Erin is always talking about her jobs so I figured I would inform people more about my job. I work in a cultural exchange company, which basically recruits and sends students from China to study abroad. The company that I work for primarily sends high school students to study at high schools in the USA, but we have many other programs like summer camps, work and travel programs, a program for foreigners to come study in China, etc. My office is in southwest Beijing, a place that foreigners basically never venture to, so it has a somewhat “Tangshan-ny” feel to it, which is fun. Now that the weather is warmer, I can ride my bike to work which halves the amount of time it used to take on the bus, plus I eat enough carbon and dirt on the ride over that I don’t need to have breakfast. I get to ride past the Temple of Heaven, one of China’s most famous landmarks, and almost everyday I look over and think, “Wow I live in Beijing,” similar to living in Washington, DC and seeing all the monuments.

I am the only foreigner at my office of about 10 people. Almost all of them speak good English, so there is no difficulty communicating with people. Although I go to the office everyday, I don’t always have a lot of work to do in the office (hence me writing this post right now (shhhhh)). Unfortunately, the planet that we live on is an imperfect sphere, so there are times where the sun is shining on one side and not on the other. Seeing as I am the only native speaker of English, it is my duty to deal with the foreign partners that we work with, trying to coordinate our existing business as well as create and establish new projects. This sometimes means staying up late or getting up early to coincide with other time zones, but it isn’t too bad for the most part (I hate the west coast of America though). We have stopped working with some of our old partners and started working with new ones since I have started working here, and I assume that in the future I can add a lot more partners. Now that I have been in Beijing for a while, I am meeting more and more people interested in working together, and I think that there are some potentially exciting possibilities for future projects and such. As I always say to people, there is a never ending sea of Chinese students that want to study abroad. Let me tell you why.

First, there are more than a billion people here. Second, the Chinese education system is strict and outdated in many ways, so some students and families really want the best education they can find. Third, success in the Chinese education system is completely reliant on doing well on tests, especially the “Gao Kao”, literally meaning tall test, which is given at the end of high school. If a student does well on the Gao Kao, they can choose what and where they want to study, but if they do badly, they will potentially have to study something that they don’t want to at a place they don’t want to. Not only that, the job market isn’t exactly ripe for new graduates, with about 20% unemployment for college grads, and the people with jobs aren’t making a lot of money for the most part. So, we provide a service primarily to the students that are not going to do well enough in China to study at a good school, and either their parents are really rich and want to send them abroad, or their parents are willing to make a gigantic sacrifice to give their only child the best possibility of succeeding. As we have mentioned before, having one child tends to leave Chinese children spoiled and unprepared for adult life, but you can also see the pressure that is placed on these children from a young age. If a child doesn’t succeed, not only will the child suffer, but the parents of the child, who are relying on their child to care for them when they get older, will also suffer. It is a complicated and different attitude then in the USA, but their society demands it in a way.

The job isn’t always exciting but the people I work with are pretty solid. It is a fairly laid back atmosphere, in large part due to me being a foreigner. People here have treated me well and we get along, which is better than almost every other place that I have worked. I also have a chance to meet a lot of enterprising and interesting people, which is really the best part of the job. Many of the students we send really don’t “get it,” never even attempting to embrace American culture or talking to their host families, but some of them really do. Some of the students are really special and it is really refreshing being able to help them pursue a dream. I do think that programs like this are important for developing the relations between China and the rest of the world, and, obviously, it is a field that is only starting to open the floodgates. The number of Chinese students that studied abroad grew by about 30% SINCE LAST YEAR!!!! I really can’t explain how many students there are (more than 1.2 million), but just know that almost every boarding school and university in the USA is bombarded by applications from China, and it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is a pretty exciting field these days.

Only about a month before I become an uncle! Can’t believe it. Hope that everyone is doing well and enjoying the spring weather. Our rabbit is doing well, getting fat, and starting to really gain confidence in his exploring of our house. He has learned how to climb onto our bed by jumping onto the nightstand or climbing up a backpack, pretty clever little guy. Whatever he can do to spread his little turds to as many places as possible it seems. Another post coming up soon, as they say in China “Bye bye.”

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

“Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.”

-Laozi (aka Lao Tzu)

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