Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection

Updated 10 months 1 week ago

Lao Zi, a Chinese philosopher, once famously said: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." To start off this 28-day journey in Xizhou, I was given a long, detailed list of topics for my inquiry project. To conduct a meaningful research, to find my hobbies and interests, and to select the topic that best motivates me, I reviewed each topic thoroughly to make a final decision. As I was going through the list of possible topics, I recorded the topics that I initially felt the most interest in. After reading each description, I came to a conclusion that my inquiry project should focus on factors that allow me to investigate on new, different, and unusual fields of topics, most relevant to the environment and characteristics of Xizhou. Through the continuous feedbacks provided by Mr. Tafel and my daily commitment to this process, I decided to engage in two combined topics: "Xizhou Perspectives: Looking Outward, Looking Ahead." 

In the earlier stages, I was more appealed to other topics, such as photography and ethnic minority issues. However, I intentionally deviated from these familiar topics to challenge myself with difficulties and obstacles. Although photography was in my range of interests and seemed like a plausible option, I did not believe my Microcampus experience should solely revolve around taking photos, because there were certainly more sophisticated topics that required in-depth thinking and communication skills. As for ethnic minority issues, this topic captivated my attention because I wanted to compare the actual lifestyle of Xizhou minorities to their distorted portrayal in media. Nonetheless, I realized that large portions of this project would be based on observations and interviews, so it would be hard for me to make personal connections. 

The merging of "Looking Outward" and "Looking Ahead" will fully examine Xizhou citizens' unique predictions about the future and their views toward the world. As a 21st century learner, it is crucial to understand different perspectives established from foreign cultures, especially in a rural area like Xizhou where historical and traditional remnants are significant to the village. I am planning to interview villagers from separate age ranges to accentuate the difference of values between each generation and perhaps myself as well. This investigation is not only beneficial to my growth in thinking but also meaningful in terms of collecting scarce information that is only available from direct conversations with the locals. 

Since my topic is newly added, I do not have many references to use as a guide. However, there were some general pieces of advice that stood out to me from former Microcampus participants. In terms of interacting with the locals, Ashley T. suggested looking around for more contacts that could enhance the quality and diversity of our investigations. She recommended us including both genders while conducting research, and most of all, overcoming the fear and hesitancy when trying to get in touch with the villagers. I believe that this advice is crucial to my project, for my main goal is to understand the varying perspectives of people from different backgrounds and cultures. Another piece of advice came from Grace C., who believed that we should explore the village as soon as possible for the sake of saving time for our final product. She also encouraged us to record down information as soon as we receive it because our brains tend to distort information. The one last instruction came from Isabelle S. on the issue of time management. I struggle with time management just as much as she does, so I consider this as the most difficult portion of my work process. Although I am attending Microcampus to make improvements, I feel I should use my time wisely and create plans in order to pursue both entertainment and efficiency. Therefore, these work ethic advice will help me make the best experience out of this trip. 

To conclude, in Phase 0, I have described my process of elimination to choose my inquiry project topic and provided reasoning behind my final selection. In Phase 1, I will be posing real questions to aid my understanding of the topic. 

I am fourteen years old and this is my 10th year in China. I have stayed in Xizhou for 28 days to learn about the unique historical background and culture of the Bai minority. My goal by the end of the trip was to develop into a stronger, open-minded individual. This opportunity provided me with different insights about China. I am glad I made this trip a valuable learning experience!