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Youth Devoted to Patriotic Volunteer Service

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It started to rain late Saturday night, and 23-year-old Zhu Haomin was forced to suspend the work of pasting 1,000 pieces of paper labels on the ground in the Tian'anmen Square in the center of Beijing.

The 440,000-square-meter square, the largest in the world, was supposed to be covered with tens of thousands of pieces of labels to help locate teenage performers who was to have a rehearsal for the October 1 celebrations for the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

Zhu, a student leader in the Beijing-based China Institute of Defence Science and Technology, was much proud to be a volunteer for the "biggest national celebration of 2009", even all he could do was to paste labels at late night for rehearsals and the final grand show.

"It's a big honor to me. For young college students, it's rare experience and fortune to be helpful in the preparatory work of the country's breathtaking moment," he said.

Thousands of college students in the capital were selected to do voluntary work for the 60th founding anniversary of New China. Zhu was among 543 volunteers working for background performance.

Zhu, like many others in the team, had been a volunteer for the2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. Growing up from the two games, Chinese college student volunteers have become a lovely team with noticeable contribution in grand events.

Ready for responsibility

Zhu was among the 14 finalists out of more than 2,000 applicants for the volunteer posts in his college, after passing written tests and interviews.

"Everyone was enthusiastic. It's like competing for a public servant post. Students in universities outside Beijing did not have a single chance," he said.

Zhu's college has been carrying out militarized management on students, which requires them to do regular physical exercise under strict rules.

In the past two years, Zhu has kept running on the school playground at 6 a.m. and doing push-ups every day.

"We live like soldiers, in a self-disciplined way, with strong sense of timing. That's part of the reasons why we are capable of demanding volunteer work," he said.

Staying up late at night for work or study was frequent and once he did not sleep for 48 hours during the Olympics, Zhu told Xinhua.

Sun Lianhua, another volunteer in same team with Zhu, was a student leader in the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Majoring in electrical engineering, he pretty much enjoyed the work of pasting labels, with a heart full of national pride.

"The work looks trivial, but we all know 'a little leak will sink a great ship'. If I make a tiny mistake here, the whole celebration will possibly be disturbed," said Sun.

Sun said he managed to save half of the allowed time to finish pasting labels during the second rehearsal, through setting up an assembly line with two other volunteers.

"Simple work can be creative too. Our talents haven't been wasted," Sun said.

Willing for sacrifice

After all the work was done for the rehearsal, Zhu returned to school before dawn, with the only idea of jumping on bed for some sleep.

"Usually, I wake up early and start reading English at 5:00 AM every day. But since I work for celebration, my study plan is in a mess," he said.

Coming from Shiyan City in central China's Hubei Province, Zhu chose to stay in the college during the summer vacation to prepare for the postgraduate exam.

"After being picked to be a volunteer in March, I've been busy with meetings, training courses and exams all the time. By now I have only finished two thirds of my summer plan," he said.

Zhu was going to take the entrance exam to postgraduate studies in Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Hubei in January next year, but he was worried that he was falling behind.

Several volunteers interviewed by Xinhua said the voluntary work for the October1 celebration was their major and only task in the summer, for which many other plans had been suspended, such as taking driving tests, traveling with families and studying foreign languages.

Zhu said he would double his efforts to prepare for the exam after the celebration was over.

"It means less personal time and less sleep, but it's no big deal. I can handle that," he said.

Big & small dreams

Born in 1980s, young people like Zhu and Sun have been described by sociologists as "the most lucky generation in China", as they benefit most from the country's reform and opening up in past 30 decades and grow up during the best stage of development.

"They are well-educated, open-minded, patriotic and ambitious, representing the country's vitality and integration into the global community," said Yu Hai, a professor with Shanghai-based Fudan University.

Yu observed that voluntary service has become a "cool" lifestyle for Chinese college students, which is a testimony to the country's ethical and cultural progress.

"Their contribution to society reflects the spirit of the times, and they grow up together with the whole country through voluntary work," Yu said.

But voluntary service could not be a lifetime career for the 80s generation, and they had different dreams about their future.

Zhu said he expected to return to his hometown and live with his family, "if only I could be admitted as a postgraduate."

"Beijing is just too big, and I hate taking buses for long time to reach somewhere. I don't think I belong here," Zhu said.

And Sun cared more about his career than which city he would like to stay. Having done internships in transnational corporations including Simens and General Motors, he had no plan to work for foreign companies.

"That's where you can earn much money, but you always feel like 'a migrant worker'. I prefer to a position in state-owned enterprise, to earn a living and make contributions to our country," Sun said.

"Just like what a slogan from Tsinghua University said, to work healthily for our country for 50 years," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2009)

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