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Youth juggle struggle, drive to succeed

By Yang Zekun | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-07 08:52


Hailing from rural areas, graduates overcome challenges as they settle down in big cities. Yang Zekun reports.

In recent years, the pressure of employment has weighed heavily on young Chinese people. Such pressure has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 epidemic as many face fierce competition for jobs in big cities.

Some have chosen to either forgo or abandon the rat race, either by remaining idle after graduating or quitting their jobs to return to their hometowns to figure out their next move. However, there are still many who have decided to take on the challenges of big city life head on.

All for his parents

A three-year-old laptop, two suitcases of clothes and two boxes of tea from his hometown were all Zhang Wen brought with him when he moved to Hefei, capital of Anhui province, five years ago to find work. Despite not having money nor any social connections, he had decided to root himself in the rapidly developing city.

Zhang, a native of Anhui's Yuexi county, began working for a finance company in Hefei in 2017 after he graduated from Anhui University.

He chose the provincial capital instead of Beijing or Shanghai because he thought that the city had developed quickly in various industries, and he hoped he could achieve success closer to home rather than in the metropolises.

"Taking root in the provincial capital wasn't as easy as I thought it would be when I left campus," the 29-year-old said.

After two years of work, Zhang had not been promoted in the company, had no savings and no money to put a down payment on a home. He agonized over whether he should remain in the city or go back to his hometown to take the civil service exam.

"After two years of working and living in the city, I still didn't have a space that belonged to me," he said.

Zhang said his parents are proud of him and his current career, and sometimes they brag when introducing him to people.

"Yet, failing to help me to buy a house in Hefei is a sore point for them, especially after learning that I failed to find a partner after two blind dates because I didn't have my own home," he said.

"My parents are smart and diligent. However, they didn't have many job choices when they were young, just farm work for very little money. They worked so hard to put me through college. I can't ask my parents to put up millions for a down payment on a house like many of my peers, as my parents don't have much money."

Zhang fell into depression in 2019. He began to doubt himself, questioning whether it was worthwhile living alone in a big city, and even complained about his family's poor financial situation.

However, a call from home changed his mind.

In June that year, his mother phoned and said that his father had been involved in a traffic accident while riding a motorbike.

He needed surgery, and the family also had to compensate a senior and a boy who had been injured, as traffic police had decided that Zhang's father had caused the accident after violating traffic rules.

"My mother asked me if I had some money, and I said I would try to do something about it. Then I found out that all my bank accounts had a total of less than 40,000 yuan ($5,746). I felt so awful that night and cried. I realized that I was stuck in my 'predicament' every day, without the ability to take good care of my family, nor had I achieved anything," he said.

After staying in Yuexi for about a month to deal with the matter, Zhang returned to his post in Hefei determined to improve his situation and earn a good living to help his parents.

These days, he gets up at around 7 am every workday, washes quickly, eats a bowl of noodles in a small restaurant downstairs and rides his electric bike nearly 10 kilometers to work. He is no longer torn between choosing to stay in Hefei or leaving.

"I found that my desire was very simple after the accident: I want to take care of my family," Zhang said.

"So I decided to firmly put down roots in this city and improve myself. I have more job choices than my parents did. I want to explore more life possibilities, accomplish something and provide my parents with better lives."

He now earns about 10,000 yuan per month and spends about 4,000 of his salary on monthly expenses. He is saving the rest so that he can eventually buy an apartment in his community.

Finding success

For 30-year-old Jin Ju, buying an apartment in Beijing with her name on the certificate of occupancy was the culmination of her efforts to manage an intense work schedule and ace each project she handled.

Jin, a computer science engineer at an internet company, said the moment she moved into the home she bought in the spring of 2018, she sat on the sofa and listened to her favorite music while waiting for her food delivery. She felt that she had finally settled down in the city.

Born in a remote, mountainous village in Jingzhou, Hubei province, Jin said she didn't get much help from her family.

"If it weren't for my excellent academic performance, I would have quit studying after junior high school. There was never sufficient money back at home," she said.

Jin earned her bachelor's at the Renmin University of China in Beijing. She said studying in the city broadened her perspective as she met people through internships, school clubs and jobs. Moreover, she said she has always felt that she can achieve anything through hard work.

"I feel like there are numerous possibilities in the future for me. That feeling encourages me to overcome all challenges to stay in the city," she said.

While settling down in the city wasn't easy, Jin said she was lucky to find a job in her chosen field when the market was booming and companies were offering excellent salaries.

When she graduated from college in 2012, her monthly salary was slightly above 10,000 yuan. Now, she earns more than 100,000 yuan a month, far above the average wage in the capital.

Persistent efforts and a good work environment helped Jin save enough money to buy a small apartment in Changping district, about 25 km north of downtown Beijing and over 10 km from her workplace.

She lives there with her husband and 8-month-old daughter.

"It means I have a place that belongs entirely to me, and I don't have to worry about rising rents or constantly moving. I can even provide shelter for those I love," she said.

"It's hard staying in Beijing, and even now I still have to think of a way to get another degree or find some other method to increase my chances of getting hukou (a residency permit) in Beijing, which is of vital importance so my child can get a better education in the city."

Jin added that though challenges remain, she is more excited than anxious.

"I have more job opportunities here than in most other cities, and maintain my habit of learning, reading and exercising. I do feel pressure, but it motivates me to become a better person," she said.

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