Liu Xiaohong boarded a Beijing-bound train in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, on the morning of June 24. Amid tears, cheers and a great deal of ruined makeup, Liu's classmates helped her lift a large suitcase, containing mementos of the past four years, onto the luggage rack.
"I'll let you know as soon as I find a job, and you guys should do the same," said Liu as she cried and waved from the window.
The train was crowded and the crush of people standing in the corridorsreminded her of the annual Spring Festival travel rush.
There were many young faces in the carriage, and Liu believed that, like her, they were recent graduates, heading to Beijing to embrace a new, but unknown, life.
A record 6.99 million students graduated from colleges across China this year, an increase of 2.8 percent from 2012, according to the Ministry of Education.
Liu, who has just graduated from Jilin University with a graphic design degree, was heading to Beijing for the third time since November. Like numerous other graduates, she spent her time in the capital attending job fairs.
The 24-year-old has dreamed of becoming a full-time artist since childhood. She chose graphic design four years ago because at the time it was a popular major with promising prospects.
"I never thought I would fail to find a job, but that's what has happened. I was determined to find a job in a large design institute. However, after attending several large job fairs at campuses in Changchun and other cities, I felt desperate," Liu said.
The more job fairs she attended, the wider the gap between hope and reality became.
"There were very few companies seeking people like me, and most of them were small firms I had never heard of."
There were 18 students in Liu's class, and most are still looking for jobs. Many are planning to move to larger cities where they believe the opportunities will be more plentiful.
Between October and April, the average employment rate for graduates with bachelor's degrees stood at 35 percent, a decline of 12 percent compared with the same period last year, according to a poll of 50,000 graduates conducted by MyCOS Research Institute, a Beijing higher education consultancy, and the Internet company Tencent.