This Beijing Life: Month Zero

IT’S TIME. The big move to Beijing happens this Monday!!!

Since I’ll be moving to Beijing for the next two years, I figured it would be fun to do monthly recap posts talking about the highlights and challenges of my time in China’s bustling capital (or wherever I may be that month). I’ve noticed that the more I travel and the busier I become, the more impossible it becomes to keep up with my travels in real-time. Well, never fear, monthly recap posts are here!

What I’ve been up to this month

This month has been a crazy whirlwind of a month! My master’s dissertation was due on August 31st, and instead of being a responsible adult and working on it all summer, I decided to go to Northern Thailand and the Philippines… typical. But, because I’m also a huge overachiever, I couldn’t hand in something crappy, it had to be perfect. Cue an overwhelming sense of panic on arriving back in Ningbo, realizing I had only 5 weeks to finish EVERYTHING.

Mid-way through the month, I was interviewing a girl in my old dance group for my dissertation. She asked if I wanted to be in a series of four performances for the freshman welcome week. Since our auditorium is super small, we had to do the performance on four different nights to fit everyone in (and all the upper-classmen who snuck in and sat in the isles… can you say fire hazard?)

I had been having horrible back and wrist pains from hours spent hunched over a computer, so I agreed. We were only performing two dances, and I’d already learned one of them. How hard could it be right? Besides, I have to exercise anyway.

I thought everything would be fine until I saw a video of the dance we were supposed to learn… oh shit.

Since the other girls had arrived at school over a week early to prepare, they had nothing better to do than spend 5 hours a day at the gym learning this thing. I, on the other hand, gave them two hours a day and no more. Thankfully, I managed to get it together in time for the performance, the first of which was the day my dissertation was due. Like I said, I’m crazy.

For the last week I’ve been beyond busy. With my dissertation out of the way, I’ve been focusing on these performances, and I’ve spent way too many nights going out on the town with my friends for so-and-so’s goodbye party, and this person’s dissertation celebration. Let’s just say I spent a third of this week hungover.

UNNC Shuffle Crew

Shuffle Crew!

While it’s not technically August, tonight is Ningbo’s annual Boomshakalaka Hip Hop Dance Competition, hosted at my university. I went last year in October and it was so incredible! Since I’m the only native speaker in Shuffle Crew (UNNC’s dance crew), yesterday they asked me to interview the judges for a video promotion.

I interviewed two famous “popping” dancers from South Korea, Hozen and Kin, that won the huge Justice Debout competition, as well as the South Korean hip hop dancer 5000. Finally, the person I was most nervous to meet was Buddha Stretch. When I googled the guy, I just about fell over.

Not only is Buddha Stretch basically the founder of freestyle hip hop as we know it today, he also choreographed (and performed in) Michael Jackson’s Remember the Time video, and he was nominated for two MTV awards for best choreography.

The morning I was supposed to interview Buddha Stretch, I spent about twenty-minutes standing in front of my wardrobe panicking. I’m not cool enough for this! What do you wear to meet a hip hop star??

Not only was Buddha Stretch super nice, he was actually really easy to interview and complimented me on my interviewing skills!

Places Visited

  • Gym
  • Library
  • My bed
UNNC Shuffle Crew

Shuffle Ladies!


Handing in my dissertation 

It’s done. It’s FINALLY DONE!! A 97 page book (literally) on the censorship of Instagram in China, and whether or not it has led to more Chinese people downloading VPNs. After a massive survey, multiple interviews, way too many edits, and over an hour in a print shop, I’m FINALLY done with my master’s degree and it never felt so good.

Performing for the last time with Shuffle Crew… four times

Last May I thought for sure my time with the Shuffle Crew was a thing of the past. I never in a million years thought I’d get the chance to perform with them again. Well, I was completely wrong, I had a great time boding with the 19-year-old Chinese girls I’ve come to love. I really like having something to work towards, and let’s be honest, I love the attention performing gives me.

