Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Student Profile: Hongdae


I feel like I always blog about 2.5, and with good reason, because there’s so much ripe comedic material to choose from. However, today’s post isn’t going to be about something funny that happened in class, it’s going to be about one of my favorite students – Hongdae.

Now Hongdae isn’t actually his name, it’s just what I’m choosing to call him as it’s actually somewhat similar to his name and because whenever I think of Hongdae, I’m reminded of him.  Hongdae is most famously known among the native English teaching community as a partying, clubbing, and live music district, but it’s also named after Hongik University (University in Korean is 대학교/dehakgyo, so HongDe) which is the most famous arts school in Korea. Why does this university remind me of my student? I’ll get to that in a second.

Hongdae (the student) is every teacher’s dream. He’s bright, pays attention, and is funny without being disruptive. He helps control the class, and helps translate for other students when they need help but doesn’t yell out all the answers. He’s a good participant during games, and pays attention during the more boring parts of class. He’s just an all around sweet kid, in a class full of (also sweet) crazies.

A few weeks ago after I finished teaching class 2.5 I left the second grade building and paused on the steps. I saw Hongdae come out after me, but decided not to call out to him, because it was his break time and I didn’t want to force him to come talk to me. He ended up calling out my name anyway. I asked him what his plans were for that weekend, and he said “drawing.” Intrigued, I asked if art was his hobby, and he replied that his dream was to be an artist. I asked if he wanted to go to art school, and he told me that he wanted to go to Hongik, and asked if I knew it. When I replied that I did know Hongdae and that it was a very famous art school, he beamed.
“Do you have any of your drawings with you? I’d love to see them.”
He blushed. “Ah no, teacher, not now. But maybe later?”
“Okay, I want to see them later. Promise me.” And we promised.

Fast forward to today. I finished teaching class 2.5, hung around to chat with some of the boys, then on my way out I ran into Hongdae on the steps again.
“Bye, teacher. Have a good week.”
“Thanks! Ah! Your drawings, how are they going?”
“Good! I… have them with me now, if you want to see them?”

I then followed him back inside class 2.5’s homeroom, to the confusion of all the students there, and he grabbed a tube from his cabinet and from it pulled out his drawings and started to explain them in English, and my jaw just dropped. The first (and my favorite) piece had been divided into four parts and each part had a BEAUTIFUL image of a water drop, hitting the water’s surface, done in varying shades of blue. The second piece was of a cat, about to attack a ball of yarn, and the third was a drawing of different types of cracked glass.

Hongdae is smart. He was in one of my advanced first grade classes last year, which makes him one of the top students (at least, in terms of English) in second grade. The fact that he’s at Changpyeong means that he’s smart, period. He could probably get into any number of prestigious academic programs at most universities, but I’ve never seen him look happier or more proud than when he was showing me his drawings.

(To help me remember students’ names, I had students write their names on white boards and then I took pictures. This remains one of my favorite pictures, because everytime I got ready to take a picture, these two students would bust out laughing, so I finally just took the picture mid-laugh. Hongdae’s the one on the right, and I erased the students’ names for privacy reasons).

posted under School, Student Profile
One Comment to

“Student Profile: Hongdae”

  1. Avatar May 30th, 2012 at 12:38 pm Em in Asia! » Blog Archive » Hair CURLiosity Says:

    […] more) so while there are a few boys that have slightly more outrageous haircuts, or use hair wax (Hongdae being one of those), most of them toe the […]

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.