After working in Tibet Autonomous Region for one year as a volunteer, Liu Yingjun decided to stay there for at least eight more years to help the region's development.
Liu signed up to do volunteer work for the Tibet Urban Construction Bureau in 2003, the year he graduated from Tongji University after he declined an offer from Guangxi Institute of Architectural Design and Research.
Liu said he felt Tibet was in great need of talented people. So he never hesitated after making up his mind to work there.
"Of course, I faced a great deal hardship at the very beginning, both in my daily life and at work," Liu recalled.
The first few days in Tibet was so lonely, Liu said.
"Since I am a young man, some of the construction workers didn't have much confidence in me," Liu said.
He soon conquered that problem through hard work.
During the year, Liu was responsible for managing a 230-million-yuan (US$28 million) project to rebuild a main street.
"At first workers from the construction company didn't listen to me much," Liu said. "But later, after they realized I am a serious man and had done much study work, they gradually accepted me."
Working in Tibet for nearly two years, Liu also made a lot of friends. "People there are very honest and sincere. They are all my good friends," he said.
The bureau offered Liu a fully furnished apartment and helped him with some of his chores in the winter.
"Those things show they paid much attention to the volunteers."
But the salary in Tibet is a little low compared with other provinces.
Liu earns about 1,000 yuan every month, which makes it tough to send money back to his parents and younger sister in Shaanxi Province. He has only been able to travel home once, as he can't afford the 4,000-yuan traveling expenses.
"My parents never complained and always supported my decision," Liu said.
His college girlfriend didn't understand, however, and she broke up with him after he went to Tibet.
Graduates who have worked in western areas receive bonus points on the postgraduate entrance examination if they decided to return to school.
(Shanghai Daily August 10, 2005)