“The Soldier.” That’s how June So will be remembered by the boys in his boarding house. For he is the boy who walked the 160-kilometre Grade 10 journey in a pair of sandals. In the sweltering heat and the pouring rain, June soldiered on without so much as a grumble.
His housemaster was so impressed by the young man’s fortitude that after the journey, he had June’s sandals framed and placed in Pearce house above a plaque that reads: “June So ‘The Soldier’ What’s your excuse?”
Indeed, June is a trooper. He has had to push through worse hardships than hiking in sandals. When he arrived at Hilton College three years ago from South Korea, where he left his family and all that was familiar to him, he wasn’t fluent in English and knew only one boy at the school.
June says communication was “really hard”, but the boys were quick to take him in. When trying to negotiate the language barrier and cultural chasm, he got by with the help of his friends.
“I felt welcome from the beginning. My friend Charlie Foster was the first guy to invite me to his house. And his family also just welcomed me. Charlie’s mom even says she thinks of me as her adopted son.”
June’s parents – his father’s an importer and his mom a housewife – didn’t want him and his younger brother Sung going to high school in South Korea because of the pressure to perform. The country has one of the highest rates of teenage suicide in the world.
June says he’s not as close to his parents as some other boys are to theirs, but he knows that they are proud of him.
His friends are like family to him.
Next year June plans to study computer science at a university in the UK, where some of his closest friends from Hilton College are going too.
As he has done before, June will be brave. He will apply himself, and he will find friends wherever he goes.