I never expected in my lifetime to see places like Tienanmen Square, the Great Wall, or Old Beijing. Visiting those places, and relating with students and athletes from a country on the other side of the world has definitely had an impact on me even after coming home. I can’t thank Valpo, Professor Lin, and everyone who helped get us there enough for such an experience!
Culturally, one thing that really struck me in China was the concept of community. When we visited the university of sports in Hangzhou, we saw countless athletes striving for excellence with such commitment that I was shocked personally. These kids gave up nearly everything, in order to spend all day in a gym, diving into their Olympic-sized pools or slamming thousands of ping pong balls at partners over and over again. The same kids that we worked with at our camp in the morning were in the gym running drills when we came to practice in the late afternoon!
The thing that drives these athletes is a sense of the community rather than merely individualistic goals. And this wasn’t just with the athletes, but I saw this theme also with the students we spent time with after the first game in Hangzhou. Everyone works to represent China the best they can, whether they play badminton or study physics.
Although we may not agree with the political system their community desires to promote, I really believe we could benefit a lot from learning their collective concepts rather than just our country’s tendency towards rugged individualism.
In America, there are some systems that immediately come to mind when thinking about our individualism. I’ve never thought of NBA stars working to represent their country, sport, league or even families the way that these young Chinese athletes do, but I imagine there would be a lot less selfishness if they did.
I am really excited that we got to experience a huge group of people concerned about each in a real way. I hope it will help us go that extra mile when we are working out, and allow us to have that greater goal in mind rather than just personal fulfillment. Maybe we will even be able to see beyond the game and take it to other areas of our lives. It would be a pretty spectacular thing to see the members of a Church forget the me-ism and think, in a way, like the Chinese do.
- Tabitha Gerardot