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Graduates struggle to gain foothold in capital

By Wang Xiaoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-15 09:13
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Silver lining

Yang Huanhuan, 25, junior manager at a telecommunication company

Occupies one room (40 square meters) in a seven-room dormitory in Xicheng district (shares one bathroom with six other people), with rent covered by company

Earns 8,000 yuan a month

Yang Huanhuan waved farewell to her boyfriend at the Beijing South Railway Station on Sept 5.

It was the first time the couple had parted ways since they met while studying at Sichuan University in Chendgu, the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province. After graduation, they moved to Hangzhou, the capital of eastern China's Zhejiang province, in August.

An abrupt transfer notice ordering Yang, 25, to Beijing, thousands of kilometers away from the humid climate she is used to, sent her on an apartment search in a city she described as "stifling, dry and cruel".

"It's a one-year relocation," she said. "My company offered me a free room in a dormitory, but I wanted to stay with my boyfriend who is preparing for his doctorate application."

They were optimistic about finding a one-bedroom apartment on a budget of 4,000 yuan a month until a few apartment inspections shattered their hopes.

Their targeted rooms, a promising list culled from online searches, were invariably glossed over with manipulated pictures that covered up dripping taps, cramped toilets and greasy stovetops.

On a scorching day in September, the couple visited a one-story, tiled-roof house nestled in an alley in Dongcheng district.

"The kitchen and bathroom were attached. When we stepped in, a sewer-like odor, mixed with the pungent cooking smells emitted from the shared ventilation tubes, made me feel nauseous," Yang said, frowning. "Now, thinking about it, that visit was the last straw for us.

"We realize the higher pay and glittering opportunities in Beijing come at a price. I can't afford it, but nor could I resist the city's temptations, so I found a way out."

Yang eventually moved into the dormitory and bade farewell to her boyfriend, who returned to his hometown.

"I am not a wailing baby or a teenager wallowing in self-pity," she said. "The silver lining is that we saw each other's commitment to this relationship during the room-hunting process in Beijing, and that alone will buoy me through difficult times."

Tug of war

Fu Yao, 25, English teacher at the TAL Education Group

Rents one room (13 sq m) in a two-bedroom apartment in Chaoyang district for 3,500 yuan a month

Earns 5,000 yuan a month

Four months before Fu Yao finished graduate school in Beijing, she put down a hefty deposit of about 12,000 yuan with her boyfriend to secure a one-year lease of a two-bedroom apartment in southeastern Beijing's Panjiayuan neighborhood, draining their savings from previous internships.

"I don't regret renting the apartment though I was under great financial pressure during the first few months," she said. "But it was the only way I could to give Mili a home."

Mili is a cat she adopted in December, one month after she moved into the new apartment.

"When I was in college, I was crazy enough to bring a stray kitten to my dormitory, which of course startled my roommates," Fu said, adding that she came to regret her recklessness after learning that cats prefer a quiet place where they can cuddle up to acquaintances.

"Cats can also be a disturbance because they tend to howl and scratch a lot," she said. "It would have been irresponsible of me to adopt a cat if I would not offer a suitable environment and it's inconsiderate to put others in the position of having to put up with cats."

Fu began looking for a pet-friendly apartment when she was given the opportunity to adopt a 6-month-old kitten for free.

"The room-hunting felt like a tug of war between two sides of me," she said. "I am an inexperienced college girl on a tight budget, looking to save money. On the flip side, I am an 'expectant mother' driven to build a warm home for my 'kid'."

Fu's budget edged up bit by bit as her desire to raise a pet ruled out most inexpensive options.

Even though she had to sublet the smaller bedroom in February to make ends meet, she feels blessed to have found an apartment where her cat is free to roam around.

"At least I got to choose a roommate who likes cats, and they get along pretty well," she said.

"I don't see Mili as a burden. In a big city like Beijing, life gets hard, especially for young people like me. And the reassurance and warmth Mili gives me when she curls up in my arms are priceless."

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