What Does A Korean Student Do During Winter Vacation?

kids-running-out-of-the-schoolIt’s vacation time in Korea, and the students should be excited and happy to be free from school; and for the majority, that’s the case. The last few weeks before term are decidedly more cheerful at school, once final exams are over and the students can relax.

But some students don’t seem that excited by the end of school, and some seem actually unhappy, which I find extremely strange. In England, words can’t describe the happiness you feel when you break up from school for the six-week holiday. Of course you’ll miss your friends, but you’ll still see them, and any plans for vacation are (usually) exciting and fun. Alert

So we asked our students their plans for vacation, to see why some weren’t as happy as others about the end of school. And here were the most common answers- some negative, some positive:



Study / Go To Academies

So it’s fairly obvious why the students who gave this answer weren’t too thrilled about their winter break. Instead of having more time to relax, have fun with friends, or play games, lots of students simply said ‘study.’ And were they excited for vacation? ‘No.’

For some students, vacation isn’t really vacation, because they still have to go to academies every day. ‘And what will you do apart from go to your academy’ we asked. ‘Study.’  Ok then…

(We also have the same response when seeing some students after vacation; when asked if they enjoyed their vacation, many students say ‘no.’ The reason? All they did was study.)

Go Abroad

There was a high number of students going abroad, usually to the Philippines, USA, or Canada. The aim of these visits is quite often ‘to study English’, but at least they were excited about their trips.

I have a lot of respect for the younger students who go alone to foreign countries to study; it’s quite common in Korea so maybe they don’t think twice about it, but the prospect of going abroad, without friends/parents would seem scary to the majority of English students of the same age. Especially going to a country where no-one speaks the same language as you.

Various Camps

English camp, Maths camp, Science camp, the list goes on. And while English camps are quite often designed to be more ‘fun’ than regular school, other camps remain focused on studying, and are very serious. One student who had been sent to our school’s History camp came to visit English camp everyday, very upset that he had to go to the ‘boring’ camp and not the ‘fun’ one.

Even if the kids aren’t going to camp, a number also work as ‘student helpers’ to gain extra credit. (Although at our school, this meant ‘sitting at the back of the class on your smart phone’ for 99% of the time. Not a bad job.)

Go Skiing

Whether the students meant every day or not is unclear; if they did mean everyday, then there must be a high number of excellent skiers in Korea, because a lot of students named skiing as their only plan for winter break.

Lose Weight

Not such a fun plan for your holiday, it has to be said. But ‘losing weight’ was a fairly common answer. And it’s true that there’s a large number of students who suddenly appear at the gym during the winter holidays, some not looking at all happy to be there.

My favourite example? Two middle-school girls, who spend an hour walking (incredibly slowly) on the treadmill whilst glaring at their mother, who’s evidently dragged them along. Smartphones in hand, of course.


Some students who aren’t pushed into going to academies/ studying long hours during the holidays take the time to catch up on sleep. And to be honest, I can’t blame them; if I had to wake up before 6 am every day for school, as the majority of our students do, I probably wouldn’t get out of bed at all.

Just Play

My favourite answer. When students are excited for vacation, and say they’re just going to play, it makes me pretty happy. Similarly when they plan to ‘watch a movie’ or ‘read a book.’ Anything which involves fun. Because that’s what holidays from school should be.


And what do teachers do on vacation? Hopefully something fun, something exciting, and definitely not something to moan about when they return to work.

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