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Ai Li Ho

Ai Li Ho
Singaporean Ai Li Ho (BA History and Politics 1998-2001) has gone from Warwick to a career as China Correspondent for The Straits Times and covering major stories such the recent Bo Xilai trial. She talks about living in China and what her experiences there have taught her.

Ai Li Ho
Ai Li in Jinan while covering the Bo Xilai trial
Ai Li Ho
Ai Li at the 18th Party Congress in 2012

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You studied History and Politics at Warwick, how did that help you in your career?
It helped tremendously! I got a lot of practice writing essays at University. That certainly helped. I started reading narrative social history, which opened my eyes to how riveting historical stories can be, if researched and told well.

You’re currently working in China, tell us more about that.
I am now based in Beijing as a China Correspondent for The Straits Times. I cover anything from big political stories like the trial of disgraced Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai to stories about women who go for auditions for a chance to marry a rich man. Before I was posted to Beijing, I spent two years as a correspondent in the extremely vibrant and hospitable Taiwan.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Everything is pretty challenging! Probably the most challenging is to get sources, especially officials, to give us information.

What have you done that you are most proud of?
I went to my late grandmother's ancestral home in Hui'an, Fujian in summer 2012 and wrote about the hardy women who, like my ah ma, are the pillars of their families and communities. I wrote about a cinema for the blind in Beijing, a lovely effort that has brought colour to the lives of the blind. I also wrote some ringside sketches about the idiosyncrasies of China's Communist Party Congress, which sees reporters chasing newsmakers across the Great Hall Of The People but has little real information on offer.

How does life in China compare to Singapore?
Life in China is more unpredictable compared to Singapore, which is more orderly and efficient. In China, I have learnt to be less of a worry wart because many things are out of my control. For example, you can never be quite sure that an interviewee you have arranged to meet will turn up, whether your flight will be delayed or whether you can get into a village without being stopped by the local officials.

What drives you?
The hope of understanding myself and the world better.

What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
Blue skies

What was your favorite aspect of the History and Politics programme at Warwick?
The passionate lecturers and fascinating topics from sex, drugs, rock and roll to bedlam and executions.

What would you tell someone thinking of studying at Warwick?
It's a lovely campus university with lots of social activities as well as a great arts centre and arts cinema.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during your time as a student?
Travel even more!

How do you balance work and life?
I try to jog or swim at least thrice a week, make sure I have time to read outside work and make effort to keep in touch with friends and family back home.

If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
Soap opera script writer

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
In a place with my loved ones, where I can hopefully contribute in a small way to people less well-off than me.

What three objects would you take with you to a desert island?
Some kind of reading device with limitless battery and a good store of books! A blanket. A Swiss army knife.

What are your favourite memories of your university years at Warwick?
Bopping to tunes from Cher and Steps at Top Banana; cook-outs with my flatmates; taking bus 12 into the Coventry City Centre to buy fruits and vegetables from grannies who call us "love" and then sitting down to a nice cup of tea; playing football and basketball for the University; eating chips and curry at Kaleidoscope

Do you have any advice for new graduates?
Make good friends at university. They'd be yours to keep for life!

Ai Li Ho: the facts
Age: 34
Lives: Beijing, China
Education: BA in History and Politics at Warwick, MA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, NYC
Career: China Correspondent for The Straits Times
Interests: History, film, football, reading, writing