Imagine starting your first day of school without understanding or speaking a word of the language you will be taught in. That’s the experience of Silvia Faldini who moved to Malaysia from Italy in 2002. While you might think it would be traumatic, in fact for Silvia, the welcome and support from ISKL is what she pinpoints as her ISKL magic moment. Silvia returned to Italy after two years at ISKL and, following high school, completed a BA in Modern Languages and Literature, and a MA in modern languages and literature with a focus on German and English linguistics, language and didactic. She works as a translator and lives in the Italian countryside.
Silvia shared her touching story:
If someone ever asked me the question “What is your ISKL magic moment?”, my answer would be: “Every single day”. From August 2000 till June 2002 every day was full of unforgettable magic moments. Two Malaysia Weeks (the first and more cultural one in Penang, the second and more adventurous one in Cameron Highlands with its jungle trekking and tea plantation excursion), the assemblies with their house games, Mrs. Smith’s Action Leadership course, thanks to which I spoke alone on the stage to all Middle School students and faculty, the school concerts with Ms. Davey and the Beginners Band, the Middle School Awards Night. I could go on with the list forever. In those two years at ISKL, there wasn’t a day where I didn’t learn something, whether it were a new English word or a computer skill. This story, therefore, isn’t about one magic moment, but it is about my ISKL magic moment number one: my very first day of Grade 6 at ISKL.
Just to give a general overview of the situation, I was a not-even-11-year-old girl whose knowledge of English could be easily summarized in a few nouns, a few verbs and a few sentences like “My name is…” and “I come from…”. Basically nothing. In fact, in my first semester at ISKL I only had Math and ESL LEVEL 1 as core subjects. That day my mother took me to school, both already knowing that we had to meet with the M.S. counsellor Ms. Nan Smith. Right after I got out of my father’s car (he then drove back to the office) and gazed at the Ampang campus, I felt a whirlwind of emotions. I was scared, excited and happy at the same time. In my whole life I had never seen a school that had a swimming pool, tennis courts, a football pitch and everything else. The counsellor was so kind to show me and my mother the first few useful things I needed to know like the locker combination, the timetable and, most of all, my first classroom: I.T. with Mr. Bates. At that point my mother left and the hard part began.
Trying to say in English that I didn’t know what a password or a User ID was and that I couldn’t understand a word of what the teacher was telling me, was a really difficult task. Everyone, however, was very very kind and understanding with me. At the end of the I.T. lesson Mr. Bates took me to the principal’s office and spoke to Dr. Straffon so that I could change I.T. with another course. Thinking back at that day, I really don’t know what everyone in the office might have thought when they saw that I couldn’t even touch the floor with my feet while I sat on the couch. Dr. Straffon, the M.S. principal, took me to Mrs. Gallagher’s classroom who, after another brief English test, showed me the way to P.E. class with Mr. Renner. After P.E., Mr. Renner helped me find my ESL classroom where I would have started the LEVEL 1 course with Mrs. Narsiman. Last but not least, Mrs. Gallagher made sure that the bus that would have taken me home was the right one. I can still remember the number: bas sekolah 11. And I can also recall how much my mother and I laughed when I came home from school and she told me that she couldn’t find her way out of the campus.
It took me at least two weeks to start understanding something. When my locker got stuck and I accidentally arrived a few minutes late to class, Mrs. Narsiman asked me: “Silvia what happened, look at the time?” I felt so proud of myself when I realized that, after having understood the question, I replied: “Mrs. Narsiman, no locker open.”
My first day of school will be followed by another two years of magic moments that I will cherish forever and eventually tell my children and grandchildren. Along with my parents’ teachings, ISKL has taught me lifelong lessons and values that, even if twenty years have gone by, I can still vividly recall: Honesty, Kindness, Respect, Responsibility.
Happy 55th Anniversary ISKL!