By: Joe Ip
Age and seniority are barriers put in place by those who fear the brilliance of raw talent. There are those who are gifted, then there are those who are true prodigies. At the tender age of 16, Marissa Ng will be the only 2nd year UBC student auditing public companies at PwC in the summer of 2014. Despite Marissa’s peerless intellect, it is her humble and approachable personality that defines this teen prodigy. Above all else, her ambition and outright refusal to be held back by mediocrity is what easily makes Marissa a deserving Sauderite of the Month.
Joe: You just turned 16 and you’re already in 2nd year. That’s a pretty incredible accomplishment. How did you get to this point?
Marissa: I went through the University Transition Program at UBC, which is a unique program in Canada that basically allows you to finish high school in 2 years. So when I was 13, I took Bio 12, Chem 11 … it was a very science focused program. I applied to it mainly because my sister also went through the program. I went through elementary school and thought it wasn’t challenging enough, so I was considering different mini schools in Vancouver, but luckily, I got into the University Transition Program … there are 18 of us, so I’m not the only one on campus!
Joe: That means you entered university when you were 14! What were you involved with before the University Transition Program?
Marissa: I was in a French immersion program in elementary school, so I can speak fluent French. I did a lot of competitive figure skating and dance at the regional level … I spent a year training in Shenzhen, China (skipping Grade 5) with Olympic figure skating champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hong Bo … and I did piano as well.
Joe: Whoa. What are you currently involved with at UBC?
Marissa: I like keeping busy with extracurriculars; it’s a lot of fun. I’m the Internal Affairs Director for the UBC Accounting Club, the Director of Informational Events for the UBC Finance Club, as well as a Career Peer Advisor. I’m also part of Murder Mystery; it’s a musical for charity organized by the Commerce Community Program. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my friends; whether it’s biking along the seawall, bowling, or skating. I like lyrical, contemporary, and ballroom dancing as well. I also like to read… mainly fiction and fantasy novels.
Joe: I hope you like reading The Cavalier as well. Why did you decide to go into accounting?
Marissa: Well, I was always considering accounting because I find audits to be exciting… it’s intriguing to learn about different companies and businesses and how they work. But it all started with the PwC National Conference in Toronto. I met Jane, a recruiter from PwC, while I was volunteering at JDC West. I was eventually selected as 1 of 7 students to attend the conference and I had fun bonding with a lot of talented students from across the country, as well as business professionals. I think accounting will be a good experience for when I want to start up my own business one day, although I’m not completely certain yet. I’m looking forward to my summer internship at PwC.
Joe: What are some of the places you’ve traveled to?
Marissa: In grade 3, I spent 7 months training for figure skating in Lake Arrowhead, California… so I went to school in the States and that was a pretty interesting experience. I also trained in China in grade 6. When I was in the Transition Program, London, Rome, Athens, Santorini, New York, and Washington, DC were just some of the places I traveled to. I’m also thinking of going on exchange to France next year!
Joe: This next question is one that I think many of our acquaintances at Sauder would like to ask you… but never will. Since you skipped high school, do you think you may have missed out on an important life experience… a “proper” high school experience?
Marissa: I feel like I would have maybe liked to have experienced a year in high school, but I’m happy with where I am now… and I wouldn’t be doing all the things I’m doing today with the same people. I think in a sense, the University Transfer Program was like high school… even though people don’t see it that way… but coming in, we all knew that the learning curve was going to be very steep. We all had fun too, but it was very academically focused and there wasn’t time for extracurriculars. I quit skating as well because I couldn’t manage to do all the school work and still practice 2 hours a day to compete. You still manage to gain all the “interpersonal skills” (I hope!).
I think time is very important. It’s something people don’t realize, but if you spend more time at the start of your life maximizing your potential … you may end up in a place that’s very different from a destination where you hadn’t given your all while you were still young. 3 years can make a lot of difference right now… at the moment, people think I’m so much younger than they are, but when you’re older, 3 years isn’t that much of a difference, [since] the years become condensed.
Joe: If I had half your drive and wisdom as a 16 year old, I wouldn’t have squandered my days loitering at shopping malls and playing card games with my friends. Thank you for sharing your story.
Marissa: Thanks for the interview!