Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 27):

Now this is the moment of truth. The D-day of my IELTS exam has finally arrived. The exam took place in Saturday on 6th December 1997. The reason why the exam organizer held the exam on weekend is to make sure that campus activities do not interfere with the examination. It also meant to allow ample of space for exam venue, which utilized empty classrooms and theaters.

So there it goes. After I finished the breakfast and having shower, I went out in an unusually cold morning to examination venue. The journey from North Perth to Bentley was uneventful. I took the bus from the bust stop at Fitzgerald Street where it took me to Perth station. Once there, I caught the train to Armadale direction. I spend the journey by reading whatever materials that I wrote during the class. Although this thing was actually unnecessary as my teacher remarked that you would be assessed by your skill, not by what you memorize.

Well, perhaps this habit is dating back from my high school days in Indonesia where national education curriculum seem to emphasize students to memorize what was told in the class. Oh well, I probably did that to defuse my nervousness and also reducing sense of guilt of not reading materials that was taught by the lecturer.

As soon as the train arrives at Oats Street station, I disembark and then catching the bus to Curtin university at Bentley. After cruising along the suburban streets around the area, my bus finally arrive in the main bus stop on Hayman Road. At that time, it was just a large bay which allowed the bus to turn around and head back to the North, but these days it is a major bus station itself.

Curtin University bus stop at Hayman Road. Back then the shelter roof was much smaller and more basic than this, while the buses were of elderly models.

I walked along the quiet pathway into the campus. It was a cold summer morning, and the campus was peaceful and quiet, punctuated by the noise of bird chirping, water sprinklers, and blowing wind. Aside of small number of joggers and gardeners who went about their business, there were no one else to be seen in the campus area. It wasn’t too difficult to find the examination venue in the campus, as I’ve been to here before when I went to pay the exam fee.

An early morning view of Curtin Bentley campus.    

Upon arriving at the venue, I found that there were actually quite a lot of people who came to undertake the exams. Not all were young students; there were also some elderly people who also undertook the exam. After brief chatting with some people, I learn that the majority took the exam purely to fulfill the requirements to enter universities. Small number of participants took the exam for either work or immigration purpose. But surprisingly, there were also some local Australians who also took the exam. It’s interesting considering that they are actually native English speakers. I asked one of them, and he said that he had to take the exam as he is going to take English language course in order to become English teacher himself.

An illustration on how students gather and relax at Bentley campus. In the background is Architecture and Planning faculty building.

While waiting for the exam to begin, I socialized with some people. I met with one student named Takeshi* from Japan. His English is quite good actually, perhaps the best among the Japanese that I had met. He said that he took the exam because he wanted to pursue study in Australian university. Although he took the English language class in Perth, he planned to go to university in Sydney.

I also met one Somalian student name Ahmad*. He was in his late 20s or early 30s. His English was partly broken, but very much understandable. I can’t recall what his reason to take the exam was, but considering that Somalia was a war torn country at that time, I have a feeling that he just want to find way to settle in Australia. Although he had a cheerful and gregarious outlook, he can be moody and temperamental too.

As the clock ticking at 9am, the teachers who oversee the exam asked the participants to enter the designated classrooms to begin the exam. The venue was located in Curtin University’s English program classes. While some students were also directed to undertook their exam in one theater nearby.

I was chatting with Takeshi while queuing to enter the class, when suddenly a beautiful girl in front of us turned back and asked about which classroom we go to. She was a beautiful looking Australian girl around same age as me. She had dark hair, bright skin, green eyes, quite a well build body, and Latino look. She wore aqua blue tank top with black jeans. She introduces herself as Paola Celeste (or Paola Celesti, I can’t clearly recall the correct pronunciation of her name). She is an Australian of mix Italian and English descent who lives in northern suburb of Perth. If I’m not mistaken, she bore partial resemblance to Italian actress Alessandra Mastronardi, with a bit of English traits. Umm, wow, greeted by an attractive looking lady was quite a spiritual boost in the morning.

Paola Celesti used to look a bit like actress Alessandra Mastronardi, unless she was a bit chubbier.

We were directed to variety of classes. I went to the same class as Takeshi, while Paola and Ahmed went into another.

Now the testing begins. The first part is “Listening”, where we listen to the conversation played on the audio player and then filled the blank spot in our exam paper with the information provided in the audio recording. Well, this is a piece of cake as it is way easier when compared to Milo’s listening exam, back in St. Mark’s class. Even when they play the most difficult part, where the conversations are done in quick pace, it was still easy to clearly understand what was spoken.

The latter parts were not so easy, and indeed the exam got more difficult as it progresses. The “Reading” section is rather complex and tricky at its best. The answer is not like what it seems. Often the correct answer is not what is written in the text, but rather another word to describe it. And the “Writing” section is definitely the most difficult of all. You have to make short article to describe what are depicted in the charts. Out of desperation, I just was winging it with hope that the result would not be so bad, as it would have vital consequence to my future study.

After those parts ended, it is time for lunch break. I can’t recall what I ate back then as all of the eateries in Bentley campus were closed due to weekend holiday.  We were given one hour break before we would do the “Speaking” exam. Some students spend time by chatting with their others. Some spoke with students from other countries, while some only converse with their countrymen.  There were students who just sit alone.

