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Dr Young-Wook Song (OC 2001) came to St Andrew’s College in 1997 as an international student, and last year, joined the Science Department as a Physics and Science teacher.
He says returning to the College has been like ‘coming home’. “St Andrew’s College means a lot to me and is a huge part of my life. I enjoyed every second when I was a student here, and it is an honour to have returned to my old classroom and be working alongside staff who were, and still are, my role models. Head of Science, Brent Cummack, really inspired me as both a teacher and basketball coach. He had a huge influence on me.”
As well has having a passion for Science, Young-Wook was a keen basketballer and volleyball player when he was a student, and is now a basketball coach, and volleyball team manager at the College – another way in which history is repeating itself. After coming to New Zealand from Korea, Young-Wook says he was made to feel welcome at St Andrew’s from the start. “My English wasn’t so great, but my teachers supported me, had a positive mindset, and backed diversity, the same values the College holds today. I felt like I was part of a big community, which helped me to feel safe at a very important time of my life and gave me the courage to get involved in lots of different things.”
Inside the classroom, Young-Wook excelled. After leaving St Andrew’s he completed a Physics degree, Master’s degree, and PhD at the University of Canterbury. It was while studying for his PhD that Young-Wook discovered he had a passion for teaching after working with first year university students in the laboratory as a senior teaching assistant. “I had a lot of interaction with the students and loved to see them do well. It was also great to meet other former St Andrew’s students during this time and hear their news of the College.”
Young-Wook gained his teaching qualifications, and says he is now passing on what his former teachers taught him, both inside and outside the classroom. “I try to duplicate the support and kindness my teachers showed me, and to ensure that my students feel valued and acknowledged. It is an honour for me to follow in their footsteps.”
His teaching philosophy also extends to the Te Reo concept of ako, which describes a reciprocal learning relationship between teachers and students. “Ako acknowledges that we all learn from each other,” he says.
Young-Wook says he would recommend being an international student at St Andrew’s College as the ‘best adventure’. “International students find a new family here, have great experiences, and make friendships which will last a lifetime.”
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