"Children in Guilin's Dazhai Village Define Simple Joys in Life"
While studying abroad in Beijing last semester, I was an international correspondent for Elon’s student newspaper, The Pendulum. In addition to sending in weekly logs, which reflected on interesting events and people I encountered, I wrote two feature pieces. This article, Children in Guilin’s Dazhai Village Define Simple Joys in Life, was the second feature I wrote. The article discusses my fall break trip to Guilin, a southern province in China, and specifically highlights the experience I had with the children in the village. I would not consider myself an expert photographer, but taking photos is one of my hobbies, and I found that the photos I took on this trip were the inspiration to my analysis of my experience. Therefore, I included them for your reference along with the article I wrote.
Appealing to pathos was my most deliberate rhetorical decision in writing this piece. Because the purpose of my feature was to convince the reader of the children’s humility and how humbled my classmates and I were by the trip, focusing on the emotional aspect of my experience was essential. I did my best to break down the division between American culture and Chinese culture and showing identification among members of both groups – a strategy Burkian rhetoric would recommend. By highlighting the interaction my classmates had with the children, showing that our differences weren’t enough to make interaction impossible and that there was a level of mutual respect for both groups, I hoped to make the situations I discussed more relatable for readers so they would be able to understand the comparisons I made with children from our own culture.
Though I chose to write a reflective piece, I had to still maintain a level of journalistic discretion expected based on the organizational ethos I had to adopt while writing on behalf of the student newspaper. This expectation forced me to employ greater cultural sensitivity than I would have if I had been analyzing the situation for an audience more interested about my personal perspective than a broader analysis.
I struggled with writing this piece more than I expected. A school newspaper is a very specific discourse community, one that I had a very hard time becoming acclimated to from the other side of the world. Because I accepted my role as an international correspondent over the summer before going to Beijing, I wasn’t able to evaluate the organizational ethos first hand or really establish myself. I had to determine what was expected of me by reading previously submitted work and internalizing feedback I got from the editor. I consider myself a strong writer, but I soon realized that isn’t always enough. My ability to adapt to a given rhetorical situation – in this case, an editorial one – was put to the test.
I had a hard time finding a middle ground between what I thought was journalistic writing and what actually was expected. My first drafts were “play by plays,” as the editor called them, of my experience, and didn’t hone in on any particular event or even feeling. I was trying to be as "objective" as I believed is expected of journalistic writing. I ended up just not elaborating as I should have and therefore was writing an uninteresting and uninformative piece, which obviously no one would want to read. After the weaknesses were brought to my attention, I developed a better understanding of the expectations of the discourse community and the reality that objectivity really shouldn't be what one strives for in any kind of writing. I applied my analytical and reflective skills to the piece, which made for a much more interesting description of my experience in Guilin.