'Don't feel inferior': PhD student in China works as delivery driver to support sick son

A PhD student in China has sparked a discussion about status after he told his story of working as a food delivery driver during his studies.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

The decision by a PhD student in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang to work as a part-time food delivery driver sparked a debate in the country about accepting jobs deemed “beneath” a perceived social status.

Meng Wei, who studies at Zhejiang University, said he does not feel sorry for himself because the food delivery job allows him to support his family while continuing his dream of earning a doctoral degree, Zhengguan Video reported.

Meng took the job partly because he had been pursuing a PhD for a long time, having started the journey in 2014. Meng became depressed when he failed his first dissertation attempt but decided not to give up.

Meng shares a video of the food he needed to deliver.
PHOTO: Weibo

However, in 2021, Meng was dealt another blow when his baby boy was diagnosed with fulminant myocarditis, a rare heart condition that often leads to death.

Meng’s son survived, but he underwent four significant treatments and spent 60 days in intensive care. The medical bills from the heart problem nearly made Meng broke, and he realised he needed to find an avenue to make some money.

“I do not have a cent,” Meng said in the video. “Working as a food delivery driver is a proper job. Not only can it provide a steady source of income, but the job also helps me relieve my anxieties from my studies.”

A photo of Meng’s baby when he was in the hospital.
PHOTO: Weibo

He added: “I have felt like my academic failures were a disgrace for Zhejiang University and Chu Kochen Honours College, but I have not felt inferior while working as a food delivery guy.”

The news report attracted 1.62 million views, with many people agreeing that anyone who works hard labour should not feel shame.

“There is neither lowliness nor nobleness in any job. Making a living by working hard deserves nothing but respect,” said one person.

Another said: “Meng is a doctoral student and also a responsible father.”

Other people noted that they also worked blue-collar jobs when they were in school. “I earned money by selling vegetables, candyfloss and chips,” said one viewer.

Some people online wondered why Meng had decided to be so public about his struggles.
PHOTO: Weibo

However, some people wondered why Meng felt it necessary to tell his story publicly.

“Is he trying to put pressure on the university to grant him a doctoral degree?” one person asked.

Another asked: “If he truly thinks this is not a lowly job, why did he feel it was necessary to apply to the university?”

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.