The Decision – Rachel

Graduation at ASU.
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Graduation at ASU.

I’ve always loved music – playing it, listening to it, and seeing it live. As a child, I played both piano and trumpet, and I even joined the marching band in both my high school and university. I loved music so much that I decided to major in Music Therapy at Appalachian State University. However, after falling in love with the hippie scene and all of the great live music that comes with it, I decided to change my major to Music Business. I decided that I wanted to work as close to the action as possible and be behind the scenes in the music world.

In 2008, I took an internship with a music promotions company in Atlanta and attended countless festivals where I worked before, during, and after the festival. Unfortunately, that didn’t lead to a job, so I spent the fall living at home and waiting tables, just to make enough to travel to shows on the weekend.

During that time, I kept in touch with Sasha, and his adventures and experiences in Beijing sounded great. However, I still wasn’t sold on moving there myself. After all, we barely knew each other at the time. When he came back in June 2009, we decided to spend the summer traveling the country together, working at festivals and going to countless Phish shows. It was tons of fun, and it still motivated me to put my degree to use and get into the music business.

Us being w00ks at Bonnaroo '09.
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Us being w00ks at Bonnaroo ’09.

After that huge summer of fun and traveling, we were broke and in need of jobs. Seeing as how we had friends in the area, I figured I’d try to get a job in Nashville; after all, it is the Music City. I bought nice formal work clothes, got my resume and cover letters ready, and hit the pavement on Music Row looking for any kind of opening. I volunteered at conferences, attended networking events, and reached out to everyone I knew. In short, I did a real job hunt and took it seriously.

Unfortunately, jobs were in short supply (thanks, economic crisis!) and the ones that were available were going to better-qualified people. I ended up waiting tables… again. Between the two of us, we barely made enough to pay our meager share of the rent in the college house shared by some of our friends. We both had to beg our parents for cash to help, and we even had to apply for food stamps.

As you can imagine, this was kind of depressing for two young, college-educated, qualified, and motivated people. We kept on trying, though. After all, we had no other options aside from moving back in with our parents.

Hiking in middle TN.
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Hiking in middle TN.

We were lucky enough to get to head to Phish’s New Year’s run in Miami at the end of 2009, where we were going to enjoy the nice weather, good friends, and great music. The mood was soured one day, however, when we heard from a friend back in TN that our house had been broken into. My computer was stolen, as was Sasha’s nice guitar. A few weeks later, my car was broken into as well.

I had reached my breaking point, and all I knew was that I had to get as far away from middle Tennessee as possible. Finally, I asked Sasha what he thought about returning to Beijing. It seemed like the happiest day of his life when I gave him the green light to go back. I knew that the only reason he had stayed behind was for me to pursue my dreams, but they just weren’t working out. We decided to go to China together this time and start teaching and saving money.

Camping on the Great Wall of China.
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Camping on the Great Wall of China.

During my five years in China, I had plenty of ups and downs. I had a million different jobs – some great and some terrible. I was kicked out of an apartment and left homeless. I slept on the freaking Great Wall of China! I learned a lot about China, its language, culture, and people, and I also learned a lot about myself.

I never thought I’d be a good teacher, but it turns out I am and I actually enjoy doing it. I never thought I’d be a world traveler, during that time, I visited 13 countries! I certainly never thought I’d speak Chinese, and yet I can hold simple conversations with people. I also never thought I’d start my own website and use it to share my experiences with the world.

I may not work in the music business, but I’m making one helluva tour out of my life, and I’m loving every minute of it! It’s not an easy decision to move abroad, but it could turn out to be one of the best ones you ever make. I hope our experiences – both positive and negative – can inspire people to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new.

If you’re interested, you can also read about Sasha’s decision to move to China.

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