He faced classrooms full of villagers' children, getting a monthly allowance of 600 yuan ($87) as a volunteer teacher in a rural school in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
Shi Chenbo, 23, a graduate student of physics at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, said it was an invaluable experience.
"I widened my horizons and found out how to achieve my goals through persistence and teamwork with others," said Shi, back from his one-year stint in July.
Best of all, Shi said, he was given free admission for postgraduate studies in his university.
Shi is one of the country's many graduates facing a dismal job market amid trying economic times.
About 6.11 million college students are expected to graduate next year, an increase of 9 percent from that of this year, official figures showed.
The Ningxia rural teacher volunteer scheme itself is part of a slew of measures the Ministry of Education has required of schools and education departments nationwide to take to broaden employment channels for fresh graduates.
The authorities will send 30,000 college graduates next year to teach in rural and western areas, the ministry said earlier this month.
College graduates are being encouraged to work in rural and western areas, at least for a few years. The authorities will then provide them with education subsidies or admission to postgraduate courses.
The teaching scheme is being offered amid the large numbers of graduates who are expected to choose postgraduate study to delay entering the fierce competition for jobs.
The ministry has also rolling out detailed policies to encourage college graduates to join the army, such as providing free admission for postgraduate study and preferential admission to government agencies after candidates complete their military service.
The army alone is set to absorb more than 30,000 college students next year, nearly the total of those enlisted in 2006 and 2007, the ministry said.
More than 1.2 million people sat for the postgraduate entrance exam this year and the number next year is expected to be even greater, figures from the Ministry of Education showed.
Many provinces and cities have see rising numbers of candidates registering for the exam.
Beijing saw 220,000 registered examinees signing up for next year's exam, up 5.2 percent from that of this year, while Jiangsu province saw 83,000 registrants for next year's exam, an increase of 13.7 percent year-on-year.
Xue Huimin, a major in English who will graduate from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine next year, said half of her class of 40 decided to continue their postgraduate study after graduation.
"One-quarter of my classmates attended the civil servant exam two weeks ago and another quarter entered the tough job market," said Xue, who plans to continue her studies in Europe after graduation next summer.
University enrollments in the country have risen rapidly since the government launched a student-recruitment campaign in 1999, official figures showed. In the first year of the campaign, enrollments swelled by 520,000 nationwide.
Universities enrolled more than 6 million students this year, more than five times that of 1998, Ministry of Education figures showed.
Still, more employers are said to be picking students who graduated from professional technical schools.
Wang Wei, CEO of a private IT company in Beijing, said he will choose workers who can bring more benefits for less costs.
"A degree can mean little to us. If a vocational school student and a university student, both with the same skills, apply for the same position, we will surely pick the former to save costs," Wang said.
To further help college graduates find jobs, a supervision system to promote students' employability should be worked on, Jiang Gang, deputy director of College Student Department of the ministry, said in a recent interview.
Students trained in disciplines such as engineering and traditional industries like mining, machinery and manufacturing were the most sought after, a ministry report showed earlier this year.
Subjects that saw low rates of employment for their students included the English language, world economy and trade, as well as business management.
"Schools must actively coordinate with the enterprises and industries to frequently shift their study programs and increase the number of students trained in professions that are most employable," Jiang said.
Source: China Daily