An illustration of how break time used to look like in one corner of Bentley campus. I recall the place around the exam theater were planted with pine trees, although the sofas didn’t exist back then.

Then I suddenly saw Paola sat alone next to a table in one corner. She sat there alone, looking at the thin air and daydreaming, she didn’t seem to be bothered by whatever happens around her. So, I bravely approached (well it wasn’t the first time we met anyway). I said hi to her. I initially thought she was going to ignore me or received me in cold manner. But I turned out she warmly replied back and smiled at me. I was quite surprised that I was well received! I was really excited! She welcomed for a conversation.

Chatting with Paola was somewhat a good way to prepare for “Speaking” exam, as she is a native English speaker. At least it helped me to build some confidence, while on the other hand she would help me to speak like locals. Besides that, I don’t get chance to socialize with attractive looking lady often. I asked her why she took the exam, considering that native English speakers are not mandated to undertake such exam to enter local universities. She said that she do the exam as she was thinking about becoming English teacher. While our conversation progressed, I suddenly felt smitten with her.

She asked me about where I’m from. I replied that I come from Indonesia and came to here to study English to prepare for university. She is interested with that and asked how I feel about studying in here. I said it’s great and it has been really an eye opening experience and largely fun. Then she asked me where I will go to study after this, and I said that I will go to university in Australia to continue my study. She is wowed by my story.

Then Paola also added that before the exam, she had also undertaken TEE exam in order to graduate from high school and eligible to enter higher education. She said that it was really a difficult exam to do. I asked her what TEE is, and she says that it is a final exam in high school. It is normally given when the study finished. And the result will be assessed by the universities to determine whether if the students qualified to enter. That is truly contrasting to what Indonesian high school students had where they had to take 3 exams: final exam from high school (the National Exam and local school exam), and national university entrance exam. Paola was truly surprised upon learning how much hardship the Indonesian students must undertook in order to go to university, when compared to the Aussies.

While we were conversing, I notice that the “Speaking” exam has begun. The assessors called the participants one by one. And eventually it was my turn to go. I bid farewell to Paola and promised would meet again after the exam finished, then head to one classroom where I would undertake the exam. I felt nervous, almost as if I’m going to have inoculation. I entered the room, where the assessor sat next to a table placed in front of the class. I sit just across this small table in front of her.

The assessor was a middle aged woman in her 50s, with curly blond hair and wearing glasses. She was probably one of the lecturers in the English language program in Curtin or in anywhere else in Perth. She politely asked me to sit down and she introduce her identity. Before the test began, she gave some instruction about parts of the exam that I had to do (or speak of) and when we’re ready she also began to record our conversation.

So the “Speaking” test begin with first part where I must introduce myself and explain anything about myself and also some interesting stories regarding of my life that worthy to be discussed. Then we proceed to the next part where assessor raises an issue and I must present my perspective and idea regarding of that. Of course, the way I present it was the one that will determine the result of the exam. And generally, regardless the level of my English speaking ability at that time, I wasn’t burdened doing this part of the IELTS exam. Well, apparently my conversation with Paola did boost my spirit and helped me to gain some confidence to do this exam as I didn’t feel very nervous.

An illustration of how IELTS Speaking exam looks like. It was really a tense moment for both the participant and assessor, as they both had to do their duties right.

At the end of this exam, the assessor congratulates me upon completing the exam and wished me luck. She also explained that the result will be announced about a month after the exam. Since I would be in Surabaya by that time, I gave my postal address in Surabaya so they will deliver the result home.

Once I left the room, I found out that there were very little students to be seen. I did catch up with Takeshi* briefly and asked how the exam was. He said that it was okay, although he felt rather nervous. He was in a hurry, so he bid farewell and he went home. I did catch up with Ahmed*. His facial expression looked rather stern than when I first met him this morning. And surprisingly, he was also less hospitable too. I didn’t know what his problem was, but he disappeared soon.

But the biggest disappointment has to be that Paola was nowhere to be seen. I waited for some time, hoping that she might turn up from one of the classes. But after waiting for almost one hour, she was still nowhere to be seen. The campus grew quieter as most students have left. So I decided to leave with feelings of broken heart. Had smartphone have already existed back then, we would have surely exchanged phone number and/or e-mail address, and would have maintained our relationship longer. This would have been great to alleviate my obsession with Denise. But back then, I didn’t even have e-mail, and internet social media was unheard of. So I eventually went back home empty handed.

I walked back to the bus stop. The place was quite busy as there were plenty of students who want to catch the bus back to the city. None of them looked familiar to me. They definitely came from other colleges. I sit down in the bus and enjoying the ride and the suburban scenery, while daydreaming about Paola. Had I was able to maintain contact with her beyond this; I would have probably able to get over Denise quickly.

As soon as the bus arrived at Oats street station, I disembark and caught the train back to Perth where upon returning back in the city, I decided to walk around and enjoying the city to refresh myself. The city was busy with people going around and enjoying the scenery. Since it was the end of the exam, I decided to give myself some treat by eating the kebab in the food court nearby. When the shops closed in the evening, I head back to Shiraj’s home to rest.



About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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