Paola Gutierrez in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, in October 2022 (COURTESY PHOTO)
I was born in a small city in southern Peru called Arequipa, also known as the "white city," because many of its buildings are built from a volcanic material called sillar, which is usually white. Arequipa is a small town with a population of under 1 million.
Since I was very young, I have always wanted to travel, learn about other cultures and learn to speak more languages. The first time I came into contact with Chinese culture was in 2016, the year before I graduated from university. The Confucius Institute in Arequipa launched a promotional campaign at my university. Confucius Institutes, named after ancient Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius (551-479 B.C.), serve as nonprofit public institutions to help foreigners better understand China by teaching the Chinese language and culture at universities in their host countries.
I learned standard Chinese for a year in Peru, and then was told about the opportunity to study the language in China. I took a Chinese proficiency exam, applied for the scholarship and the next year, I was on a plane to China, specifically to Nanjing in Jiangsu Province.
At first, choosing a city was a bit difficult because as a person from a small city, I was very afraid of big cities like Beijing. So when I heard that Nanjing had once been an imperial capital in ancient China, I chose that city as the place to start my trip. Nanjing University was my first school in China.
I was told Nanjing was a small city and so, when I first arrived, I made the mistake of thinking it would be easy to get out of the airport and take the bus to the university with just the address written on a piece of paper. Fortunately, I had a new classmate I'd just met at the airport to accompany me, as I was not at all ready for what was to come.
Long story short, we got lost not once but twice. It's a sad reality that in many parts of Latin America, there is a big probability that people carrying large items of luggage through the streets after midnight will become the victims of crime. With my new friend totally tired, I decided to seek help from the only people I saw on the street. Surprisingly, not only did they help us call a taxi in the direction of the dormitories, but they also invited us for a meal. This was my first good impression of China. China provides a lot of peace in terms of citizen security.
After one year in Nanjing, I fell in love with China and decided to return the following year, 2019, to start a master's degree. This time, I felt ready to try living in a big city and chose to study in Beijing.
I studied for my master's degree at the Central University of Finance and Economics. Like many fresh graduates, I fell into the human resources sector by accident, recruiting foreign staff for Chinese enterprises. Although I entered this field in an unexpected way, it attracted my interest. I stayed put because it provides a broad learning space. Our company cooperates with many companies in different industries including the Internet, video games, automobiles, broadcasting and media, international trading, biotechnology and hi-tech manufacturing.
After two years of working in this industry, I can say that there are great opportunities for foreigners because of the government's support for enterprises. Chinese business needs and seeks many experts in different industries and at different levels. Although demand is high, employment for expats in China is becoming increasingly competitive, and many are becoming more specialized in order to compete. Chinese language ability is commonly one of the most basic requirements for employment.
The development of technology and the digital economy have had a huge impact on our customers and thus on our company. The development of Chinese technology has enabled many companies to improve their processes, helping them increase their output and thus begin expanding beyond the domestic market. To do so, these companies need the support of local talent in overseas markets to help them achieve their goals and implement their globalization strategies.
My colleagues and I immerse ourselves in these trends and support our clients in establishing connections with the best talent in different regions and industries around the world.
The author is a Peruvian working in China
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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