Move to Beijing

Nĭ Hăo, friends! An incredibly long delay! I can use the excuse, “my life is sort of crazy right now” but that seems like my quintessential “go-to” excuse these days. My biggest news is that I moved to China!

Move to Beijing
Cafe wall painting

I decided to make the move this summer when I realized I was running into the same issues over and over and decided I needed a big change. These continuous issues were:

  • A sense of directionless in freelancing
  • A lack of permanence in place (and the inefficiency in working when faced with a lack of routine)
  • Money stability
  • Relationship “stuff” (which I won’t get into)
Move to Beijing
NOT the typical Beijing skyline but a view all the same

What Am I Doing?

China! I am currently living in Beijing working for a company which specializes in U.S. higher education. Applying to U.S. universities can be difficult for Americans even though we are indoctrinated by the college system through our culture, schools, and good ol’ hearsay. A lot of Chinese families put high hopes in their children to get into the best schools but navigating the application process can be difficult. And that’s what we do! Families come to us and we advise them.

Right now, I have all juniors so I work with students over a long period of time in order to develop them intellectually, help them foster interests and skills, get into impressive summer programs, and help them understand how to write a personal essay. My hope for this job is to develop my professional profile in education consulting a bit more, get more practice editing personal essays, and learn something about a new culture (of course).

The Chinese visa process is lengthy and tiresome. Even though I am here, I am still working through the process of getting my permanent residency visa. I have an apartment, have had a good start at my new job, and have gotten almost completely set up and made friends.

Move to Beijing
This took 2 months, a rejection, a flight to the US, a hurricane, a frenzy of faxed documents, and hundreds of dollars

First Impressions of Beijing, China

  • The City: I imagined Beijing to be a bit like New Delhi­– huge, congested, dirty, and a bit chaotic. It’s not that bad. Honestly, I got some bad reviews of Beijing, but I think Beijing is a place that is changing rapidly. My first shock was how clean the roads are compared to Vietnam and India. My office is in the financial center so I wondered if that was why, but even venturing into other neighborhoods, many streets are lined with trees, the sidewalks are decently large, there are side areas for bikes, and the cars generally obey traffic laws (though there are a lot of cars, but crossing the street isn’t nearly as terrifying as in India or Vietnam). There is a mix of new, shiny skyscrapers and old Hutongs with little alleys and traditional architecture.
Move to Beijing
My street 🙂
  • Food Prices: Beijing isn’t as cheap as I hoped. I’m earning more, so I will still be able to afford a decent standard of living, but I can’t order a Vietnamese coffee at a swanky café for $1 and I can’t live in a furnished apartment in a great neighborhood for $250/month. I’m getting used to spending $7-$10 on meals again, but Beijing was a bit of a shock to the system coming from Vietnam.
Move to Beijing
Taiwanese food!  A good example of something affordable.
  • Other Prices: Rent is horrible. The only places I found that were very reasonable and cute were an hour from my office by subway. I found a studio near my office which is the most I’ve ever spent on rent in my life. It’s good but it’s not even that nice.  I’m paying more than I did in Chicago for a place about the same size! The gyms are so expensive it makes my lungs close up a bit every time I search prices. A CrossFit membership will easily cost you $200/month. I’m still sorting that out.


  • Work-Life Balance: The people in my office have been incredibly gracious and welcoming. The other counselors all seem to be really cool and interesting people. I do worry a bit about how much time and effort I will sink into this job. Not even because I want to spend my weekends on the couch binge-watching Netflix, but because I’m still not finished trying to get my novel published and want to put a lot of time into a second novel I started. Also, I want to maintain a healthy workout routine, read, keep up my Spanish, learn Chinese, and start a new literature blog which I plan to launch in January. Ambition is a double-edged sword.

I really hope to make the most out of my time in China. Right now, I still feel pretty neutral, but I also recognize I will only get out what I put in. I’ve already started my Chinese lessons twice a week, found a gym with a free trial, made some friends, and am going to try out some new book clubs, language exchanges, and an Internations welcome party in the coming weeks.

Also, I don’t want to get too into it, but one reason the decision to come to China was so difficult was that it meant ending my previous romantic relationship. I’m only writing this publically because it’s been a bit awkward having to explain to people over and over who regularly read my blog and assume he came with. He didn’t, but it was amicable. Sometimes people just go in different directions.

And lastly, even though I am busy, I’m still happy to do any editing or writing projects people need help with!

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Gwen, just posted the restaurant info on your Mom’s Facebook post. Wasn’t sure how to send photos here.

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