By Ethan Reyes, Now-Leader contributor
SURREY — The halls of Surrey’s Fraser Heights Secondary, soon to shutter for the summer, brim with the restless energy of anticipation. Groups of students mutter excitedly about their plans for the next two months, briskly making for the school’s exits as if to hasten the arrival of summer break.
While some of his classmates are dreaming of summer, Woojin Lim is looking beyond it. In March 2018, Lim was accepted to Harvard University, following in a tradition of Fraser Heights Secondary graduates bound for Ivy League universities.
The 18-year-old quotes Yuval Noah Harari and Betrand Russell offhand, his ever-present smile and carefree demeanour belying a comprehensive understanding of philosophy and realpolitik he will need to stay abreast at one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive universities.
Lim said he initially hoped to study at Yale University, where he was also accepted, but decided to apply to other universities which could offer greater financial assistance.
“That was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make,” Lim said about choosing which school to attend.
By studying at Harvard University, specializing in social studies and comparative literature, Lim said he was opening himself up to unique experiences and environments he wouldn’t find elsewhere.
“I wanted to go out to the big pond and see what life is like. As much as I love B.C., I definitely want to escape ‘Raincouver’ for a little while,” he said, grinning widely.
Aiming to become a human rights lawyer, Lim has written extensively on the subject of human rights. His essay, The Refugee Crisis, Burden-Sharing and Moral Obligations, earned him first-place honours in the 2018 HART Prize for Human Rights competition.
When asked about the sum of human suffering in general and the ongoing global refugee crisis in particular, Lim’s smile evaporates.
“If a refugee is travelling across the Mediterranean and dies because of unsafe passage, those things really break my heart and do affect me,” he said. “The fact is, there is so much suffering in the world and that suffering is preventable.”
Mid-explanation of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human rights, a janitor lets us know the school is closed. We have to leave.
Lim asks if he can explain how he fell in love with philosophy before heading home.
“I think philosophy is unique from any other subject area like math or science in that it is so cool. Oftentimes, not knowing the answer is the answer in that there is no one specific truth: knowing that there might not be an answer and having to accept that reality.”