Per­se­ver­ance pays off as dreams of gold come true

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By SU ZHOU

Com­pared with those who like to hang the word “dream” over their mouths, Nie Feng from South­west China’s Chongqing, prefers ac­tion to talk­ing.

In 2009, dur­ing the sum­mer va­ca­tion when she was wait­ing to be­gin her se­nior mid­dle school stud­ies, Nie watched a hair­dress­ing show on tele­vi­sion and dreamed that she could do the same.

Rather than be­ing con­tent to idly dream of do­ing it some­time in the fu­ture, the 16-year-old girl acted to make it real by vis­it­ing the hair­dresser on the show, He Xianze, who is a teacher at Chongqing 51 Vo­ca­tional School.

Af­ter the visit, Nie de­cided to drop her se­nior mid­dle school stud­ies to pur­sue vo­ca­tional train­ing in­stead.

“My stud­ies were not out­stand­ing com­pared with other stu­dents. So I thought why not try to be the out­stand­ing in a field I was in­ter­ested in,” Nie said.

In 2015, Nie’s dream came true, when she be­came one of China’s five gold medal win­ners at the 43rd World Skills Com­pe­ti­tion in Sao Paulo, Brazil. That was the first time Chi­nese com­peti­tors won gold medals at the World-Skills Com­pe­ti­tion.

“I par­tic­i­pated in the com­pe­ti­tion three times. In 2011, I was not ready in terms of skill. In 2013, I was very close to win­ning, but the pres­sure from other com­peti­tors and my own de­sire to win took that away,” she said. “That was very frus­trat­ing, and I was de­pressed for a long time.”

But she per­se­vered. In Oc­to­ber 2014, she de­voted her­self, for the third time, to train­ing in­ten­sively for the com­pe­ti­tion. Ev­ery day, from 7 am to 11 pm, Nie prac­ticed at school or com­peted in con­tests with other com­peti­tors at home and abroad to im­prove her skills. Her ef­forts fi­nally paid off.

“Dur­ing the event, the judge brings you a black-and-white photo with the front image of a model and asks you to do the same hair­cut within a set time limit. You don’t know the hair color, or what the back looks like,” said Nie. “This is a chal­lenge of your hair­dress­ing skills, your un­der­stand­ing of hair de­sign, as well as your imag­i­na­tion.” She is very proud of her suc­cess. “Many may con­sider hair­dress­ing as a low-en­try level pro­fes­sion, with no tech­ni­cal con­tent. I don’t blame them. In the past, hair­cuts didn’t need too much skill. Many could start their own business af­ter train­ing for a cou­ple of months,” said Nie. “But af­ter I started study­ing at the vo­ca­tional school, I re­al­ized there is much to learn. It needs you to have a quick hand as well as a good un­der­stand­ing of art and fash­ion. We are stylists in a way.”

Nie said many par­ents liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas are now let­ting their chil­dren be­come hair­dressers.

“In their eyes, my job is as good as, or even bet­ter than, an of­fice whitecol­lar job.”

Nie Feng, a gold medal win­ner at the 43rdWorldSkills Com­pe­ti­tion

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