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Commercial Education Society of Australia

Sylvan
Hong Kong


I CAME to Australia and was enrolled in a business college in Sydney. I came from Hong Kong in the 1980s. I had finished high school there and I had worked for two years. The job I had really had no prospects and no future. I knew that I could achieve something better. So I left Hong Kong and my family and travelled to Australia for study.

I was apprehensive at first. There were quite a lot of Hong Kong students at the college, so that was okay. However, I had never had any friends of other nationalities so I didn’t know if we would have anything in common. The classes were always mixed. Sometimes you sat next to a person the same as you, other times it was an Australian or a Thai or an Italian. I was amazed that in Australia there was such a mix of people. In Hong Kong we are almost all the same people—Chinese. Some Australian girls would have such fair hair that it was unbelievable, until I found out that they bleached it because they were “beachies”, that is, girls who spent all their time at the beach or surfing. In Hong Kong we would rarely go to the beach and we would never surf, mostly because there is no surf there and we should always be studying.

The CESA exams got me started. They encouraged me to study more and to take up educational opportunities when they presented themselves.

My college said that we would be sitting for the CESA exams. Being Chinese we were used to sitting for exams, but it was more disconcerting for me because English was my second language. Hong Kong was a British colony, and most of the schools held all their lessons in English, but being in Australia with Australian English was something else. Then there were lots of “funny” words and phrases. I found that these were called “colloquialisms”. Australians would say things like “How are you going?” I thought that they meant how was I travelling—by train or bus. I worked in a Chinese restaurant for a while and lots of Australians came in and ordered. I remember asking my teacher what was “bloody sweet and sour”. There were lots of little things that were so different to my home.

At least the CESA exams always used proper English and the tests had clear directions, not so different from Hong Kong. I had enrolled in the course which included shorthand theory and speed, bookkeeping, office practice, business communications and typing.

I sat for all of these exams. They were at different levels and you got a certificate for that level and you felt good that you had achieved that. It was particularly pleasing to my parents when I could send them a copy of my latest achievement. These achievements are very important not just to the parents, but to the whole of the Chinese family structure. It brings status and good “face” to all the family.

This led to my introduction to my husband and now we are located in Singapore. I work as the Senior Administrative Officer in one of the largest international schools in Singapore.

The CESA exams got me started. They encouraged me to study more and to take up educational opportunities when they presented themselves.


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