My Undergraduate Journey

We congratulate Physics graduate Wong Zi Heng for receiving his Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree with a Minor in Nanoscience on 9 July. As valedictorian of his class, Zi Heng encouraged his peers to look ahead with confidence having overcome the challenges faced as undergraduates. Zi Heng also shared his personal journey and reminded his class to be appreciative of all that life has brought. The following is Zi Heng’s speech.

Mr Philip Tan, NUS Trustee;
Mr Teo Kee Meng, Managing Director, Transmedic Group;
Distinguished Guests;
Fellow Graduates;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am deeply humbled as it is my greatest privilege to be given the opportunity to speak on behalf of the graduating class of 2017.

Before I begin my speech, I would like to first take this opportunity to congratulate each and every graduate today for reaching this significant milestone. This journey was definitely not an easy one. As we learn more, we often find that there is even more that we do not know. We live in a time where our society is competitive and it is not unusual to feel inadequate at times. We tend to compare ourselves to the people around us, how we are unable to do certain things that others could, or how we may lose out to our fellow peers. While it is important to be aware of our limitations, let us also not forget to trust and believe in our own abilities, and that each of us have something we can do and contribute.

Allow me to share my personal experiences. After completing my first year in NUS, I suffered a cervical spinal cord injury which caused me to be paralysed from chest down and in most part of my arms, including my fingers. As a result of my newly acquired disability, there are too many things that I am unable to do, from getting something from the shelf, to going up a small flight of steps. To many, this could easily mean the end of everything. However, this helped me to realise that I need to focus on what I could do instead of just what I couldn’t. Because of the change in the mind set, I learned to be grateful that I could still do some science, I am grateful that I could still share and explain concepts, and I am grateful that I can still be here and share my experiences with all of you.

As we grow and gain new skills, it is normal for us to take for granted what we can do. And as we enter the next phase of our lives, many of us may feel inadequate to take on the challenges that lie ahead. This is normal, for the largest room in this world is the room for improvement. But let us remind ourselves of our abilities and our potential to contribute to our community and that the journey at NUS has prepared us to courageously face the challenges that lie ahead.

This journey has not been short, and we would all agree that the support we have received along the way definitely meant a lot to all of us. On behalf of the graduating cohort, I would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to our families, our friends, our professors and everyone who has supported and helped us in one way or another all these while. This journey would not have been possible without your encouragement and understanding. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone.

As we gather today to celebrate our graduation and look forward to the next phase in life, let us not forget to appreciate how fortunate we have been. We cannot disagree on the amount of effort and hard work we have put in to accomplish what we have today, but we have to recognise that circumstance has a part to play in it. If we had been born in a different time at a different place, the opportunities presented to us may be very different and what we could accomplish would be different as well. For me, if I had acquired my disability decades ago, or at a less developed place, I may not be able to achieve whatever I have in an accessible and inclusive environment that I am in. So let us always remember to be grateful for everything we have and appreciate everyone around us.

A philosopher Dr Daisaku Ikeda once said, “For what purpose should one cultivate wisdom? May you always ask yourselves this question.” As we celebrate our achievements and embark on a new chapter in our lives, we should always remember to ask ourselves the purpose of our journey in NUS. Let us be confident of the resilience that we have developed through this journey overcoming our challenges, let us be grateful for what we have been blessed with in our lives, and let us constantly seek and reflect how we can create value in the lives of the people around us. Thank you.

  Photo credits: NUS Registrar’s Office

Zi Heng with his family
…let us remind ourselves of our abilities and our potential to contribute to our community and that the journey at NUS has prepared us to courageously face the challenges that lie ahead.