So the unthinkable just happened… I GOT A JOB!
It feels like just yesterday, I was having a quarter-life crisis because at twenty-three years old, I didn’t know where I wanted to live or what I wanted to do with my life. I guess turning a year older does make you wiser because now I’m a twenty-four year old with a job and a plan.
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I was bit surprised by how seriously everyone took my “quarter-life crisis”, when in reality, I just wanted to vent about how confusing it is to be a 23-year-old who has chosen a different life than pretty much everyone I know. The only person who wasn’t the least bit worried about me was my mom because apparently I have a mini crisis every single year when my life isn’t all perfectly planned out.
In true Richelle fashion, I scored an interview within weeks of writing that post, and had a job less than two months later. Haha…. whoops.
Wait… didn’t you want to leave China?
For those of you who didn’t read my “quarter life crisis” post, I mostly talked a lot about how I wanted to leave China and try something new. I was ready to move on, but I couldn’t find a good job outside of China that wasn’t teaching English.
It felt like I had four equally crappy options: 1) stay in China with an awesome job, even though I want to leave, 2) move to a new country and work a job I hate, 3) become a freelancer with no financial safety net and mountains of debt, or 4) move home to a life of monotony. None of those options sounded appealing.
“Why is it so hard to find a job in Asia that’s not teaching English? It’s impossible… unless you’re in China. If you’re in China, all you have to do is sneeze and you can find a job.” -Life, Travel, and My Quarter Life Crisis
Here’s the deal: I don’t hate China. I do have a joking love-hate relationship with my home for the last few years, but aside from the internet censorship and pollution, I don’t really have any major issues with living here. Living in China is easy for me now. What’s difficult is keeping things exciting, and forcing myself to avoid becoming the expat everyone hates: a jaded China bitch.
Living in “southern China”, I get in a winter funk every year because it’s so freakin’ cold!!! With no indoor heat or insulation, it’s actually miserable.
But every year when the sun comes out, the flowers bloom, the pollution disappears (kind of), I think “Wow, I could stay here another year.“
“Now that my time teaching in Ningbo has come to an end, I can’t help but wonder why I hated my location so much. Sure, it’s isolated and inconvenient, but it’s not that bad right? It took me a while to figure out what changed; then I realized: it was the weather.” –The End of My Year Teaching in China
To be honest, I was fretting over whether or not to take this job, when I got some great advice from a friend with a few extra years of life experience. He told me that I’ve spent years making myself a valuable candidate in China. I know Chinese, I have a ton of work and life experience here, I’m getting a master’s degree, and a lot of companies are dying to hire me. It would be a shame to throw an awesome job away just because I’m “looking for a change”. Especially when I’m $20,000 in debt!
Beijing is probably the best place I can be
To be honest, Beijing is definitely enough of a change to keep me excited. I LOVE Beijing. There’s something about the crazy, bustling city and ancient Chinese culture that keeps me coming back. I can spend my days off exploring all the cultural sites I didn’t get to see when I studied abroad, and best of all…
I CAN MEET UP WITH YOU GUYS!!!!
While I really enjoy living in Ningbo, I know none of you are ever going to visit me here. Ningbo is a really nice city that a lot of Chinese people would love to live in, but it’s not a place for international tourists. It’s definitely nice to avoid the crowds and always get a seat on the bus, but I know I need to be in a place where you guys can meet up with me!
I have a lot of really interesting projects in mind, and Beijing is the best place I can possibly be for them. I’m thinking of leading city tours to cool places in Beijing like the Summer Palace, Wangfujing Night Market, dinner and an acrobatics show, or off the beaten path hikes on the Great Wall.
I’d also like to set up dinners where I can meet up with travelers and take them out to a tasty and cheap Chinese restaurant! I’ll order all the food and teach everyone how to decipher a Chinese menu, while giving my fellow diners a good repertoire of dishes to order. I’ll also chat about Chinese culture, and give any tips and travel advice I have.
I honestly think it would be really awesome to meet up with readers and China travelers. I plan on advertising in hostels around Beijing, and possibly work with cool startups like WithLocals and BonAppetour. I’ve been living in China so long I’m basically a local, right?
The New Job
I know I complained endlessly in my quarter-life crisis rant about how I DO NOT want to teach English professionally anymore unless it’s to college students. Well guess what? I’m working at an ESL cram school teaching 5 classes a day to preschoolers.
I’ll be working as an admissions consultant, helping Chinese students apply to study at American universities!
Basically, this new job is everything I loved about my job last year teaching English to Chinese high schoolers, without all the things I hated.
One of my biggest issues with teaching last year, was that I couldn’t form close bonds with all of my 1,000 students. I felt like a dancing monkey, trying to do my best to help these kids learn and feel confident speaking English. Next year I’ll be working closely with around 15 students in different stages of their high school career. This is so much better, because I’ll get to know each of them on a personal level, and it will be so fulfilling to see them off to their dream schools in America!
