Sorry, summer fans. The break's almost over (if it already isn't).
by Rachelle "Roach"
Time to load up the backpack, brush off the school uniform, and hit the books. For Korean students, that means a lot of hitting. Their days are packed with mental activity, and a lot of nourishment is needed to stay focused and healthy for the whole year. Want a better idea of what that means? Here’s what your daily food intake might look like if you were a Korean student. (Snacks included, of course!) 7:00 a.m. WAKE UP! You’ve got a very long day of studying in front of you, and you can’t focus with a grumbling belly. Start the day off right with a filling breakfast of kimchi, spam, rice, and miyeok-guk (seaweed soup). Yes, you heard right. Where do we begin with kimchi? Well, how much time do you have? The health and wellness benefits of kimchi are almost too numerous to count. It’s full of Vitamins A and C, most importantly. And thanks to fermentation, it is rich in microorganisms that keep your gut healthy, which then leads to a boosted immune system and an overall more balanced system. Spam is a glorious delicacy among Koreans, and it complements the flavor of kimchi in a just a wonderful way. You just have to taste it to believe it! Miyeok-guk is one of those household dishes you grow up on. It's delicious, healthy, and brings back memories of your mother or grandmother's cooking. Add some rice into your soup for some guk-bap (soup rice), and have it with some spam and kimchi! 10:00 a.m. After a grueling morning of classes, you could probably use a little pick-me-up, and just in case the kimchi wasn’t enough, better keep boosting those gut bacteria. Down a Yakult (or two), a sugary fermented milk that comes in a one-shot container. Beloved in Korea, it’ll keep those insides running like they're supposed to, and give you a kick for the mid-morning slump.
Noon It’s lunchtime! Take your metal tray and join your classmates and teachers for a lunch made by your school cafeteria cooks. Each day will be a little different, but the basics stay similar: you’ll definitely have a scoop of rice and probably some kind of stew, like a soondubu (soft tofu soup) or tteokguk (rice cake soup). Add on a few sides like a seafood pajeon, japchae, cucumber kimchi, fresh fruit, or fried tofu, and you’ve got yourself a Korean school lunch.
2:30 p.m. School’s out!!!
Well…kind of. The official public school day is over, but if you’re a Korean student, chances are you’re not heading home to play video games. You’ll probably head to hagwon, the Korean word for private schooling that takes place after normal school hours. Some are non-academic. Maybe you’ll head to a studio for violin lessons or Taekwondo class. More likely, though, is that you’re heading to hagwon to brush up on some of the same subjects you learned during the school day – maybe an intensive English study, advanced math, or a subject not always taught in school, like coding or art. You’re going to need a snack before Studying Round Two. Grab a banana ooyoo (milk) from the cooler of the corner store near your school. The sweet, milky drink is refreshing, crisp, and has just enough of a sugar jolt to put a little pep in your step. 8:00 pm It’s dinnertime. Depending on your age and how much you (or your parents) love to study, dinner is going to look a little different. You might be one of the lucky ones at home, eating a traditional Korean dinner with your family. It’s not uncommon, though, for hagwons to serve a light dinner to their students, or have a hot water cooler that allows them to heat up a to-go container of Shin Ramyun. Instant noodles are a common language for suffering students all around the world. 11:00 pm Even the most demanding of hagwons are usually out of session by now. Treat yourself to a little Pepero as an almost-midnight snack before you wake up and do it all over again. Night night!