Working with Strangers: A New Phase of Being A College Student

2020.10.12 – Listening to HA:TFELT’s Cigar.

While I couldn’t exactly call my juniors strangers, it’s true that I was unfamiliar with them in a classroom setting. We did interact during lunch break or club activities, but this year is the first time I work with them for academic purpose.

To be honest, I was perplexed. I have gotten used to the rhythm of my own friends in the same batch–when they’re available online, what apps they mostly use for group projects, the way we divide responsibilities. After three years working with them and with my seniors (whose work rhythm was also kind of similar), I was not prepared to adapt to my juniors’ way of teamwork.

For one, they’re available online most of the times. Which means whenever I put away my phone for an hour or two, I will come back greeted with at least 75 new messages in every class group chats, filled with people discussing the hurdles they have while working on an assignment. I know I’m not obliged to be on every second of the day, but it still makes me feel bad whenever I check group chat and realize my group mates have already started discussing the conclusion of their part of the assignments.

The second reason being my juniors are already divided into several circle of friends. So whenever we get group assignments, the division of groups is already decided. It’s hard for me since I was used to my own batch’s habit of randomizing groups every time we get assignment, in order to “freshen up” the environment. Among my juniors, I will be the last person who is selected for a group. Not because they don’t particularly want to be in the same group as me, but because they already form a fixed group.

I experienced the third reason today. We had an assignment to analyze a Japanese text and summarize it. With my own batch, we will prefer to create a Google Docs, divide the parts, disappear to work on our own, and then come back to unite all the pieces. With my juniors, a group work is a long discussion via video conference app. They work on it step by step together. I have to admit that their way makes sure that everyone understands every part of the text, but it’s also a lot more time-consuming. For someone who prefers working alone on my own pace, this long duration of discussion makes me more stressed than anything.

These reasons make me realize how different my friends are compared to my juniors. My batch upholds individuality and freedom. We have various activities outside of academic, which is why it’s normal for us to only be available at a certain time of a day. While my batch also has its own share of fixed circle of friends, we generally realize that friendship and teamwork don’t necessarily have to come in one set. We can work together even with people we aren’t actually friends with. One of the reason my juniors refuse to randomize groups is because they don’t want to end up with someone who doesn’t want to work or someone whose working style isn’t compatible with them. With my friends, work is work. Either you do it or you don’t. And if you don’t, we simply won’t include your name in our work.

This post might seems like I’m making a comparison between my batch and my juniors, which I actually am, but not in the way that says my batch’s way of teamwork is better. I’m merely making an analysis in order for me to adapt to a new environment I’m currently in. I definitely miss working with my friends and still don’t feel comfortable amongst my juniors, but I’m working on it. It’s not all bad after all. My juniors are generally more academic-oriented, which is good since I’m trying to be more organized with my way of studying. And to adapt, I only need to make small changes here and there. Reach out and ask to join an existing group instead of waiting to be invited. Make sure that my group mates understand that I’m only available for several hours a day. Let them know when I need an hour or two to prepare my materials before diving into a discussion. Small things like that keep the teamwork flowing and avoid misunderstanding.

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