After accompanying me since arrival from Indonesia, it’s time for my father and my sister to return back to Indonesia. They catch the Tuesday morning Garuda flight back to Indonesia. I didn’t accompany them to the airport as my class start today. I bid them farewell in the hotel as they checked out and caught the taxi to the airport.Once they left, I head to the college where I will get the result of yesterday’s entrance exam. Today new students were asked to gather in the same class where we had exam yesterday. The same lady that briefed us yesterday also met us in the class.
This time she announce which class each students will attend. I was slightly nervous, although not as bad as yesterday. I wonder where would I go into? She mentions each student’s name and the class that they’re going to attend.
A close up view of St. Mark’s International College class building. The doors on the ground floor are toilets, the second floor was occupied by Foundation Program and lower level English classes. My class was on the top floor.
When my turn came, she told me that I got the “Upper Intermediate” class. In this category I was accompanied by Sung Ho, Nami*, and Namu* as well as several others whom I can’t recall their names, while Ake goes to lower ones. There was one student who goes to basic, but none went straight to advance. Once she finished the announcement, she wished us success in our study as we head to our respective brand new classes.
Upon entering my class on the top of the campus building, I was greeted by the teacher named Georgina*. She is one of the senior teachers in here. She had a wealth of experience in both English language course and traveling. She spoke in one unusual accent, possibly Welsh or Irish. She said that she has Swedish ancestry from her father side, and her appearance was indeed shows partial Nordic traits.
Although it was my first day in the class, there were some students who had already joined the class prior to my arrival. They’re Japanese and South Korean students, who took the English language course for variety of reasons, not just to prepare for Australian university entrance. Some were sent by their office to improve their English; some were on holiday and taking the course to fill up their free time; some plan to work in Australia; and there were even some students who did this to prepare them for migration to Australia (back then migrating to Australia was an easy process).
The college may have fix class schedule, but it doesn’t meant that students must strictly follow them. They can actually join in later, and/or withdraw before the conclusion of the semester, yet still earning their valid certificate.
While the class environment basically similar to what I had in Surabaya, I found that it was actually easier. The passing grade was easier to attain. Some of the teaching materials were even identical to what I had learned back in Surabaya. Indeed, throughout the early months my study in this college, I never seriously studied any materials that were given in the class. I could just relax and enjoying the day, yet still able to pass the exams. I was really complacent back then, and could get away with it. It’s not that I mastered the study, but because it was so easy.
But one obvious difference when compared to the English college that I took in Surabaya was that I’m right in the middle of English speaking society, right in the heart of my native English speaker teacher’s country. I was pretty much in THEIR country, not mine. Which mean, unlike in Surabaya where after the class finish I return back to my native tongue environment, in here I still have to speak English on the outside and in my home.
This is an excellent opportunity to improve my English language skill. I got hand on experience in speaking English on daily basis, helped by the fact that for the first few days of in the college, I didn’t come across any Indonesian students. Indeed I didn’t initially bother to find any, because I’m keen to leave my comfort zone and get to know the world outside.
And I found that the best way to improve my English was trying to express my emotion in the language. I often found the Australians that I met (and also Shiraj family) were attentive and sympathetic towards me. I frequently read my dictionary, in order to find words to describe my feelings. This was necessary as up to that time, there were no other Indonesians who were helpful towards me. And the Aussies are very helpful people and understanding, so in order to get their help I must brushed up my English. And the best way to do so is by expressing my feelings and emotions in English.
As a result, I frequently opened my dictionary books, whether if it was the Indonesian-English, or Oxford English one.
During my early weeks of my study, I used to carry two dictionary books: this one and an English-Indonesian dictionary.
Lunchtime was also an occasion to explore not just the menu, but also to socialize better with the classmates, as well as with people in other classes plus the staffs. I browsed the food display, and I remember at that time the menu consisted of fried rice, some fritters, sandwiches, salads, snacks, confectioneries, meat pies, and also bacon strips. Some staffs knew that I’m a Muslim so they warned about foods that contain pork.
The beverage selection also varies, and I had never seen many of them before. Such as a carton of fresh milk with variety of flavors that I’ve never heard before such as Dark Chocolate, French Vanilla, Mint, Cappuccino, Hazelnut, and many more. They’re also selling other beverages such as fruit juices and mineral water.
Examples of Brownes milk flavors. Back in 1997, the packaging had simpler graphic style.
I remember I asked one Japanese waitress named Keiko* some fried rice and chicken patties. Keiko* had been around for long, so she doesn’t just fluent in English, her English even sounds very Australian too! Throughout my study period in this college, she would be very a helpful person. I would occasionally catch up with her in the canteen after classes.
During my first lunch in the college, I shared table with Sung Ho, Ake, and some Japanese students that I can’t remember their names. We were chatting in broken English, and exchanging stories about our backgrounds. From here I also notice that none of them were actually going for university in Australia after the course ended. Ake was an advertising company executive who needs to improve his English for his job, and Sung Ho was actually on a study break from his university in South Korea. The Japanese students were also the same, some even came to here purely to spend their summer holiday.
Every Friday, we had more relaxed activities in our college. Normal classes had shorter duration. By 10.30, we would have moved to The Queens Pub, just next to our campus, to had some drinks in here. We can order variety of beverages, liquors, snacks, or even some gourmet meal (although I rarely saw anyone ordered beer during that time). My favorite was Iced Chocolate. It’s a drink made from cocoa drink, added with a bit of sugar, and ice, with ice cream and whipping cream topping. Very delicious!
The Queen’s Pub which was conveniently located right next to our campus.
While we were enjoying drinks, the occasion was also used to get to know our fellow classmates better, and also getting more personal with the teachers.
And after lunch, there would be “elective classes” where students can choose variety of classes with different subjects. They classes were related about cultures and some light academic subjects. This type of class was not compulsory. Although I can’t recall if I ever join them because every Friday after 12, I would head back home to attend Friday congregation, never to return back to the campus until Monday!
So that was how my college activities were.