Sang Hoon Baek

This week Westlake’s colours shone bright amongst a colourful mixture of multicultural foods, displays and activities that were on show around the school during the annual Culture Week. Over the years our school has been enriched with a vast variety of nationalities from all over the world and currently we have a staggering 73 different ethnic groups at Westlake Boys. Next Thursday we celebrate one of these many cultures at the tremendously popular annual Korean Night. The evening is an opportunity for people to experience Korean culture at its best and features traditional Korean dances, tae kwon do, contemporary k-pop singing and a haka.

Sang Hoon Baek classKorean Westlaker Sang Hoon Baek (Hayden) was one of Westlake’s former International Students attending Westlake from 2007-2009. Overwhelmed by the culture shock of living and attending school abroad away from friends and family back in Korea, Hayden faced the challenge of learning a new language and adapting to the Kiwi lifestyle. Starting in Form 6 and not being able to express himself freely in English, he remembers settling in was hard at first. To overcome this obstacle and prove that international students can excel in a foreign country, Hayden signed up for the local students’ English class rather than the international class and in no time his English improved. He regained his confidence, made new friends and put a lot of hard work and effort into his studies. This earned him the recognition of Westlake’s teaching staff and he received an Academic Excellence award in assembly at the end of the semester. The experience boosted his confidence and self-esteem. It made him realise that he could do anything and overcome any adversity if he worked hard to give it his best.

Sang BaekWhilst in seventh form, Hayden attended an early morning 1st XI Football squad training session held at Milford Beach. He impressed the coaching staff and he will never forget the moment when he discovered his name on the 1st XI Football squad announcement in Student Services. He was the only international student representing the 1st XI Football team and felt extremely honoured. Hayden remembers the exact words that Coach Jones said to him after his very first game; “Hayden, you’ve got more potential than you think. Keep doing it hard!” The encouragement proved powerful and Hayden started 12 out of 14 games, scoring 9 goals in the season. He recalls his most unforgettable goals; an equaliser against top seed Mt Albert Grammar School and the two goals he scored playing the North Shore derby against Rangitoto College, winning them the match after being 0-1 down. The team came 3rd in the Premier Division and placed 6th at Nationals that year.

994076_629510053761907_2140943062_nAfter returning to Korea, Hayden started his studies at the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), one of the most recognised research oriented universities both in Korea and overseas. He is realising his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer and plans to keep studying to pursue a Ph. D. in mechanical engineering. In addition Hayden is following his entrepreneurial ambition and was granted an opportunity by his university to visit global companies Boeing, Microsoft and Google in Silicon Valley to experience first-hand what it takes to establish and run start-up companies. His passion for advanced technology saw him travel to Africa, Tanzania and Ethiopia last year staying true to his most important mission in life – to contribute to society sharing his knowledge and abilities, caring for his neighbours rather than just for himself.

Hayden reminisces about his times in New Zealand, especially at Westlake and every now and then he takes out his Westlake uniform. Although he’s only spent a relatively short period of his life in our neck of the woods, the two years have affected every part of his being. He believes that they were the true turning point which shaped him into the man he is today. Hayden considers New Zealand his second home and will always take pride in being a Westlaker.

Click here to read more Westlaker profiles and if you hear any news of Westlake Old Boys or former staff or if you are interested in supporting Westlakers events and activities, please contact Mrs Christine O’Dowd at school on 09 410 8667 or by email[email protected].