GEORGE TOWN: Autism has not deterred Ooi Ivan from excelling in life.
The 24-year-old, who completed the Bachelor of Education (Tesol) with Honours degree programme, emerged as Universiti Sains Malaysia's Gold Award recipient in conjunction with the varsity's 60th convocation ceremony this year.
Ooi, who was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old, expressed his gratitude to lecturers and friends who had helped him throughout his four years in USM.
"Without them, I would not be where I am today.
"I especially enjoyed the environment here in USM. The university actively helps people with disability like me," he said.
Today is Ooi's last day of service as a contract staff in USM.
The eldest of two boys, he said he was open to either furthering his studies or wait to be called for an interview by the Public Services Commission for placement.
Asked on issues faced during his four years in USM, Ooi said he had problems concentrating in classes, especially if the lectures stretched the lessons for over an hour.
"My lecturers used to tell me that I seemed spaced out after some time, although I was able to take in whatever was being taught.
"Also, I get easily anxious and my emotions become unstable. Because of that, during examinations, I asked for more time to answer the questions," he added.
Ooi, from Prai, scored 10As in his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination and obtained a 3.72 cumulative grade point average (CGPA) in the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM).
Arief Ferdaus Azmi, 24, who completed the Bachelor of Arts (English For Professionals), also won the Chancellor's Gold Award.
Kedah-born Arief, who is now a communications executive, said he was grateful to his mum, Norliza Abd Rahman, for encouraging him to pursue a degree in English.
"It wasn't my choice to study English but my mum encouraged me. I have no regrets.
"It is my hope to pursue further my studies in international relations," he said.
The 60th USM convocation ceremony will begin on Saturday until Dec 14 (a total of 12 sessions) at the Dewan Tuanku Syed Putra (DTSP) here.
A total of 7,282 graduates will receive their respective degrees including Professor Emeritus (two), doctorates in Philosophy and master's degrees (2,225), bachelor degrees (4,984) and Diploma in Nursing (69).
Muhammad Nasri Nasehir Khan, 24, received the Royal Education Award by the Council of Rulers of Malaysia (best student in the Bumiputera category) and Siek Jia Wen, 24, (best student in the non-Bumiputera category) while Farah Zahidah Abd Halim received the Vice-Chancellor's Gold Award.