My name is Eva, I am 30 years old, and I am originally from the Czech Republic. When I was two years old, I was taken to an audiologist for examination because I did not respond to sounds. The test confirmed the unfortunate diagnosis – I had 99% hearing loss on both ears. But my mum didn’t give in and she was determined to fight. I attended speech therapist seminars, where I started to speak. When I was four years old, I got my first hearing aids, and the learning curve immediately increased. I naturally learnt to be teachable, and I was excited that my hearing aids enabled me to hear.
When I reached my 18th birthday, I blew out all the candles on my favourite chocolate cake and wished for the impossible – to become truly independent, meet new people from around the world, and broaden my horizons. Having decided to embark on a life journey where I did not know what to expect, I grabbed my small suitcase, a fluffy teddy bear, and purchased a ticket to Toronto.
I signed up for the Advanced Business English class at ILAC. On my first day, I went to my professor to explain my situation. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully participate in the class. I also explained that group speaking activities were a daunting challenge, but not impossible as long as I was able to read lips.
I performed admirably, until one day, I was asked to do an exercise that required me to listen to other students in a way that prevented me from relying on my hearing aids. It was an exercise where I had to read a long paragraph to another student, who then had to write down the paragraph word-for-word. The trick was that we had to do this while sitting back-to-back. This served two purposes: the first was to eliminate any reliance on non-verbal forms of communication – we could work only with what we heard, not saw. The second was to increase the level of difficulty as we were forced to listen to our partner-facing in the opposite direction while other groups spoke around us.
Again, I went up to my teacher and explained that there was no way I could perform this task since I wouldn’t be able to read lips. I was worried and afraid that I was being set up for failure and insisted on sitting on the exercise. But my teacher encouraged me to try and so I did. It wasn’t easy at first, but I used every communication skill I had. I asked my partner to speak clearly, slow down their pace and confirm accuracy.
In the middle of all the chaos, faced with what I considered an impossible difficulty, I succeeded! When my professor told me that there I had no errors, I almost cried with joy.
I can’t express the gratitude that fills my heart as I look back on all the life-changing bonding experiences, deep conversations, friendships and in-depth talks about life I had with my classmates from around the world. Being a part of ILAC community significantly improved my self-confidence, and Toronto became the place where the seeds of my inner strength, patience and perseverance were planted. Because of my experience in Canada, I acknowledged the beauty of diversity and the importance of mutual understanding with no prejudices.
Today, Eva is the founder of MIRAIO – a global project that supports the integration of deaf and hard of hearing people into hearing society. In addition to her incredible communication skills, she has an Ivy League education, has worked for a former US President, and has competed in several beauty pageants. She worked and studied around the globe, including the United States, Canada, China, South Korea, Greece, Seychelles, and the Czech Republic.
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