Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Peruvian in Australia: Schooling

I came to Australia on a Student Visa. I came to study English. Quite a few people were surprised by that but I was actually interested in studying English at an Academic level. The whole idea was always to study to pass the IELTS test. IELTS is an organization that certifies your level of English and together with the TOEFL are the most accepted English language certificates over the world. My immigration agent had recommended a school and the pictures of it and its location had seemed promising since before leaving Peru.

I have now spent 4 months studying English; the last 2 months specifically studying for the IELTS test. The first 2 I was placed by my institute in the Advanced level class. I also spent 2 weeks in Business class between Advanced and IELTS. I was back in class at 32! This was not an easy task but definitely an interesting one. It felt like it must have felt for Dave Grohl to play drums on the Nirvana Unplugged album. If I remember well his words – he said it was like ‘playing inside a crystal cage’ that he could break at any moment so he had to be real delicate at not smashing his drums. Yeah, it kinda felt like that.

The transition involved taking the train every morning and discovering the world of one of the most hated public companies for Melbournians: the train company. Stopping at 10 stations in about 35 minutes to reach the CBD (you should know what the CBD is for Melbourne if you read this blog somewhat frequently; if you don’t, please refer to the post named ‘…First Impressions of Melbourne’), I then walked two blocks everyday to get to school on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Street.

The location is one of the liveliest and more emblematic corners of the city: Flinders Street Station, St Paul’s Cathedral, Federation Square, the City square are all in the vicinity. One of the first things I looked for on the student roll was for other Peruvians. I met a few. But most of the students coming from South America came from Brazil or Colombia. Most others were from South Korea or Japan, perhaps China, and more from Eastern Europe and Spain. But whatever nationality, school was a boiling pot of different cultures and young people looking for a chance in another country, adapting, learning, looking for a job, renewing their visas, having a good time. People like myself, missing home, looking ahead, with someone else back at home or here at a new home. I miss school mostly because of those people, travelers like me. Other than that it’s been very interesting realizing that I am still the same kid I’ve always been in class! It’s incredible how little one changes from the essential self one was at 8 years old until one is an adult! I should thank my teachers for having the patience with me as I kept interrupting their class,tryng to entertain everyone by being the tour leader/storyteller that I used to be back in Peru.

My English course wasn’t cheap but it was the best way to get back together with Melissa. The price has meant that I have appreciated it and was more critical too. That was a new experience for me because my previous studies during high school and my degree were at public schools, and though before that I was at a private school I was too little to care about the money. It also made me realise that in Peru we have a very good level of English and that our education is not as bad as everyone would think. Or, to say it differently, that education abroad is not necessarily light years ahead of ours.

Since we are on the subject of schools, let me give you an idea of how important International students, as we are called here, are to Melbourne’s economic health. The industry of Education produces around AUD$ 4.5 billion every year only from international students and is Victoria’s first export and at one point just a couple years ago there were 400,000 students in Victoria alone. A year of study in one of the most reputed universities in the city is a little more than 30 thousand US$. Certainly Aussies have  more benefits compared to International students, yet this is not always the case from what I’ve heard them say. And Melbourne seems to be a mecca for people of all over the world that come here to study. You see it on the streets, on the news, everywhere. Some critics of education in Victoria mention that this bussiness dependency is what has damaged the image of the Victorian educational system.

Nevertheless the laws are changing, accordingly. Australia has a very agile legislation that covers a wide set of areas. And though they can’t stop the influx of foreigners without damaging the economy, they are controlling it pretty well. As an immigraton lawyer was explaining to me a few days ago, a lot of students come here not to study really but as a way to stay in the country. Because of this the government recently introduced a rule where one needs to demonstrate to them the ´genuineness´ of one’s intentions to study here. If they see that a doctor is applying for a hairdressing course, they most probably will refuse that visa.

A few days ago I learnt my results from the IELTS and I was gladly surprised with an 8 out of 9. The IELTS is not just any English test. They want to see a certain structure in the writing, they use different accents in the listening section, they like you using idioms in the conversation, and the articles they give you to read have complex academic style. You can have a perfectly operational grasp of the English language and still fail the test (though technically you can’t not pass the test, but of course as the test is a requirement for visas or uni enrolments, certain scores are requested by these institutions). And then there’s all the hype around it. I gave my test at a conference room with other 600 students. The organization was massive, you could smell the stress in the room and it was such a serious bussiness that there were vigilantes checking passports on the tables every 15 minutes (people have in fact gone to jail for trying to impersonate a student at the IELTS). And it’s not cheap either, 330AU$ are invested in it, so not reaching the score you want can be a high price for a student. I would like to thank my teacher Ruby Brunton who taught the structure that the test required and with her help I’ve improved my writing enormously. Thanx Ruby!!!

Now that I’ve got this first chapter closed my next step here is to renew my student Visa to study a Certificate III in Retail Tourism for 6 months at a local college. I’m sure that could be a very interesting experience. Back at uni! The last time I went to a university class was around 10years ago in Mexico when I was studying Journalism. I went to my orientation a few days ago and the University campus is pretty, similar, though much smaller, to that of my uni in Mexico City. My aim is to learn at this course how to create a tourism product and learn how to use the software that is necessary at a travel agency. In the future I would like, with these tools, to create my own travel agency or, more modestly, work in one.

Hopefully I will get myvisa renewed and then you can continue reading this blog entries as a Peruvian in Australia, cause a Peruvian back in Peru doesn’t seem like a very exciting title!


Filed under Australia, Cultural Differences, Cultural Immersion, Education Abroad, Immigration, Living Abroad, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing