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Students ignore social attitudes to attend burial studies course
Students from Changsha Social Work College attend a volunteer activity at an ecological funeral at Yongan Cemetery in Tianjin. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Like most college students, Shen Xinyi works as an intern during the summer and winter vacations. How[MG_SEO]ever, her job is a far cry from the usual student work experience; she cleans, dress and applies makeup to corpses, so the deceased person will look good when relatives come to pay their last respects.

"I don't regard bodies as dreadful, because my father was a mortician and I saw many of them when I was younger. For me, it is a career. My former classmates all show respect for, and curiosity about, for my choice," said the 19-year-old, who studies corpse antisepsis and cosmetics at Changsha Social Work College in the central province of Hunan.

In 1995, when the college began provide funeral-related coursesŁ­such as how to write obituaries, cemetery design and embalmingŁ­there were no other majors of a similar nature anywhere in the country, and only 120 students were recruited, according to Xiong Ying, a professor at the college.

Now, though, more than 800 students at the college are studying funeral-related subjects, and about 300 graduate every year. Though there has been a surge in the number of students, employers still contend fiercely for the colleges' funeral major graduates.

Xiong said the graduates have ample choice whenblank can koozies looking for work.

"Only 300 students graduate every year, but there are more than 1,600 job vacancies," she said.

Despite the popularity of the course among employers, social attitudes and human instincts work against recruitment. Sun Ruirui studies funeral services at the college in Changsha. Though her parents are supportive of her choice, the 22-year-old still has concerns about telling her former classmates about their college major.

"When my friends ask, I usually tell them I am studying how to host wedding ceremonies, but, in fact, I host funerals," she said.

Xiang Xu, 21, studies cemetery design and funeral culture. "If people are biased, I tell them I study design, but if they aren't, I tell them everything," he said.

To help freshmen identify with their future career and overcome any psychological resistance to the major, teachers at the college often talk about the significance of the work.

"Funeral services are not just about bodies. Through our jobs we can interpret the life of the deceased person and illustrate how unique they were. Only those with a loving heart can successfully serve the families of the deceased," Xiong, the professor, said.

She added that the college is planning a program of expansion to meet the high demand for quality practitioners.

"For this year's autumn recruitment, the college plans to raise the number of students on the course from 830 to more than 900," she said.|