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PKU Personalities: Randy's Indelible Transit at PKU

Peking University students and alumni are spread all across the world. PKU Personalities interview series is a part of our determination to keep Pekingers connected in this time of global isolation. This series of interview aims to introduce notable Pekingers dedicated to international dialogue and cross-cultural communications to the rest of our PKU family and the world.

Ho Xu Zhe, Randy

Ho Xu Zhe, Randy, from PKU Class of 2020, is a Master graduate from Peking University School of International Studies. Randy also completed his undergraduate studies at PKU's Yuanpei College from 2014-2018, majoring in International Politics and Economics (IPE). Randy is one of the few international students who chose to further his pursuits at the postgraduate level at PKU, making his 6-year journey an unforgettable and remarkable one. He is currently a research assistant at National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, UKM) and is looking at pursuing his PhD candidature in a few years' time. 

The Train Enthusiast

One thing that many do not know about Randy is his love for metros/trains. Randy's zealous passion for trains led him on spontaneous trips every now and then, as he explored his way in China and the rest of the world on the railway. He recalls his vivid memory of his very first railway experience, where he took the cross-border train from Malaysia to Singapore's Tanjong Pagar railway station (now closed since 1 July 2011).  

Randy appreciates the historical and cultural significance behind every railway and even credits them as one of the catalysts which enticed him to discover more profound and momentous topics of discussion relating to international politics and economics. Randy also wrote various articles sharing his invaluable insights from his experiences on railways.

"Trains and railways are good connectors between people, cities and countries. They are also one of our joints to history". 

In greater testimony, Randy's master's thesis focused on building up a theoretical approach to analyze various push-and-pull factors entangled in the domestic politics-driven East Coast Rail Link project in Malaysia. 

Synergising Railways & International Relations

As a railway enthusiast, Randy views railways as an important actor in international relations. Railways are one of the key links between the rural areas and urban areas, enhancing connectivity and development as it passes through different areas across the country. Nonetheless, while railways bring development, it also invites challenges due to domestic and international politics. Incorporating his interest in railways and international relations, Randy further connects the dots by continuing his pursuit in research academia.

Sino-Malaysian relations

Randy believes that Sino-Malaysian relations have been enhanced with the implementation of China's Belt and Road Initiatives and he expects more economic linkages, investments and opportunities for exporting Malaysian goods and services to China for trade balance in the coming years. The Belt and Road Initiatives will not only bring greater connectivity through railways but also boosts in infrastructure, factories and job opportunities. Collecting his experience as a Malaysian student who studied in China for 6 years and with his knowledge in international relations, he believes that with the progress of Belt and Road Initiative in Malaysia, there will be more room to strengthen bilateral relations. 

Randy emphasizes the importance of maintaining a "mutual two-way learning"; Malaysia should make an effort to understand from the Chinese perspective to avoid misinterpretation and promote smooth exchanges between the two countries.  Meanwhile, China will be able to have a better understanding of local demographics in Malaysia to bring Sino-Malaysian relations to the next level, as cultural issues are carefully bridged and communicated. On this note, Randy sees it as a concerted and continuous effort from the individual, corporate and government levels as the two governments seek to broaden more fields of cooperation in the near future. 

With his invaluable 6-year journey in PKU and in China, Randy seeks to take a step further and pursue his PhD candidature in the next few years to firm up his academic research. Randy hopes to gain a different academic experience in another country as he indulges in new perspectives and discoveries in his journey. 

Rediscovery at PKU

Having spent 6 years in PKU, Randy recalls his journey at PKU as a unique and memorable one. After graduating from his high school in Malaysia, Randy submitted applications to both local (Malaysia) and overseas universities. The idea of studying abroad in China was placed on the table by his father, who encouraged him to seize the opportunity, looking at China's rapid development over the years and how it is growing in influence politically, economically, socially and culturally. On a personal level, Randy also shared how his Chinese ethnicity probed him to want to find out more about his cultural roots in China, hence set sailing his journey at Peking University after being accepted with a scholarship. 

Transiting out of the comfort zone

Randy describes his journey at Peking University "A Journey of Rediscovery".  From his first club engagement in the Malaysian Students Association to the Southeast Asian Association of Peking University, he pushed himself to move out of his comfort zone, and get exposed to the international environment at PKU. International conferences were one of the highlights in Randy's PKU journey as he began to be more cognizant of current affairs and the different political and economic landscapes. As one of the many examples, the annual China-ASEAN Youth Summitprovided Randy with an opportunity to gain and discover deeper insights on Sino-ASEAN relations. This also allowed him to recognize the importance of knowing more about Sino-South East Asia and the inherent historical, cultural and economic linkages.

The "Double-Cheese" Serendipity

Studying overseas is already a step outside of Randy's comfort zone. Whilst upkeeping his academic pursuits, Randy took a leap when he decided to form a music band. After an evening gig along with some bandmates from PKU, they had dinner at McDonalds, and got inspired to name their band name Double Cheese out of inspiration from the renowned MacDonalds burger.

The band was made of PKU students from different countries like Indonesia, China, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Japan. As a guitarist in this band, Randy's fingers never left the string every International Culture Festival (ICF) and New year's Gala at Peking University.

