Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection

Updated 4 years 11 months ago

15 students in the spring of 2016 will be going to a small village in rural Xizhou. This will be the start of a journey that will change our perspective forever, we will each be investigating a topic of our choice in our four weeks in Xizhou. I am honored to be attending Microcampus Group P, and this is basically my brainstorms and ideas that I will be sharing with everyone. I started out with, at least, 10 highlighted interested projects, but I managed to narrow my choices down through my interest and feedback from Mr. T and alumni reflections. I finally picked the two topics of my choice and decided to do a mixture of the both.

Before I started I had some questions, these were my initial questions:

I would like to know if the textiles production and Bai Minority Culture includes only one of the small topics described or are you required to look deeper into the general topic?

The answer I got for this question was that I had a lot of freedom to choose whether to do one of the smaller topics or the larger more general topic.

Is there some way for us to get to know the village better so we can understand how the village will influence our topics?

The answer I got was that there isn't a way to really understand the village without being there which is why we have a longer time there to fully go in depth into our topic. But we also had a choice to take a look at other projects with a similar topic to understand if the topic is really right for the village.

My strategies and process I used to narrow down my choices were to first scan all the topics to see whether they interest me or not, then narrow it down to about 5 or 6. Then I see which one will I benefit most from? Which one will I learn the most and experience the most? And lastly I have to consider if the topic is suitable for the village we are visiting, in case, I can not find enough information on the topic I choose, especially new topics. My priority in narrowing down my choices was mainly to find my common interests because I know I will work harder if I am more interested and passionate about my topic.

Discarded Topic:

The second topic I was considering was Local Plant and Insect Life. I did not choose this topic because I realized that locals will not know much about their insect and plant life. Many locals are very busy with their own jobs and family to actually investigate deeper into natural life. I realized I would not gather many information and sources on this topic.

Chosen Topics:

One I was considering was Bai Minority Culture (dance, clothing, music), I am very interested in clothing and fashion. This topic would improve my knowledge of the Minority Culture as clothing reflects a great part of someone's personality and culture. My parents have told me about the unique and special culture of the Bai and I have also visited the Bai when I was young and remember being very interested in their clothing. During my visit, I plan to find out more about how they make their clothing and what influenced the way the clothing was worn and made. I will research on what I can find about clothing production and style before my visit. 

Another topic I was considering was Everyday Clothing/Fashion/Hairstyles, I choose this topic because I am very interested in how personality, upbringing, and environment influence how you dress or style. But I have never had the time, I am looking forward in the village to talk to many different people and understand how different factors influence everyday style. Before the visit, I will research the different types of clothing and hair, people in the village have and understand more about their general lives.  

After a lot of considering, and reconsidering, I ranked my choices, Bai Minority Culture last, Local Plant and Insect Life second, and finally Everyday Clothing/Fashion/Hairstyles. But after Mr. T's and a few alumni's feedback, I decided to move Bai Minority Culture- Clothing up to

Final Topic and Updated Topic Descriptor:

The final topic I would like to pursue in the village is Everyday Clothing/Fashion/Hairstyles with a blend of Bai Minority Culture's clothing. I chose this topic because I am very interested in how personality, upbringing, and environment influence a person's dress or style and how the traditional clothing is made and how it has changed. I am curious to see if any locals still consider the Bai Traditional Clothing their everyday clothing. I am looking forward in the village to talk to many different people and understand how different factors influence everyday style. I am planning to visit clothing boutiques, traditional shops, and hair salons and look at the clothes and hairstyles they sell/offer, I will ask the villagers for their opinion of each shop and the differences in their preferences and clothing style. Before the visit, I will research the different types of clothing and hair people in rural areas generally have and see if the villagers differ from the taste and style that the minorities usually wear. I will try to understand more about their lives and see how that impacts their everyday attire. 

Then I decided to look at some alumni feedback, only one alumni has done my project before so I decided to take a look at hers. Livia from Kryptonite did a mixture of topics, including People Watching and Everyday Style. She investigated more into how tourism and history affected the clothing they wear. I found it very interesting when in her project she found out that the clothing style changed after the Cultural Revolution and Mao's Liberation. She recommended future students to take more pictures and look more into tourism and traditional clothing. Which is why I decided to also include Bai Minority Culture Clothing in my topic, since in her reflection she wrote that People Watching gave very little information about Everyday Clothing and the change that has happened in everyday style.

I also looked at all of the Bai Minority Culture Clothing projects, I first looked at Vicky from The Ballistic Baba-Eating Bubble Breakers, and she gave future students the same feedback as Livia, to take more pictures and gather more sources of information. I found it interesting when her photographs of everyday clothing in 2013 were different from Livia's. I was wondering whether the everyday clothing is in change right now. I wonder when I go to Xizhou will the clothing be different from Livia's project?

Lastly, I looked at Madeline from Alpha Pilots, I did not gather up that much information since they did their project differently and the reflection didn't really tell me anything she would change in the future.

This is all my work from Phase 0, I have selected a topic and given a basic topic descriptor. I am now moving on to research in depth into the topic of my choice and posing questions that will further benefit my research. Click on the link to go to my Phase 1 work.


Hi, I'm Nicole L. I was part of Group Phenomena, and my Microcampus journey is now over. I am currently back from Xizhou. I have now left Shanghai American School but I will forever remember Xizhou, as it was one of the best months of my life. You will not regret coming to Xizhou, and I wish future Microcampus students a journey as amazing as mine!