And just like that, five months flew by.

Where I left off: After an unexpected stay in the United States last summer, I was able to return to Malaysia last November. And as soon as I got back, I ghosted my blog. 

This was mainly due to the fact that once I got back to Malaysia, I hit the ground running setting up my new life. Here’s what has happened since:

The Move

shirtless man leans on balcony overlooking sunset in city
View from our balcony

First, I moved. My timing worked out quite well; I returned to Malaysia the final week of my apartment lease. I was able to do home quarantine in my old apartment and used the time to pack up my old life. 

While I was away, a friend from my Crossfit box had taken over my apartment temporarily; since I was coming back, he had started looking for a new place to live. Coincidentally, I had been eyeing the two bedrooms in my building because I liked the layout better. Plus, all these lockdowns showed me how much I do not like being lonely. And so, we decided to take a two-bedroom unit on a higher floor. While I was still in the U.S., he toured a few units; we agreed on one, and I got to move in as soon as I was done with my quarantine.

After that, IKEA trips, setting up a new desk, figuring out the new internet, and other new home tasks took precedence. Then there were the other aspects of moving: setting up a bank account, getting my official visa, getting my university ID, etc, etc…

Social Life

Seven people stand in front of Kuala Lumpur tower

During my five months in the U.S., I more or less had a social circle of four. I stayed with my parents and sometimes did lunches or dinners with my mom. Other than that, I went on weekly walks with a childhood friend/neighbor and frequently drove to Raleigh to hang out with my college roommate. 

Obviously, I talked to the people at my Crossfit gym in the mornings but otherwise, I just took a lot of long solitary walks on Eno Mountain. 

When I got back to Malaysia, I sort of forgot how many friends I had. There were dinners, parties, catch-ups, and birthdays. In the first month of being back, I threw a Thanksgiving Party, went to my friends’ baby shower, had a welcome back dinner, and frequently went to brunches and meet-ups and whatnot. 

The second month was Christmas parties, a trip to Penang, and more brunches. 

Penang, December 2021

The third month was New Years’, a trip to Langkawi, going away parties, and more brunches…

New Year’s Eve 2022

By the fourth month, I had gained 5lbs and so now I am on a diet and don’t go to nearly as many brunches.

I’m a Ph.D. Candidate, y’all!

Ok, so this is the biggest update! One year ago this April, I applied to do my Ph.D. candidature at Monash. Monash is a reputable Australian university that I first heard about back in 2015. I first discovered it when looking up ways to get a second Master’s degree without going back to the U.S. Throughout my twenties, it would pop up in my searches whenever I had a life crisis every few years and threatened to go back to grad school. 

Of course, I was looking at the original Monash located in Australia. But when I got stranded in Malaysia due to Covid last year and found out Monash had a campus here, I started thinking…

There is a long story behind doing this Ph.D. that involves months (nay, years) of back and forth over if it was the right decision for me. While I will save this story for another post, here is a summary: this was absolutely the best decision I have made in a very long time. 

The moment I sat down and wrote my research proposal last April, a side of me I had completely forgotten existed burst through. 

Annotating Toni Morrison’s Beloved

I love academia; I cannot believe it took me this long to return to it. 

Although my bachelor’s is in history and my Master’s is in Middle Eastern studies, my Ph.D. is in literature. Part of me recognizes I should have been studying literature all along; luckily, I got quite a bit of it in my undergrad and master’s classes.

My research is on the Gothic genre; more specifically, the objective is to consider how authors around the world have borrowed and utilized Gothic elements in their texts in order to write about collective and inherited trauma, cultural heritage, and memory. 

I love that my literal job is to read, think, and write about books.


Part of receiving free tuition and a scholarship means I am required to teach at Monash. I was a bit worried about teaching being a burden on my time and energy. But I love teaching at a university so much. This semester I am teaching “Film Genres;” in addition to discussing the foundations of genre theory (something that has helped me reconsider my own research in literature) each week, we discuss a different film and genre (i.e. Spanish fairy tale, Gothic Horror, American Rom-Com). We are also watching films from all over the world. 

My students are absolutely lovely; the material is interesting and engaging. I find the topics challenging but not difficult. The discussions I have with my students are conversations I want to be having all the time with everyone. 

I’m also still teaching for the company I used to work for in Beijing. I teach two writing seminars on the weekends and do a range of editing and grading for them. I also teach two private literature classes on the weekends with two Chinese preteens I’ve been working with for two and a half years now. Together, we read everything from Black Beauty to Hemingway; Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm to the Wayside School series. 

I love teaching these classes; I find the editing work flexible, fun, and well-paying. Even though I am essentially working five different jobs, I like each of them so much, that I couldn’t imagine giving any of them up!

Busy Bee

However, this also means I cannot think of a single day in the last two months that I haven’t worked in some capacity. Maybe I don’t work all day. Maybe it’s just an hour in the morning or a bit of light editing in the afternoon, but I can’t remember the last time I have taken a full day off. 

The more I do and the more I have to share, the less time I have to write. But thanks to everyone who has told me they actually read my blog. I’ll try to be better at keeping the updates less than five months apart!

Girl in white on beach smiles into distance
(I even worked this day)

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  1. Another fun recap. I particularly like that you explained your PhD topic b/c I can never remember exactly what to say when asked about it.

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      It’s okay! It seems to change daily. I’ll write one on just the PhD at some point 😀

  2. Thanks for the update ☺️

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      You’re welcome 🙂

  3. I am so glad it is going so well! It looks beautiful.

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      Thank you! Feel free to come visit. I have an excellent (non-expensive) resort I think you and Ken would like. There is a bar in the pool.

  4. Nice to catch up 🙂

    1. Gwendolyn A Bellinger

      Next post will be a review of those seated ankle exercises you showed me.

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