Columnist discovers the benefits of “team spirit” with students


We live in a world where we need each other. Companionship, as I learned in both Psychology and Economics, is one of the basic human needs. I don’t remember if this concept first appeared in my textbook back in China or when I was an exchange student in Minnesota, but I knew I didn’t really understand the idea back home. Maybe because there were just always lots of people around and it was hard to be alone. ‘’Welcome to the Midwest” as a good friend of mine would say, “where there are more trees and buffalo than people.”

Now we are talking about scarcity, which makes companionship somewhat a priority. The biggest difference I felt in this country, perhaps is not the language spoken, the values maintained, or the various living standards, but the urgency of having somebody with you so you won’t be alone. You need someone to do your homework with, you need someone to have lunch and supper with, and you need someone to watch a movie with, to attend a class with, or even to take the garbage to the dumpster with. I used to do all these things by myself and never had a problem with that. However, I gradually realized how accompanying another person or with a group is the default understanding of living in this culture and how it starts powerfully influencing me and everyone around me.

Think about it. There should be a reason for my dorm mates to say ‘’hi’’ to me and there’s a reason for me to say ‘’hi’’ back and oftentimes it’s necessary for me to say ‘’hi’’ to them voluntarily in the first place. There should be a reason to laud others’ talents because in so doing, the one who praises wouldn’t have to be jealous of someone for the things they don’t possess, but has found themselves a way to truly appreciate and to learn. It becomes a matter of innovation, success and personal development in a larger social context.

It seems to be commonly understood that we live inter-connectedly and inter-dependently in a culture that getting the most approval from others results in the maximum benefit of ourselves. The coolest kid in my dorm, if I am not wrong, is the one who keeps greeting others as often as possible, and finds it easy to say good things about others and make them feel cool. Honor others, “and the world will beat a path to your door.’’

With companionship, comes partnership. The more I get involved in this culture that so highly values the ‘’team spirit,’’ the more I find that people here are more ‘’goal-oriented’’ than ‘’honoring-somebody oriented.’’ Everybody has an opinion, like in a discussion about “globalization,” in my Political Science class, no matter how dumb or brilliant their opinion is, they got a chance speaking uninterrupted so they can make their full statements, because people here understand, or I presume that people do, that they are working towards a common goal and everybody’s reaction is unique,  important and worthy to contribute to the greater achievement, or a little more philosophically, the greater good, regardless of what the answers the considered authorities or even the instructors themselves have provided in the study text.

Once an American college teacher commented that, ‘’We Americans are good at collaborating and that’s how we put men on the moon.’’ It’s curious how a mode of thinking shapes a nation once values are put into practice. It’s easy, actually, you just have to assume everybody can do something beneficial, and keep your hands away from their right to interact. However, it’s hard, and you may realize that if you’ve been to a country like China. Therefore I consider myself lucky, and with great privilege I can closely experience the simple but adorable value that’s been consistently maintained on a daily basis.

Sheng Qu is a freshman majoring in Mathematics. He can be emailed at [email protected].