Alumnus Raymond Cheung captivated Portland State students and the general public in an insightful speech about hard work and the American dream on Sept. 30.
An international accountant and semi-professional runner, Cheung spoke for an hour about his journey to America and how he decided on his occupation in accounting. His business ranges internationally, and this was his first time speaking at PSU in 10 years.
The room was at capacity with many international students asking questions about how Cheung, an Asian immigrant to Portland, made it to America despite difficult immigration and a rough language barrier. This was just one of many Asian-inspired events put on by the PSU Institute for Asian Studies with the theme “Engaging Asia.”
The night began with Cheung describing his early life and his passion for cross country running. Cheung described how he became the top junior cross country runner in Hong Kong. “I asked my coach to let me practice with the team,” Cheung said, “but my coach said, ‘no, you are too slow!’”
In his early days he thrived, placing 28th out of 200 students on his middle school cross country team. However, he did not want to quit there and was driven to continue his running by training every day of the summer with cross country alumni.
To get even more practice in, Cheung said he would often race against the bus in the morning—and win. “They [the passengers of the bus] would love to see me. ‘Here he comes, the crazy guy again!’”
One idea that Cheung mentioned early and continually throughout his speech was something his coach told him early on: “Nothing is impossible if you think you can.” Cheung said this affected him greatly in life and that it drove him to accomplish all he has today.
“It helped to prepare my life in the next 25 years,” Cheung said.
The next part of Cheung’s journey was his education and culture shock in the U.S. He said he never did well in school because he was so focused on running, but when he received a letter from his friend in Newberg, Oregon, his coach encouraged him to travel to America to attend George Fox University.
“I never had good grades,” Cheung said. “But my coach said to me, ‘If you apply the same passion to school work that you do to running, you will be okay.’”
He also said the culture shock was intense. “To compare Hong Kong to Newberg, Oregon is like comparing New York City to Oregon City,” Cheung said. Besides that, the language barrier was also a challenge. Cheung said in his first semester he couldn’t understand anything his cross country coach said.
However, he persevered and even hired a tutor to teach him English, and it prevailed. “This was the first time since elementary school I actually focused on school,” Cheung said. Through his hard work and dedication, he managed to become Business Student of the Year at graduation.
The next stage of Cheung’s story started with the worry every college student has after graduation: “How do I get a job?”
Plan A for Cheung was to sell cars, and that didn’t inspire him; Plan B was to attend Lewis and Clark for law school, but they didn’t give him enough financial aid; so Plan C was to attend PSU and become an accountant.
“I was very lucky,” Cheung said. “I found what I love to do in life…I was very fortunate that I found exactly what I want to do. I wake up every day, and I’m happy to go to work.”
Cheung made sure to end the night reiterating what his coach had told him: “Nothing is impossible if you think you can.” This advice allowed Cheung to try out for the cross country team, travel to America, and find his passion in accounting.
“If you do what you love to do, you will find a way not to burn out.”