Randy shares that their creative process ranged from cafés, bars and pubs around Beijing, and even in Beijing hutongs, as they seek new music inspirations while exploring music from different countries at the same time. Through this experience, he realised "how music really transcends cultures". Randy recalls a particular time Double Cheese was cordially invited to perform at one of the events organized by the Beijing Thai Students Association. The band was required to perform non-stop medley 20 Thai songs. He remembers being extremely worried about the language barrier but he ended up surprising himself by pulling off a great show along with his buddies. 

Outside of academics, Randy found himself engrossed in music and often found himself enjoyable by interacting with many foreign friends during every practice and performance. Memories like these motivate and remind Randy to keep challenging himself to step out of his comfort zone to learn more.

PKU as a second home

The 6-year journey was filled with loads of growth, improvement and adversity, making Randy's journey an unforgettable one. Over 6 years from undergraduate to masters, Randy has witnessed the various changes on campus and off-campus. However, he more vividly and fondly reminisces about the food on campus back then during his undergraduate years. He recalls staying in line for PKU's best Spicy Dry Hotpot at the old Jiayuan Canteen as well as grabbing a quick sandwich at the on-campus Subway and satiating post-evening class hunger at the evening open-air Malatang stalls next to Xuewu Canteen. With the changes on campus, PKU has become more organized in terms of managing public spaces, but all of these memories remain crystal-clear and nostalgic. Randy further acknowledges that even though there is an abundance of Chinese food variety in Malaysia, coming to China still provided him with the most authentic food experience, and it will never feel the same. 

Along with an engaging on-campus experience, Randy was able to broaden his horizons through various platforms provided by PKU. He participated in a summer school program held at Waseda University in Japan and had the chance to represent PKU and Malaysia where he exchanged various perspectives and insights. Moreover, he took part in cultural interactions and exchanges as a translator during the Malaysia-China Confucianism and Islam civilizational dialogue held in Qufu, Confucius' hometown in 2016. 

In 2018, Randy was an actor on the stage for "Together as One" PKU 120th Anniversary International Students and Alumni Gala.

Before he graduated, Randy was also part of the official video to commemorate the 45th Sino-Malaysia bilateral relationsand also took this opportunity to show the Chinese video team around Malaysia.

6 years ago, Randy entered PKU as a teenager at 19 with huge enthusiasm and gusto. Now that he has graduated with both undergraduate and master's degrees at the age of 25, he proudly calls PKU his second home. Although Randy didn't expect to spend his last semester in Malaysia and graduate from home, he has a different way of looking at this pandemic. He explained how proud he felt of PKU when he read news about the PKU medical team's brave efforts and determination to help not only people inside China but also share their knowledge and expertise with the world. This even inspired him to form a COVID-19 taskforce along with other PKU Malaysian and international alumni. He was able to coordinate and facilitate resources donated by Chinese friends and distribute it to the needed public in Malaysia.

Randy leaves his juniors with a few key suggestions, that is make the effort to interact with different cultures, explore your hobbies, read more, eat different Chinese food and always travel, especially outside of Beijing to broaden your understanding of China.

Exploring roots in China

While Randy rediscovered himself through his interest in music at PKU, he, as a 4th generation of Chinese Malaysian, also made an effort to understand his cultural roots. In 2017, he departed alone via 8-hour high-speed railway from Beijing to Guangzhou, travelling to his ancestral village in Guangzhou Zeng Cheng district, Hantang Village (旱塘村) for the first time. After his great-grandfather settled in Malaya, name of Malaysia before 1963, in late 19th century, neither Randy's family members nor relatives, through many generations, got the chance to pay a visit to his ancestral village here in China. Last year, Randy organized a trip again, but for his Malaysian relatives together to visit Hantang Village during Double Ninth festival (重阳节). 

Randy believes that "being one of a Chinese ethnicity hints a tint of cultural intimacy between us and China". While he was in Hantang, Randy spoke his rare Hakka dialect for the very first time, which certainly enhanced a sense of belongingness and grounded attachment to China. For Randy, this was the moment when he realized that building the "cultural bridge is not as far as it seems" and stressed that "Spending a field trip there was the only way to uncover these silent truths".

Appreciating the cultural intimacy with China is another inspiration for Randy to rethink the dynamics of multiculturalism in Malaysia while he shares his experiences about the different aspects of China to his fellow friends in Malaysia.

Q  & A

Q:Describe PKU in 3 words
A: Food, people, "Double-Cheese"!

Q: Favourite food at PKU?
A: Spicy Dry Hotpot (mild spicy)

Q: Favourite place at PKU?
A: Weiming Lake! 

Q: One quote you live by?
A: Stay humble, stay hungry!

Q: Favorite class?
A: Southeast Asian Studies – Undergraduate – Professor Zhai Kun (Randy's thesis supervisor)

Q: What are you reading at the moment?
A: 1.Barack Obama memo, The Promised Land
    2.Memo written by a very famous Chinese professor Yen Ching-Hwang china born raised in Malaysia and settled in Australia (reading his memo written in Chinese);
   3.Professor Wang Gengwu (王赓武) memo, Home is Not Here

Q: One thing you shouldn't miss at PKU?
A: Walking around campus!

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