Teenage girl wins car competition, crashes through stereotypes

By YE ZIZHEN in Beijing and PEI PEI in Shenzhen | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-07-26 13:08
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Gu Huijing uses a laptop to check a car's condition at her school in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

When girls play with cars, they're serious.

It was at primary school that Gu Huijing first became interested in auto-robots and cars after watching some car-themed movies.

Born in 2004 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Gu decided to major in automobiles when she was in junior high.

She's driven by passion, but she is also a realist. "I think the future of the automobile industry is bright because we cannot live without food, clothes, houses and vehicles," she said.

In April, she won first prize at a provincial competition for vehicle maintenance in Dongguan city, which drew 33 teams from different cities across the province.

"I thought it couldn't be that hard to repair cars when I started to take courses, but I was totally wrong," Gu said.

When she started learning in 2019, she was frequently confused by the different parts, routes and circuit diagrams of automobiles.

Apart from lessons in mathematics, English and Chinese, the course covers chassis maintenance, engine reassembly, and circuit diagram recognition. "For me, the most difficult part is reading the circuit diagrams," she said.

Preparation for the competition started two months after she entered the school.

"Competition within our school is intense, so I had to work hard to stay in the running," she said.

Though still a sophomore, she was required to compete against seniors.

From 8 am to 5 pm, Gu had lessons as usual. But at night, she attended a training camp with about 30 students.

Her teacher once tried to persuade her to give up as she was a sophomore, wasn't as knowledgeable as the seniors, and no women had ever been selected for the competition before. "But I insisted that I would carry on," she said.

At 170 cm, even though she stands taller than many of her peers, she does not have the strength to move some of the heavier car parts. But her constant training and hard work won her the only spot to represent her school at the competition.

"My record for reassembling an engine is 26 minutes, 30 seconds less than the school record," Gu said.

A woman winning first prize in a vehicle maintenance competition became a trending topic on social media platform Sina Weibo, generating heated discussions over gender and career choices.

"Women should not be influenced by old-fashioned thinking, and should do whatever it takes to discover their interests and strengths. There are more possibilities out there," one commenter wrote.

Gu said: "Many people think vehicle maintenance is a job for men. That's a stereotype. I don't think gender has anything to do with choice of occupation."

When she told her parents that she wanted to major in automobiles, they were surprised.

"They thought I was joking. But they respected my decision and gave me advice: I should take responsibility for my decisions, no matter how hard things will be in the future," she added.

Gu is positive and energetic when she speaks. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and playing chess.

Tangping or "lying flat"-a Chinese youth trend about working less, or not at all-is becoming a contemporary buzzword, but for Gu, that's not her way.

"I have a goal and I will work harder to make it happen," she said. "I will be responsible for my choices."

Thanks to her outstanding performance at the competition, Gu has already received an offer from a college in Shenzhen.

She said she wants to choose a career related to automobiles in the future, but before that, she has another mission to complete.

"The first thing to do when I turn 18 is to get a driver's license. I can't wait to drive."

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