Each student at the company is assigned an American and Chinese consultant who will work on their application. From what I gathered, the Chinese consultant does most of the paperwork, translating and formatting Chinese classes and scores to fit the American application. I will be working closely with students on their personal statement essays, extracurricular activities, and interview preparations.
I’ll also help my students choose which universities to apply to. During my internship at the Study Abroad Foundation in Beijing three years ago, I noticed that Chinese students have a tendency to choose the highest ranked university they can get into, rather than a university that best fits their needs. I hope to convince my students that rankings aren’t everything (actually they’re a load of BS), and it’s much better to pick a school that fits your learning style and personality.
As part of my job application process, I had to edit two personal statement essays from current students. Both of these kids had something big in common: they had the money, intelligence and guanxi (connections), to get into the best schools in China. They could have easily skated through in life, attending a top university, getting a great job. But both of them rejected this for a life of challenge, adventure and new experiences.
I really hope all my students are like them. If so, I’m in for a great year!
The Job Details
I’ll be working five days a week from 10am to 7pm. I’m pretty sure my boss said we were working eight-hour days, so I think this means I get an hour for lunch/nap (the Chinese love their nap time!) While a typical Chinese workday starts at 8am, most of the students will be coming in after school, so we don’t need to arrive until 10am. I’m a night owl, so this works great with my sleep schedule.
Because we’re meeting with high schoolers, I’m required to work on Saturdays. This means that I get one other day off a week, which I get to choose. I can take off Mondays to give myself a two-day weekend, or I can spread things out and take off a Wednesday or something. I can even work six-day weeks and accumulate overtime which can be used for extra vacation days.
Salary and Benefits
I wouldn’t be a true Chinese person if I didn’t fill you in on my salary and benefits.
After some negotiation, I was offered a salary of 18k yuan/month ($2,900 USD) for the first year, with the possibility of a raise for the second year (it’s a two-year contract). This means my base salary is 216,000 yuan per year ($34,700 USD).
I also have a housing stipend of 6,000 yuan/month ($950 USD). Considering my old piece of crap apartment in the same area of Beijing was around 2,000 yuan, I think I’ll be living in a pretty swanky place! My guess is that I’ll have a decent little studio apartment with a kitchen in the Haidian university district where I’m working.
Considering most of my friends in expensive cities like Washington DC and New York spend almost half their salary on rent, I think I’ve got a pretty sweet deal. Also, Beijing is actually a really cheap city apart from housing (as you can see by my huge housing stipend!) There are tons of small hole-in-the-wall restaurants where I can eat dinner for $1-2 USD, and public transportation is subsidized. I can take the subway anywhere in Beijing for less than fifty cents!
Even western food and bars are much less expensive in Beijing than they are in my current city Ningbo. For example, a “Western” dinner in Ningbo will cost me around $10 USD, whereas the “Mexican” place near where I lived last year had $2.50 USD giant burritos every Friday. A small bottled beer will cost you $4 USD at a bar here, but in Beijing the bar I frequented had beer on tap for less than $1 USD and rail drinks for less than $2 USD. Don’t even get me started on all the Ladies Night deals!
In addition to free housing, my job also provides free health insurance, as well as a free flight to and from the USA once a year. They’re also paying for all of my visa and residence permit fees, and they’re flying me to HK in the fall to get my visa processed.
In addition to all Chinese holidays, I also get twenty days of vacation per year. I hope to do some traveling during this time, but I will definitely need to take a trip home to America someday…. You know, to see my family and friends, stock up on American products and eat all the non-Chinese food I can get my hands on.
While I’m a firm believer that teaching English abroad is a real job and can definitely be a career, I can’t help but feel like this is my first “adult job”. Last year I was only paid 5,000 yuan a month ($800 USD) with free housing. I was also teaching abroad through a program as a supplementary oral English teacher. Next year I’ll have a real salary with real benefits. Guess who’s an adult now?!
Big Life Plans
During my next two years I hope to work on paying off my student loans, while also saving up as much money as I can. Apparently if I put $1,800 USD of my monthly $2,900 USD salary towards my loans, I can have all $20,000 paid off in one year! Considering my salary was only $800 total last year and I still saved up $3,000 USD AND traveled, I’m pretty confident I can spare the large chunk of my salary and be fine.
After my contract is up I’ll probably travel long-term all through Asia. I definitely
want need to have the experience of traveling slowly, long-term on my own time. I hope to backpack South Korea, Japan, SE Asia, India and more! Maybe I’ll even throw in a trip to North Korea (I’m actually not kidding).
I pretty much know for a fact that I don’t want to be a professional travel freelance writer as my career. While I love writing for Adventures Around Asia, I find it stressful to write for other sites, especially when I don’t know anything about the topic I’m supposed to be writing. While I don’t mind doing it part-time, I can’t imagine dealing with the stress, hustle, and low-pay travel freelance writing has to offer.
That said, I think I could definitely create a location-independent life through other means. Over the next two years I’ll have plenty of time to put some entrepreneurial projects in the works. I have a few big ideas up my sleeve, so be excited for amazing things to come!
What do you think of my new job in Beijing? Excited? Surprised?