Crouching tiger, hidden opportunity

Students in the West are taking advantage as emerging economies like China and India pave the way for a new developing world

Said Madi Sci ’10, hopes to find success in the burgeoning software development market in Dubai.
Said Madi Sci ’10, hopes to find success in the burgeoning software development market in Dubai.
Photo: 
Rowena Selby, Education Abroad Advisor at the Queen’s International Centre, says there are many resources available for students to find out about work opportunities abroad.
Rowena Selby, Education Abroad Advisor at the Queen’s International Centre, says there are many resources available for students to find out about work opportunities abroad.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

For decades, the West has profited from attracting talented workers from around the world. But many Asian, Middle Eastern and South American economies are experiencing growth rates unfathomable in the developed world, a phenomenon that has prompted many young university graduates to travel east to seek their fortune.

The Financial Times reported that even with the recession, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) will expand by 8.3 per cent in 2009 and 9.4 per cent in 2010 to become the second largest economy in the world after the United States.

There are many other countries boasting impressive growth. BRIC is the moniker for Brazil, Russia, India and China, four of the largest emerging economies, but smaller countries like the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia also hold promising business opportunities for young professionals.

Said Madi, Sci ’10, is one of many Queen’s students who have decided to take on emerging economies and furnish their C.V.s with unique experience.

Originally from Palestine, Madi lived in Dubai for several years before coming to Queen’s. He said he plans to return to Dubai after graduating with a degree in computer engineering. He plans to develop computer software for a bank.

Although Madi found his job through a personal connection, he said that’s not the only way to find jobs in other countries. Ultimately, it depends on how your qualifications match with what foreign firms are looking for.

“It shouldn’t be too hard, it just depends on your area of study and the demand in the place you’re planning on working,” he said. “The demand for software engineers in Dubai is pretty high.”

Madi said students from Western countries have an advantage over citizens of the country in places like Dubai because of the credibility of their education.

“If you’re from a foreign place where they speak English, you have an advantage. Because you have a Western education, you’re privileged,” he said.

Madi said Western-educated people can receive enormous perks with a job in Dubai like free food, free accommodations and education for their kids. The sheer salary that can be earned in many Middle Eastern countries is the biggest incentive to go, though.

“You can make double the money in half the time,” he said.

Madi said the culture in Dubai is by and large very similar to Canada’s, but there are some challenges Dubai is “a little bit conservative” and cautions that there’s more corruption than in most developed countries, Madi said.

“You can’t be involved in anything political,” he said.

Madi’s plan is to work in Dubai for about four years and return to Canada, where he plans to fulfill his long-time aspiration of opening a restaurant. He said he’d like to settle in Canada, but finds debt to be a potential problem.

“This is what I would consider a good life,” he said. “The major sad thing about living in Canada is you get hooked on credit cards and loans and stuff like that. It’s easier to go and make money in the Middle East and bring it back.”

Carmen Ng, ArtSci ’10, plans to work in Hong Kong and either apply her degree in chemistry or gain experience in the fashion design industry.

Ng has been able to find many opportunities through personal connections and the Labour Department of Hong Kong, but said pickings can be slim in Hong Kong, adding that about 25 per cent of Hong Kong residents are now unemployed.

She said working in Hong Kong can lead to good jobs in many other parts of Asia. She also said that students may earn money much faster working in Hong Kong than they would in Canada.

“As the political power and economical situation of People’s Republic of China is rising rapidly, more opportunities are to be found in Southeast Asia. Hong Kong is one of the gateways to get into and learn about China,” she said in an e-mail. “Also, the tax rate in Canada is way higher than that in Hong Kong. Therefore, it’s a lot easier to save up money with a stable job in Hong Kong than in Canada.”

Ng said there are a few concerns in moving to Hong Kong. Right now, Ng said H1N1 flu as well as the less common H3N2 viruses are very common in Hong Kong, infecting a hundred people per day. Many Canadians may also contract food poisoning when they first move to Hong Kong because they are not used to the way food is stored or preserved and can therefore be susceptible to certain types of bacteria, she said.

Ng also stressed the importance of cultural differences in acclimatizing oneself to China. She said there are a number of important superstitions and traditions in Chinese culture.

“Symbolism plays a big part in Chinese culture. While on a daily basis, there are different things that shouldn’t be mentioned due to their unluckiness, during special Chinese festivals, there are rituals, traditional practises, guide lines for what kind of food to eat, what colours of clothing to wear, etc.,” she said.

Ultimately, Ng said she wants to learn from the competitive, fast-paced business world of Hong Kong but eventually move back to Canada, where she said the lifestyle and job opportunities are more in line with what she wants for the long run.

Rowena Selby, Education Abroad Advisor at the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), works to point students in the right direction of what kinds of jobs and programs are available to students looking for professional work opportunities.

Selby said she tries to address the practical concerns of working in another country.

“I really focus on how they’re going to find work,” she said. “Do they have contacts to potential employers? Do they have a place to stay?”

Selby said work is harder to come by for someone with just an undergraduate degree and that students should be prepared for some roadblocks.

“Students have quite an assumption a lot of the time that they can go wherever. That is certainly an assumption that they should not have,” she said.

One area Selby said Canadian students can find a lot of work opportunities is teaching English in Asian countries, where she said there’s an established market. Other areas where there is a high demand include information technology, engineering, nursing and health care. Selby said she’s seen students have success in other industries as well, though, even through simple cold e-mailing.

She said finding people to contact is key to finding work.

“I always tell people that if you have any kind of personal contact, use it,” she said.

Many students find work opportunities through international job sites or newspapers like Guardian Weekly, which covers job markets all over the world. Other valuable resources Selby suggests are SWAP.ca, which gives detailed information on teaching opportunities in China and Thailand, and the Canadian government website at international.gc.ca.

QUIC also offers a chance for students to speak with other students who have worked or volunteered in their country of choice about everything from job tips to health concerns to cultural differences. Representatives from 31 different countries can be contacted by appointment through Selby or through the Country Representative Database in the QUIC International Resource Library.

Selby said although she tries to point out the challenges of moving to a foreign country, there’s a tremendous amount of literature and resources to help students prepare.

“There is certainly an increasing market for these types of opportunities and I suspect there will be more in the future.”

For more information on work opportunities in different countries, visit the Queen’s University International Centre Resource Library or Career Services.

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