Working Abroad In China
Pursuing a job abroad and diving right into entrepreneurship – in a country where you don’t even speak the language – might seem like a lot. For Nicole Rudlege however, a science educator and the owner of Nandi Re, a beauty and lifestyle brand, perseverance, curiosity and the power of community helped her pull it off.
A native of Atlanta Georgia, Nicole found herself teaching high-school science in the inner city. With a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s in Science Education, Nicole is a passionate advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education, but teaching in public schools wasn’t all she’d hoped.
“I felt like I was becoming a counselor, I was becoming a mom, I was becoming all these things I had not intended on becoming when I decided to go teach high school science,”she says. “I was so focused on behaviour and I really felt myself getting consumed and losing my interest in teaching.”In 2017, she decided to make a change.
Inspired by her sister – who is also a STEAM teacher and has helped her school become STEM certified – Nicole made the bold decision to apply for a one-year contract position teaching science in Beijing, and got accepted.
Entrepreneurship In China
Exhilarated by China’s entrepreneurial spirit, and with a regular gig teaching seventh and eighth grade, Nicole felt she had the stability to pursue some of her other interests.
“I look at myself as a melting pot,” she says of her interests. A former professional dancer – who once performed opening up for Fantasia Barrino and Rickey Smiley – Nicole also loves making things and even has a line of natural beauty products, Nandi Re.
“Anything that I see in the world that I could do myself, I’m going to do it,” she says of making her own products. “I’m out here in the land of opportunity, so why not make myself even bigger than what I was back home? I didn’t come all the way across the world to not broaden my horizons.”
With the help of business and expat communities found through WeChat, Nicole learned to navigate the city and gained the confidence to continue work on her line, Nandi Re.
“Nandi, to me, means a woman who is birthing a great future generation. The motto is plant a seed, nourish it, watch it grow,” she says.
The line contains products such as activated charcoal toothpaste, Tumeric face wash, natural bug spray and custom handmade crafts. Though she started making products back in Atlanta, it’s here in Beijing that the line has really flourished.
Between teaching locally, teaching online courses at South Georgia Tech and running her business, Nicole’s days are busy but inspired. “I like to talk to people. I like to feel people’s energy,”she says.“Just seeing everybody else do their hustle and seeing black people thriving here, that’s inspiration to me.”
Nicole’s Tips For Living in China
Would Nicole recommend jumping right into the culture here in China? Absolutely.
“I would say jump right in,”she says. “When you come as a visitor, you’re literally a tourist. You don’t have that connection.”In fact, Nicole says that being away from family and the comforts of home helped her to be conscious of the energy of strangers, something she recommends to other budding entrepreneurs.
“Watch people’s energy, watch how they run their businesses,” she says. “You are the company you keep.”
Nicole hopes to stay in Asia and continue teaching for the time being – perhaps teaching science on some of the government-run military bases – as well as keep creating. From afar, she also helps students back home apply for university programs or scholarships.
“I love seeing future generations grow,”she says.“I love having that impact … I love coming across someone and knowing that I’ve planted a seed and can watch it grow.”