquiry project. The information I got was different for every people. It was very difficult to organize the information into specific categories. Furthermore, I could not find any teenagers to talk to. Most of the students attend boarding schools and are only in Xizhou for the weekends.
An a-ha moment was when I heard that most of the people in Xizhou did not have any stress. Before I came to Xizhou, I thought that people will get a lot of stress because it was a poor region of China. When I was talking to He Chun Liu, the worker of a coffee shop near the Si Fang Jie, she said she did not have any stress. Another a-ha moment was when I learned that yali is the word for stress, which also means pressure, and for many people in Xizhou, pressure, and stress meant different things. I was surprised because when I had conversations with the people of the community, they said they had pressure to take care of their family, but no stress. The third a-ha moment was when I realized how to really connect with the villagers by heart. I was with Dr. Mott for my inquiry project. I went to meet Mr. Yang, and we had a long conversation. After the talk, Mr. Yang said I was very polite and the questions I asked was very deep. Dr. Mott told me I was doing a great job, and that the way I had a conversation with Mr. Yang was the real way to open yourself to the people, as well as making the people open to me.
Preparing to come to Xizhou and as I did my inquiry project, I learned a lot about my topic. I learned that one of the most common, and the biggest pressure of the elders of the community were their parents, their children, and their family. Many people sell snacks and foods in order to support their children so that they could go to school and earn enough money for his or her family. I also learned that there were not many hobbies the people in Xizhou has. Most of the people would say that they watch TV or look at their phones during their spare time. At the same time, I was able to understand the opinions of the people of hobbies. The mentors told me what makes a good hobby, and their opinion on phones and video games.
The project, Microcampus has helped me to interact with the people in many different ways. First, by having conversations for my inquiry project, I was able to understand more about the people of the community. I felt I was bonding with the people in Xizhou. Second, by saying hello and being aware of my impact on the people, was another way that Micrcampus helped me to interact with the people. I always had a positive attitude and respected not only the elders but everyone around us. Soon I noticed that we, the 16 students were part of the community and was also truly accepted by the people. The hiking and camping trip, the windmill outing trip and many other new experiences were something that helped me not only with the people, but also with everything of Xizhou, starting from nature, sky, and mountains, to Yang Zhuo Ran and the food we ate.
As I mentioned before, the 28 days in Xizhou was a chance to learn about myself. First, as I went through difficult challenges, I was able to learn my strength and weakness. For example, while camping and hiking I learned my strength, which was patience, as I lead the front pack. I also learned my weakness, which was controlling my emotions. During the camp, I became mad and annoyed by a friend. I was able to calm down, but still, it was difficult for me. Also, during the inquiry project, and as I talked with the people of Xizhou, it was a chance for me to think about myself. I thought about what I liked to do back in Shanghai, and all the stress I had to receive from school work and other pressures. I also learned what kind of person I am when I get to live with 15 other 8th graders, and two teachers. I learned that I am strict to myself and I think negatively. Another thing I was able to learn was how I would make friends and become part of a community. I was not good at making friends quickly, and there were many personalities of me that I did not realize when I was in Shanghai. I learned how cruel I am, as well as how immature I am.
While I was in Xizhou, I was a learner. I came here to learn about me, the people of the community and everything around me here in Xizhou. There were many things I learned about myself as a learner. First, I learned that I am a great learner for many subjects. I do not only try to learn one specific information, but I am a person that is willing to learn new every knowledge. Especially, I learned that I am a fast learner, especially, when I learn it through experience. I like to learn through challenges and new experience. It makes me excited and willing to learn. However, I learned that I try to not learn things I am not interested in. I also learned that I learn through connections with other people. As I spent time with 15 other students and the people of the Xizhou community, I was a better and faster learner.
