"I saw the post on Facebook about confessing to still having something from Ipswich School. Upon the reassurance that I will not be in trouble, here is my confession.
I joined Year 9 as an overseas student from Hong Kong, speaking very little English in the beginning. I was 14/15, had newly arrived in a foreign country, struggled to make friends as I could barely communicate, and failed at school except for being the “Chinese girl who could do Maths”. In short, life was a misery.
I knew a lot of my problems would go away if I could up my game in English. So, I started practicing random English phrases day and night, reading newspapers out loud, listening to BBC radio while I slept hoping that somehow my brain could be wired to the language over night. I would also watch films first with Chinese subtitles, then with English subtitles, then without subtitles.
One of the films I watched was 'The Memoirs of a Geisha'. I loved it. A few days later, by sheer chance, I saw the novel sitting on a shelf in the library. I borrowed it to read over the Year 10 reading week in February. During those two weeks, I did not have anywhere to go. It was also Chinese New Year; but I was away home; and had no family or friends - all I had was the book.
I remember lying in bed and reading all day. And this was the first book that I managed to read and finish without having to keep checking the dictionary. It was from then onwards that English felt a lot less like a “subject” to me and more like a communicative medium. Words were no longer just vocabulary, they made sense.
The bookmarked how I had gone from barely literate to literate. Before that, I had blamed myself for, and been disheartened, by my lack of improvement despite having the privilege to study abroad. So, I really wanted to keep the book.
My only obstacle was the librarian.
After the holiday, I ordered a new book from Amazon as a substitute and brought it to the library. I put on my innocent face and went to the librarian to say that I had “lost” the book. Surprisingly, she was extremely nice about it and told me not to worry. She even told me that I did not have to buy a replacement.
And that was it! The book has remained my most treasured one of the many English books I have read since my time at Ipswich School.
I never thought I would have a chance to tell this story. I am now doing very well, just finishing my law degree. I have this book to thank for a lot of the things I have today."
Vanessa Leung (OI Class of 2017)
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