Chinese students in US coming home for jobs

Updated: 2012-06-28 03:37

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Chelsea Hu, who will graduate in December with a master's degree in communication management from the University of Southern California, seems unusually relaxed while most of her classmates are scrambling to find jobs in the United States.

"I have decided to return to China, where I will be more competitive for a senior-title job," she said.

"I'm concerned more about finding something I am interested in rather than taking an entry-level job just for the purpose of staying in the US," Hu said.

The 26-year-old passed four rounds of telephone interviews to land an internship this summer in the Beijing office of an American video-on-demand provider. Hu, who earned her bachelor's degree in television editing and directing from Peking University, left for the Chinese capital last week.

Before coming to the US, she worked for a year in a Beijing public relations firm. Work experience combined with her US degree would make Hu a top candidate for many jobs in her home country, as employers seek out talented Chinese who were educated abroad to help them navigate the global marketplace.

Hu is among a growing number of graduates who are heading home to China and its enticing job market as hiring in the US lags. Statistics show that over the past year, unemployment among US college graduates younger than 25 has averaged 8.5 percent. That's better than the 9.5 percent recorded in 2011 but much higher than the 5.4 percent seen in the year preceding the recession that began at the end of 2007.

A New York Times editorial on June 4 noted that even those American graduates lucky enough to find decent work will face reduced starting salaries this year. From 2007 to 2011, the wages of young college graduates, adjusted for inflation, declined 4.6 percent, or about $2,000 each per year, the paper said. Many others will struggle to find work or have to settle for lower-level or lower-paid positions that don't require a college degree. "The posts available for international students are very limited at job fairs," Hu said.

For Yang Jie, who graduated in 2011 with a master's degree in business administration from New York's Fordham University, 12 months of job hunting in the US didn't end happily. After sending more than 100 application letters and getting a few phone interviews, he has yet to receive a single offer.

But Yang said he isn't frustrated. "This is quite normal. Even some American graduates might face the disappointment of moving back in with their parents, or have to work at a cafe to pay off loans," he said.

He plans to fly back to China in July and research the domestic market's potential for an education business he has in mind.

"More and more Chinese families want their children to study in the US at younger ages," he said. "I want to start my career by setting up a study-abroad website to serve Chinese applicants."

Data shows Chinese have outnumbered Indian peers to become the leading group of international students at US colleges and universities since the 2009-10 academic year.

Some Chinese students of the Class of 2012 have lucked out.

Zhang Yanni, a graduate of the University of Rochester in New York State, recently started a job as a digital-marketing specialist for an American IT company in Southern California. She said the pay is good and her boss is nice.

"I am the first and only Chinese student (of 13) in my class to get a job so far," Zhang said.

"The job market here is pretty good this year for Chinese students majoring in high-tech. It seems the high-tech field is in another boom cycle," said Roy Kong of the US-China Association of High-Level Professionals.

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Liu Yiyi in New York contributed to this story.