Awkward Encounters Abroad

Conversations with my Korean Students (part 1)

south korea, teaching eslKelly Kern3 Comments


My students are some of my favorite humans on earth. They are smart, thoughtful, hilarious individuals and I'm constantly learning new things from and about them every day. Most of the time, and I would say a solid 96 percent of the time, I really love them. The other four percent I'm holding back f-bombs aimed at 11-year-old boys, but who hasn't been there? 

I thought I would share some of the silly and interesting conversations I've had with them. I've learned a lot about Korean culture through the conversations I've had with them, so for an added bonus I've added some fun Korean facts and links to more resources. ~get cultured~


My Name

When I check their assignments, I sign my initials so I know that I have looked over their work. My students find my name hilarious because "KK" sounds like "ㅋㅋ," which is the Korean version of "haha" or "LOL." 

In Korea, people usually are addressed by their titles. Instead of saying Mr. or Mrs., you would say their name followed by their job title. So, my students should be calling me Teacher or Kelly Teacher. Here's a list of things they call me instead:

  • KK
  • Killer Kelly
  • Kelly Candy
  • Kelly Crown
  • Kelly Corn
  • Candy Crown
  • Jelly Kelly (jelly is a candy)
  • Curry Teacher
  • You
  • Belinda (that's the name of the teacher before me) or KeLinda

This list is constantly evolving.

My favorite thing is to see my students outside of class or when they are with their parents. Immediately the students bow and address me as "Kelly Teacher." Who are they trying to fool? If only they showed that respect in the classroom.


These kids will do just about anything to mooch some food off of me. When I do bring a snack to work, I have to eat in hiding, otherwise I'm surrounded by at least 4 kids begging me for a bite. Sometimes the kids will bring in their own snacks and force me to try them just so they can watch my face. This has included snacks ranging from honey butter chips to dried squid. Not a fan of either of those, to be honest.

The best days are when my students complain to my boss that they are hungry. She'll come in half way through with snacks. One class managed to score a pizza, which ruined my lesson since their attention was completely gone, but so was mine. Free pizza!

Student A: "Teacher, I want a chocolate bar."

Student B: "Oooh, teacher! I want pepperoni!"

Me: "Okay, thanks for letting me know."

Student B: "You have? And you give me."

Me: "I...I don't have those things on me."

Student B: "Ahh, okay. After class we go to the store and you buy them for me."

Me: "No, I'm not going to do that."

Student B: "Oh, teacher, you are very poor?"

Me: "Yes. Very, very poor."

Student B: "Oh, that is very sad."


Student: "TEACHER! 배고파!"

Me: "I don't have food."

Student: "배고파!!"

Me: "At least say it in English."

Student: "배고파"

Me: "Open your books, we are on chapte-"

Student: "TEEEEACHER! 배고파! 배고파! 배고파!"

배고파 = I'm hungry. Pronounced (pay-go-pa)


Student: "Teacher, I want a hamburger, thank you!"

Me: "I don't have a hamburger to give you."

Student: "Let's go eat hamburgers! No class today!"

Me: "Okay, let's go. No class, we'll eat hamburgers today."

Student: "Really?" *runs to the door*

Me: "Yeah, let's go. Oh wait, I don't have money. Can you buy?"

Student: "No. I have no money."

Me: "Aw, man. No hamburgers. Guess we'll have class."

Student: "TEEEEACHER! 배고파!"


Me: "Open your notebooks, we're going to write senten- Ben, what are you doing?"

Student: *stands up* I like bread.

Me: "Wha... okay? Sit down, please."

Student: *sits down* "I LIKE BREAD."

My Face

During my first few weeks here, the youngest kids would constantly grab my hair, ask me about my eyes, or hold my face close to theirs while they examined my face. I thought the novelty would wear off, but kids will still randomly look at me with a surprised look as if they are seeing me for the first time. 

Me: "Open your books, we're going to read the story then-"

Student: "Blue!"

Me: "What?"

Student: "Blue eyes! You have blue eyes!"

Me: "Yes, I have blue eyes."

Student: "Devil eyes!"

Me: "What?"

Student: *whispers* "devil eyes."


Student: "Real or change?"

Me: "Change what?"

Student: *points to my eyes* "You changed?"

Me: "Changed? Changed what? My eyes?"

Student: "You changed your eyes to blue?"

Me: "No? These are my real eyes."

Student: "Oh my god? Real!?"


Student: "KK has a gold head!"

Me: "Blonde hair, not gold head."

Student: *picks stray hair off of my shirt* "LOOK! GOLD!"

Me: "Ew. Please throw away my hair."

Student: *runs around class* LOOK AT KK'S HAIR! IT'S GOLD!"


Student: "'Teacher, can you help me?"

Me: "Of course!" *leans over desk to look at the book*

Student: *slowly starts petting my head* "Ooooh, wow."

Korean Age

"How old are you?"

The first week of January, I was bombarded with this question. In Korea, they have a different system to calculate age. When a Korean is born, they are already considered one year old. Rather than changing your age on your actual birthday, everybody's age goes up one year on Jan 1. So, if you were born on December 31st, by the next day on Jan 1, you're already two years old in Korea. Sadly, this means I'm considered 25 (or 24, depending on who I ask) in Korea. How awful is that? I just got used to saying I'm 23. Since math is involved and I'm always told a different number, I usually just say the year I am born and let the other person figure out how old I am. Here is a video that explains Korean age if you're interested in learning more!

Student A: "How old are you?"

Me: "I was born in 1992."

*students do math for a second*

Student A: "Oh, teacher, you are so old!"

Student B: "Teacher KK, do you have a boyfriend?"

Me: "No."

Student B: "No!? And you're 24? Oh my god, you're so old and alone!"



Absolutely random conversations and events that have happened with my students.

Student: "KK, can I see your hand for a second?"

Me: "Uh...okay..."

Me: *handcuffed to a desk for 10 minutes*


Student: "Teacher! Do Peter!"

Me: "What's Peter?"

Student: "Peter p-p-p-p-p-p! Do it!"

Me: "Oh, the tongue twister, Peter Piper. I don't know the words." (Honestly, I never learned this one)

Student: "Do it! Do it! Do it Do it!"

Me: "Uh, okay....."

Me: "Peter Piper picked a popper puppy pets-a-porpoise."

Students: "OOOH! So fast! Again!"

Me: "Peter piper pick a poster pocket pencil pickle."

*This went on for a few minutes*


Student: "Heyyyy KK!"

Me: "Heyyyy!"

Co-Teacher: *taps student* "Don't talk to a teacher like that!"

Student: *bows* "Hello, teacher."

Me: "0_o"


Student: "Teacher, your blood?"

Me: "What? What about it? Am I bleeding?"

Student: "No, what is it? A or B?"

Me: "Oh... my blood type? I don't know.... Why do you need to know that?"

Student: "I need to know! Learn your blood type!"

This may seem like a totally creepy conversation, but in Korea it is very normal for someone to ask you your blood type. Some Korean's believe that certain behaviors are linked to blood types so they want to know your blood type to see what kind of personality you have. I'm not entirely sure how it works, so here is a video that explains it better than I can.

I have so many more conversations that I can't remember right now, but this will definitely be something I add to as they happen. Thanks for reading! If you want to see snaps of cute Korean kids, you can follow me on snapchat: kellykaay

To be continued...