Even though the experience of coming to Xizhou was a great experience, I have some regrets I would like to share with others. One of the things I would like to change is bringing enough comfort foods. I did not bring enough healthy snacks because I do not eat snacks back in Shanghai. I had to buy most of the comfort foods, and there were times when I was hungry but did not have anything to eat. Another thing I would like to change is taking a lot of pictures of the community outside Yang Zhuo Ran. Mr. T told us to take as many pictures as possible, so I did. However, I focused on pictures of my friends instead of pictures of people of Xizhou, and pictures of Xizhou itself. If I could go back to the beginning and change something, I would definitely go outside my comfort zone. During the 28 days, I was not brave enough to talk to other friends of Microcampus. Also, I hesitated to connect with the people of Xizhou. Fortunately, I realized that I should go out of my comfort zone, but I feel like if I was able to go out of my bubble earlier, it would have been a better time and better experiences. I also believe if I wanted to have a better time, it would have been better if I more advanced Chinese skills.
There are so many directions for my topic that I have not explored. If I was able to have time, and had better Chinese skills I would have talked to children around Xizhou. If I had more time, it would have been a good experience to go to Xia Guan and have conversations with teenagers, as well as observing the stress and hobbies of people in Xia Guan, which is the modern part of Dali. Furthermore, I would have met more people with different perspectives. Some advice that I would like to give to the futures students studying this topic, is to talk with many people and build on to the hobbies and pressure of life. It is very interesting to talk to people who think differently from people back in Shanghai. It would be a good experience to study more about their hobbies and go deep into the pressures people feel about their lives.
There are so many people who I would like to say thank you. First, I would like to thank Mr. T, Ms. Mai, and Sofia. Mr. T and Ms. Mai, as the two chaperones, must have had a difficult time taking care and making sure of the safety and wellness of 16 8th graders. I would like to thank Mr. Tafel and Ms. Mai for bringing the 16 students to Xizhou, which is a beautiful place. Sometimes we had to get the same several reminders of our expectations. I am very sorry for the two teachers. Whenever we were confused with our work, Mr. Tafel helped us with the clarification. He was always nice to us and understood us well. We would all talk about how great Mr. T was. Mr. Tafel was strict but we knew that he was strict because he cared about us. When we made mistakes and told him, he understood us, and said, "Thank you for telling me and letting me know.", and that was it. He forgave us. Ms. Mai was like my mother. She was very warm to me and other students. I was always sorry to Ms. Mai because I noticed how much she cared about us and worked for us, even though we could not see it. I am really grateful for Ms. Mai because she prepared so many things for us. I would really like to thank the two teachers since I believe because of the teacher's help and care, we were able to go back safe and took away so many good memories with us, as well as experiencing something that we would never forget. At last, I would like to thank Sofia for being such a cute little girl who was like a little sister for us, but also a same student like us. She was not like a baby who would cry a lot. She was really mature and was a grown-up, and we were surprised by how she tries to do everything on her own. I would like to thank Mr. T, Ms. Mai, and Sofia.
I would then like to thank the people of the Linden Centre. I feel huge gratitude to Mr. Linden and Ms. Genie, who provided us an opportunity to become part of the community. I would like to thank them since they were the first ones to come to Xizhou and open up the Linden Center and be accepted as part of Xizhou. Then, I would like to thank Ms. B, Mr. Yang, and Ms. Wang, for Teacher Support. The three teachers came out with one student every day for 1 hour. They were always fun to be with and were really helped us a lot with our inquiry projects. I would like to thank everybody, who we do not know who worked hard and prepared for us to have such a nice time.
The parents are also who I would like to thank. The parents supported us for a trip far away from the family for such a long time with patience. They also paid the money for the students to come to Microcampus. Additionally, my friends back in Shanghai are people I always feel gratitude. They understood my decision to come to Xizhou. The friends who applied with me for Microcampus, but could not come, also understood and were not mad. They were really nice and truly wished me good luck.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to everybody in the Xizhou community. They were really friendly, as well as accepting us as members of their community. I believe I learned so many lessons and had a great experience because they were there outside in the community to talk and connect with us.
I remember the quote Mr. T shared with us during the Daily Meeting, which was, 'When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done something anything at all.' I believe this applies to us. There were so many people who we do not realize often that were around us supporting us. There were no tragedies and accidence, because everyone did the things right, and we did not notice anything wrong, as well as forgetting to say sorry.
I came to Xizhou as part of Microcampus for 28 days. I believe it was a chance for me and other friends to learn and experience new lessons. Especially, I learned that we should open ourselves to the community we are in. I grew during our journey in Microcampus by overcoming challenges I had never experienced before.