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News > Alumni News > The Lost Book Confessions

The Lost Book Confessions

A heartwarming story of how one book changed an OI's world
27 Apr 2021
Written by Carrie Baker
Alumni News

"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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