Hozen and Buddha Stretch UNNC

The afternoon interview crew with Hozen and Buddha Stretch

Interviewing Buddha Stretch

Like I said, not only was Buddha Stretch a really nice guy, he was super fun to interview too! After the interview I spent a few hours hanging out with Buddha Stretch and Hozen before their dance workshop. I had a great conversation with Buddha about executing dance choreography vs. knowing how to dance.

He said there’s a lot of hip hop dancers who can’t feel the music, and just memorize really complex choreography. While they look great when they dance to a song that they know, they’re incapable of really feeling the music, which makes their performance flat.

It was a really incredible experience to get to talk with all of them, and I can’t wait to see them dance tonight at the show for the finalists!

Flirting with a Korean Dance Star

Last night I was supposed to watch the start of the Introduction Week show with my roommates because I still had yet to see the first half. However, at the last minute a girl from Shuffle Crew called me, begging me to come interview Kin and 5000. Seriously?! I had already done my makeup for the show, and didn’t have time to research either of them to draft questions.

After she literally begged me, I agreed to come down and interview them. Let’s just say I wasn’t annoyed about missing the show when I instantly hit it off with one of the Korean judges. He added me on Wechat (the Chinese version of Facebook), and told me to text him if I ever came to Korea. While obviously nothing will ever come of this (probably), I’ll definitely be sitting at the VIP table tonight.

Just for fun, here’s a video of Hozen and Kin battling at Justice Debout. Hozen is the 2nd to dance, and Kin dances fourth.

Late nights with good friends

Throughout the year, I was friends with people of all ages, from first-year undergraduates to PHD students. After the majority of my friends left in May, I spent a lot of time bonding with my fellow master’s students. Whether it was running into them for lunch at Canteen One (the only place you could eat on campus all summer), or drinking beer on the grass for a study break, it was fairly easy for us to all bond while discussing tales of dissertation misery.

Now that we’re all done, we’ve spent a lot of time celebrating and hanging out, since they all have nothing better to do (I’m the crazy busy one). Now that everyone is slowly leaving, I’ve been pushed into way too many late nights, whether it’s drinks in the concession area, or late-night street food scavenger hunts. Overall, it’s been really fun to bond with all of these people, and hopefully some of them visit me in Beijing!

Master's dissertation



Trying to get my dissertation done in five weeks

I only had one panic attack, so I’d say that’s a win.

Internet Censorship OUT OF CONTROL!!

Due to the 70th Anniversary of the War Against Japanese Aggression (aka World War II), China has been cracking down on VPNs… again.

I can’t even describe how difficult it is to sit in the library all day writing about internet censorship, only to come home and have your VPN not work. It was like I was constantly surrounded by thoughts of internet censorship, which made me unreasonably aggravated if I couldn’t get on my VPN. It was way too emotionally overwhelming to be surrounded by such a negative topic constantly, especially while living with the consequences of China’s censorship policy.

As many of you know, I have Strong, VYPR, and even my friend’s Astill account on my phone, and all three VPNs are having issues right now. It’s infuriating! I couldn’t even check my email for two days at one point, and it hasn’t gotten any better.

To be honest, I really don’t know if I can handle this censorship for another two years. Not only are Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, and Gmail blocked, any foreign website is prohibitively slow without a VPN. How am I supposed to manage this blog, keep up with the news or ANSWER MY EMAILS if my VPN doesn’t work???!

Siargao beach

At least it was worth it!

Running out of money

After my trip to the Philippines, I thought I’d be okay financially until I started my job in Beijing. I had about $750 USD left in my Chinese account, which is more than enough to last me a month. I was even a bit relieved when my business English students were too busy to hire me back, giving me more time to work on my dissertation.

But then slowly but surely, things started to pile up. I had to buy my plane ticket to Beijing (which will be reimbursed), as well as my flight to Bangkok this October for TBEX, basically draining the last of my American money. Anyone know any cheap way to remit money??

The real panic attack came when I got an email from my new employers. Apparently they’ll be picking me up at the airport and hosting me at a hotel while we find an apartment. I knew my housing would be paid for, minus utilities, but what I didn’t realize was that I’d be footing the bill for the apartment deposit… which is roughly $1,000 USD… that I don’t have.

