by Huang-Yi, Yale China Association Intern

“Does America have many places like this?” is the very first question I raised after arrival at Common Ground. Impressed by its beautiful smell of grass and environmentally-friendly house structure, I fell in love with this amazing place at first sight. For sure, located at the foot of West Rock, it’s an ideal place for combining education with environment. I feel so fortunate and proud to have a 3-week internship in this unique high school.

Huang Yi

Huang Yi, left, joins fellow Yale-China Intern Lucinda Peng, summer farm interns, members of our farm crew, and farm staff at Common Ground’s on-site farm stand.

I am a student from Lingnan College, Sun Yat-sen University (China). And I gained this internship through the Yale-China Association. Lucinda, a Yale student, paired up with me in this project. The main focus of our internship at Common Ground was a chance to shadow several crews of its high school students as they worked on Common Ground’s site. We were dispatched to work with habitat restoration/site crew, kitchen crew as well as garden/farm crew respectively during our internship.

The biggest influence Common Ground has on me is to develop a new thought on environmental issues. Once I was wondering how CG can help inspiring students to focus on environment. And then I gradually came to realize that being natural-friendly was not a general and abstract issue but a matter of living style: to fully utilize and respect everything.

For instance, I can still clearly remember the scene of watering two almost dying plants with site crew. Even though Keith, the site crew manager, and many other people knew the chance of magically saving those plants was tiny, we still kept on trying instead of giving up. This experience has a great impact on me because in my past experience, people might just dump them and buy new ones instead. But every life matters here. Even though the hope is seemingly tiny, there is still chance to make it happen. I can name many other examples of fully utilizing and respecting things here. For instance, all the leftovers go to the compost and the greens of carrots are saved for feeding animals. Undoubtedly, these behaviors invisibly affect many students and interns like me. Being environmentally friendly is never an easy task, but it will become true in day-to-day actions.

Apart from environmental issues, I did learn a lot from these passionate and patient crews as well as managers. The beginning was a little frustrated for me as I know almost nothing about farming or cooking skills. What’s worse, my intermittent English prevented me from receiving every instructions clearly enough. Fortunately, people here in Common Ground are very enthusiastic and instructive. I’m reminded of paring apples in the 2nd week with kitchen crew. It took me such a long time that even the apple in my hand had turned brown before I finished paring it. Unwilling to lag behind the whole team, I was nervous, anxious and somehow embarrassed at that time. However, Theresa, one of the instructors said to me, “this is not a competition, but to learn things in a safe way without hurting myself.” These words enabled me concentrate on the paling work instead of the speed, which make me felt less stressful. Rather than producing efficiently, CG focusing on educating students passionately.

Huang Yi works with Common Ground's kitchen crew to prepare a lunch for other members of Common Ground's Green Jobs Corps and staff.

Huang Yi works with Common Ground’s kitchen crew to prepare a lunch for other members of our Green Jobs Corps and staff.

It’s difficult to compare American education system with Chinese one since they are different in many aspects. But I really admire the relationship among students, staff and managers here. I know for sure that students here might have their own ecosystem. But all the people here open their doorz and help me to get involved in them. We had a culture exchange program one afternoon which everyone share their family backgrounds. I liked this exchange because they didn’t treat me as a special guest, but part of the team, which I am so proud of.

There’s a lot of appreciation deep inside my mind, but I don’t have the words to say them all out loud. Thank you Joel for your invitation and awesome arrangement. Thank you Shannon and Farm Crew for involving me in your amazing organic farm. Thank you Theresa, Fathiya and Kitchen Crew for teaching me to methodically bake cakes. Thank you Keith and Site Crew for instructing me using shovel and making American burp for the first time in my life. Thank you Tom, Jess, Kate, Kimball and all the staff and students in CG for kindly greeting me and showing me around.Thank you Lucinda, for always inspiring me with positive energy and great strength. It’s an amazing internship for me to hear so many enthusiastic and aspiring personal stories. And I do cherish all of them.

Common Ground has a gorgeous story. And it’s my great honor to participate in making the story real this summer. I do wish to hear more good news of this prospective and energetic NGO in another part of the world!