All her Chinese classmates were landing jobs back in the motherland, but Celia Li decided to stay in London after finishing her postgraduate course last September.
The journalism graduate from London's City University became a news anchor and reporter with Phoenix Television's European Station and says she is happy with her new job.
"Working in this political and financial center of Europe gives me great opportunities to catch up with the latest affairs and interview significant figures from all over the world," she said delightedly.
Like Li, many Chinese students, especially those in science and engineering, say that being within easy reach of resources such as the latest science and technology findings is one of the main reasons for settling overseas.
Such resources are essential for Wang Lin, who has been working as a research associate at London's Kings College since he finished his PhD there two years ago. "I think China's available research resources are still fewer than those in the UK," he commented. "Often we hear about the latest research results here and have many opportunities to attend conferences and research meetings."
Wang will eventually return to China, but he doesn't feel that now is quite the right time. "With the technological development of China, many Chinese researchers prefer going back to their country. And some in the UK are seeking opportunities to do just that."
A large number of Chinese students study in British universities and many end up staying and working for large companies like BP or financial organizations, according to Janet Kealey, spokeswoman for the China-Britain trade group.
Quincy, a Chinese business analyst in a British firm in London, who did not want to give her full name, believes that work offers an entirely new overseas perspective.
"The experience of studying is one thing. The experience of work is quite another and it could be really helpful in the future," she said.
Quincy went straight to the UK after graduating from a Chinese university. She decided to stay partly because her overseas study would not make her competitive in the Chinese job market.
Working abroad puts Chinese in touch with different kinds of people, giving them the opportunity to look deeper into other cultures and sharpen their skills. "Since I was lucky to get an offer here, why not accept it and accumulate work experience?" she asked.
But not everyone is as lucky as Quincy. The slowdown in the world economy and big layoffs have already shut many graduates - not just the Chinese - out of the international job market. But, it is doubly difficult for Chinese students because of problems with work permits. UK-based employers have to prove that they actually need someone from overseas when they apply for a government work permit for Chinese employees.
Language barriers and a lack of communication skills can also prevent Chinese students from getting an ideal jobs. Samuel, a PhD student in Economics at Oxford University, talked about the pressure he felt when he found he had to compete with his rivals who presented themselves in fluent English at job interviews. But, he still landed a job with a well-known financial group.
Even after getting a proper job, life can still be difficult for overseas Chinese. Racial discrimination in a white-dominated society is a problem for some Chinese. The UK's National Union of Journalists quoted some Chinese journalists working in the capital as saying that they had to pay the price for their yellow skin.
"They (the BBC) recruit (Chinese) people on three-year fixed-term contracts and it make us second-class citizens," said one disgruntled Chinese producer at the BBC. "They pay us at the bottom of the grade. If you are white and you work in the newsroom it is easier to realize your grade."
So, although hundreds of Chinese students end up working in the UK after graduation, most of them still look forward to returning home. "I will definitely return after a couple of years," said Li. "But I will cherish my opportunity to work in and experience the UK."
(China Daily January 11, 2003)