Thankfully, the dollar is doing pretty well, so I’ll be emptying out my Bank of America emergency fund. Unfortunately, that’s definitely not going to be enough to cover my deposit and living costs for a month. So… I guess I’ll be borrowing money from mom and dad, something I hoped I would never have to do. Thankfully, they’re able to lend me a little bit of money until my next paycheck. Otherwise, I don’t know what I would do.

So much for being a responsible adult…

UNNC Shuffle Crew

This was basically my face when I found out I’m broke.

The Chinese Economy is in the Toilet

Why would I teach English in Korea, when I can make way more money as an admissions consultant in Beijing? Well, apparently that might not be the case anymore after this year. I’ve already lost $1,000 USD off my annual salary, and apparently I’m due to lose much more. Word on the street is that the Chinese are planning to devalue the yuan even further.

While you might think this doesn’t really affect me, I’m using Chinese yuan to pay off US student loans… so basically I’m screwed. Thanks America for having one of the strongest currencies out there right now. In addition, any imported products are going to jump up even FURTHER in price. Cheese was already a luxury.

This is also bad news for all of my students, who are applying to study in the US. Now tuition and cost of living will be even more expensive for them. A part of me wonders how my company is going to fare. Will I still have a job in a year? It’s okay, I’m sure all the families I work with have off-shore bank accounts.


Bye bye UNNC!

Most Popular Post

My most popular post this month was The Man of Wonders: Life as a Professional Travel Blogger, closely followed by What Am I Doing With My Life?! (and other rational questions). This post was actually a feature story I wrote for my master’s in journalism class, and I have to say, I’m pretty proud of my writing on this one! Apparently, Raphael’s followers enjoyed it too, and it blew up a bit on Twitter and his Facebook page. Thanks man!

Best Instagram

Just because I was stuck in the library doesn’t mean my Instagram had to be!

Looking down into the lake inside the Taal volcano near Manila! If you look closely the sulfur lake water is boiling!!

A photo posted by Richelle (@adventuresaroundasia) on

Song of the Month

I spent a week on the Philippine island Siargao, where my hostel played this song on repeat. I found it on Spotify when I arrived home at the end of July and it’s been my go-to song for the month of August. I’m obsessed!

Coming up in September 2015

This Monday I’ll be waving Ningbo goodbye as I hop on a plane to Beijing. September will be a busy first few weeks of apartment hunting and starting my new job! I also really have to get new pages in my passport before I fly to Hong Kong for my visa at the start of October. Wish me luck on my new job, and I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes!

My last few weeks in Ningbo before the big move to Beijing!

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

6 comments on “This Beijing Life: Month Zero

  1. Such a busy life you’ve got, hope you can manage all of it, both financially and in time :)
    I could read, you’re going to TBEX soon. I was thinking about doing it next year in Sweden. Have you been before? Is it any good? (it must be if you’re going) :)
    Looking forward to hear from you :) (Jocelyn recommended your website, nice design btw).
    And actually, I was also supposed to go to UNNC if the currency of the Euro hadn’t suddenly dropped like crazy. If I’d known about the Chinese Yuan, I would’ve gone but now it’s too late :)



    • Thanks for your kind comment Lena! This is actually my first time at TBEX because it’s always been too expensive to attend (flights from China to Athens are crazy expensive). I’m really excited to finally go though, mainly just to meet other bloggers and get my name out there. Yeah UNNC is a great deal right now if you have foreign currency, although they might adjust the price in the future to reflect the pound but I’m not sure.

  2. Pingback: This Beijing Life: Month 1 - Adventures Around Asia

  3. Wow! You were part of a dance crew? And you interviewed famous celebs? You keep getting more and more impressive lol. Congrats on the dissertation! Those money troubles seem so stressful :( At least you made the most out of your last few days at Ningbo, you definitely went out with a bang!

    • haha yeah my last month in Ningbo was crazy! It’s kind of funny how you can do all this stuff in China you’d never be able to easily do back home. I never did hip hop before, and in less than a year I’m interviewing a famous hip hop star?! That’s China for you.

  4. Pingback: This Beijing Life: Month 10 - Adventures Around Asia

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