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X-Phase Day 1: Chengdu

For those who don’t know, X-Phase is the student led expedition phase during the gap semester. During this time, students take charge of the daily itinerary as well as the responsibilities usually undertaken by the instructor team (I-Team). For our gap semester, X-Phase is split up into 3 different cities and times, the first being 2 days in Chengdu. As a group, we decided to create a pseudo I-Team for each city; for Chengdu, this is Clara, Robert, Julia and Julian. Having completed our first day of X-Phase, we can confidently say that the group has a new found appreciation for the I-Team and that this has been a tough, but great learning experience.

The initial plan for the day was to meet up at 6:45 in order to leave the hostel by 7 am. Our first stop would be the Chengdu Research Facility for Giant Pandas, followed by the Qing Yang Gong temple, the largest Daoist temple in the Sichuan province. Our day would end with dinner in downtown Chengdu as well as a traditional Sichuanese Opera. While the group generally stuck to this schedule, there were a few mishaps along the way.

The first struggle was outside our control: at the Panda facility, what began as a drizzle turned out to be a downpour. Though the pandas were as cute as you would imagine, the influx of tourists combined with the chilly weather put a damper on our spirits. As we left the park, group moral was low and by the time we reached the temple, two of our brave soldiers, Julia and Julian, were down. Unfortunately, both were part of the Chengdu I-Team and thus the weight of responsibility fell solely upon Clara and Robert. After a nice vegetarian lunch and a walk around the temple, we headed to the subway station.

As we reached the station, we realized it would be extremely inconvenient to head back to the hostel and then return to downtown Chengdu for the Opera. Instead, we headed straight to the Opera area on the look out for a restaurant where we could have dinner. After a stop at a coffee shop and a round of questioning around, we ended up at Din Tai Fang. an expensive Taiwanese restaurant. This was because of a combination of miscommunication, frustration, stress and simple hunger and exhaustion. Though dinner was tasty, more miscommunication related to the budget occurred. The vegetarian table ended up spending more than they should have which caused some storming in the group.

Afterwards, we headed to the Sichuanese Opera which was extremely interesting, especially the rapid mask changing that characterizes this form of opera. During the concert, the group cooled down a bit, which allowed us to have a fruitful feedback session and discussion at the end of the night.

Throughout this journey of a day, we learned quite a few lessons:

  • Always have a clear cut plan for the day, as well as a risk management policy, in case unexpected situations arise.
  • Share the responsibilities and workload, rather than piling it on one person.
  • Be aware and mindful of other people’s emotions and reactions.
  • Styles of leadership can vary, and a balance between the “I-Team” is needed.
  • Language is important! A simple lack of clarity or miswording can create more problems than you would have ever imagined.
  • Take responsibility for your actions or lack of. Instead of blaming others, even if it is not your fault, spend the time looking for a solution.

Though many of these lessons may seem intuitive, some of them can be easy to forget when in a stressful situation. However, our discussion was extremely helpful, and hopefully the succeeding X-Phase days will present this learning.