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Want a job? Learn Mandarin

December 15, 2011


Brain drain reverses course, flows away from America


By Chris Taylor, Reuters

NEW YORK — Derek Capo was living the high life. He was in his early 20s, an analyst at hedge fund Everest Capital monitoring international equities, and soaking up the weather and nightlife of his hometown of Miami.

But looking ahead, as he’d been trained to do, Capo didn’t like what he saw. The housing bust was starting to strangle the Florida economy, the stock market was looking increasingly erratic and he didn’t want to pursue a pricey MBA in the middle of an economic crisis.

He also wanted to test his entrepreneurial muscles, by starting his own business, ideally in a locale that felt economically vibrant, with seemingly limitless possibilities. To do that, Capo left the U.S. in 2007.

He now lives in Beijing, having founded Next Step China. The firm offers Chinese-language immersion programs, and arranges opportunities for foreigners to teach, intern or volunteer in China. “I wanted to take the next step in my life and career,” says Capo, now 29. “I connected the dots and decided that I should go somewhere different and learn something new, like Mandarin, to challenge myself. I picked China because it was growing so fast.”

It’s a curious phenomenon that sends Americans abroad to look for work. The U.S. has traditionally skimmed the best minds from around the world in pursuit of the American Dream. Indeed, according to polling firm Gallup, which surveyed people in 135 nations around the world, the U.S. was the top desired destination of those who wanted to relocate permanently to another country.

But with unemployment hovering around 9 percent, the use of food stamps at record highs and the Great Recession continuing to punish the budgets of so many families, the American economy is much less of a magnet. To some young entrepreneurs, economic possibilities seem brighter in places like Brazil, Russia, China or Latin America. Indeed, the State Department now estimates that 6.3 million Americans are studying or working abroad, the highest number on record.

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