by Lee Mook

It is not every day that one becomes an overnight Chinese boy band sensation. I would imagine, furthermore, that becoming a boy band sensation typically entails some degree of planning. That wasn’t the case for me.

As my friends and I stood center stage in the dimmed lights awaiting the bright flash of the spotlights and the Chinese woodwind music to start, I cast a quick glance out into the audience. The massive, two story LCD screen behind us cast an orange hue on the auditorium, so that in the dark expanse I could make out the first few rows of bright red velvet chairs. I saw expectant listeners and competitor boy band members anticipating our performance.

“Remember to smile! And do not worry! They will love you,” my teacher had said in Chinese right before I walked on stage. She was absolutely right, we had been practicing for the past two weeks; we were ready.


Two weeks ago, my friend Noah asked if I would want to sing with him at a competition held for foreign students in Beijing. I agreed because I thought it would be fun, and together we came up with the idea to start a boy band, dubbing ourselves the Wai Guo Men (a play on “wai guo ren,” which means “foreigners”). We asked two other students if they would want to join us, and they agreed for the same reason I did – it could be a lot of fun. We did a joint performance with Korean students from our school, who gave us our first taste of fame asking us for photos and letting out “oohs,” “ahhs,” and giggles every time we did our routine. We decided to sing and dance to “Treasure” by Bruno Mars for our part of the performance, meeting every day at lunch and after school to practice.

Despite this, the iron butterflies were still shooting around my stomach pushing into my chest threatening to keep me from singing as I stood there center stage. However, when the music started the anxiety melted away. I was beaming as I danced in the background of the Korean students, clapping from side to side, using my hands to create a dove, and shooting both my arms into the air to resemble a fountain. I knew the crowd was loving us as we sang “Treasure” into the handless microphones and threw classic boy band moves at the audience such as spinning, sliding, holding our hearts, and excessive pointing.

It was over in a flash. I could not wipe the grin off my face as I walked off stage. I did not care what the outcome was: It had been incredibly fun to be part of a boy band. But a couple days later we found out that we had won the competition and will be returning to the same stage to perform in front of exchange students from all over Beijing, a performance that will be recorded and played on TV for all of Beijing to see!

When my friends and I heard the news we could not believe it. We had spontaneously decided to make a boy band and now had not only won, but are going to be broadcasted all over Beijing. This experience has made me think the times that I have turned down the chance to do something I thought could be fun because of fear of embarrassment or of “wasting time.” I was such a fool for letting such asinine fears paralyze me. However, my gap year, with both the adventures I have already had and those to come, is a new page in my life.

In China, I’ve been participating in things, trying to connect with people. I joined the planning committee of the Student Union Planning Group responsible running all student union activities and events. I joined a few other students in learning how to waltz for a performance in front of the rest of the school. For the upcoming Halloween party, I signed up to model my costume catwalk-style. I joined a tutoring group that instead of using the traditional classroom setting, has conversations and lessons in different places depending on the lesson, such as a basketball court for sports. Lastly, I started a Chinese public speaking group, in which I will get up in front of my peers and give speeches in Chinese.

I never would have thought a boy band could teach any life lesson besides the tighter one’s pants the more tween hearts will swoon, however my experience has led me to understand that I am successful when I enjoy what I am doing. I have many goals for my time at UNC and beyond, and I know as long as I am having fun I will be successful. I will not let fear stop me.