Silent warriors

They are hearing-impaired, but Jeremiah Oon and Lisa Ong from the Class of 2015 have risen above the odds, acing their studies, securing jobs before graduation, winning scholarships, with Lisa even mastering the cello in two years. Chrystal Chan is infected by their zest for life in this email interview and says this is not the last we’ll hear of these go-getters

Congrats! What are your plans now that you have graduated?

Jeremiah: I’m working at Acceltus, my internship company, as a web developer. My work involves designing and developing websites and intranet portals.

Lisa: I’ll start my career as an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in August. In the meantime, I’ve been travelling and catching up with friends and family.

Both of you secured jobs at your internship companies, so you must have impressed your supervisors...

Jeremiah: My eight-month stint at Acceltus was an eye-opener. I worked on two big projects that gave me insights into software development and how to use web development tools. I got on well with my colleagues, using Instant Messenger to communicate with them. I also taught them basic sign language.

Lisa: I interned at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I learnt so much there and my colleagues readily shared their knowledge with me. So when the job offer came, I accepted it.

Was it tough being a hearing-impaired student at university?

Jeremiah: I had some problems following my computer engineering classes. So I depended on my course mates to write down points not mentioned in the slides. My friends in class helped me a great deal.

Lisa: I am able to lip-read, so I got my professors to face me in class when they spoke. Of course, they would sometimes face away unintentionally. Whenever I found it hard to catch what was said, my friend, Yi Xin, would share her notes with me. I am thankful for course mates like her.

Are there any professors you’d like to thank?

Jeremiah: So many professors helped make my studies easier, but Assoc Prof Ian Vince McLoughlin made the biggest impact on me. He was my mentor in my first semester and he was concerned about how I would cope academically. He gave me many helpful suggestions and even asked the other professors whether they could provide notes for deaf students like me.

Lisa: Ms Lau Chew King, Dr Michelle Phang and Mr Marc Wang from Nanyang Business School went the extra mile to ensure that I could learn as well as the others in class. Once, a professor struck up a casual conversation with me about tennis when he saw my racket in class. It’s refreshing to talk to your professor about things other than school work.

What was your proudest moment in NTU?

Jeremiah: Winning the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship, which is given to students with learning, sensory or physical disabilities. I also won this scholarship when I was in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Another thing I am proud of is travelling overseas alone despite being deaf. My parents were worried about my safety. But after going to both Hong Kong and South Korea alone, I feel more confident and open-minded.

Lisa: I joined NTU’s string orchestra despite not knowing how to play any string instrument. Within two years, I obtained distinctions for Grades 3 and 5 cello, which is a huge achievement for me. I paid for the lessons myself and worked hard to get these results.

If you could be another person for a day, who would you be and why?

Jeremiah: Bill Gates. I admire his generosity – he still donates to charities even after his retirement.

Lisa: A nomad in Mongolia, not just for a day but a month. I would like to experience living outside my comfort zone, without basics like technology and where it’s hard to find food or where long, tiring journeys are the norm.

Would you rather be invisible or have the ability to fly?

Jeremiah: I would rather be able to fly, so I can easily visit other countries to meet new people and experience their cultures.

Lisa: I love travelling and I envy birds for their ability to fly so gracefully. But I think being invisible is better, because I would be able to get onto planes without being noticed and thus get to travel for free!

What was the last text message you received?

Jeremiah: “Good night. I love you.”

Lisa: My sister asking me to watch Minions with her. I said: “Sure!”

Are there any upsides to being hearing-impaired?

Jeremiah: It's easier to fall asleep. Also, I do not have to pay for voice calls on my phone bill.

Lisa: I think my hearing impairment has made me linguistically creative. Sometimes, I mishear a particular word as another word that sounds similar, often with humorous outcomes. My brain has now been accustomed to churning out puns, especially those that are phonetically similar, and this is certainly very fun!

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