When I was 8, I moved from my home country South Korea to Singapore, a country 6 hours’ plane ride away.
I only spent my grade 1 in Korea, but I recall my days in the Korean school with some nostalgia now and then.
Before walking into the classroom, I took off my shoes, placed them on a rack in the corridor, and stepped into my “sil-nae-hwa” (literally means “inside shoes”), which looked something like this:
I also remember that every week, 2 students in a class were in charge of carrying up a green box of milk packets for students to drink during lunch break (looked exactly like this!)
Although the brand of milk my class drank was this: (“Seoul Milk”)
I was a little shocked because a few days ago on Instagram, I saw how this milk box is seen by kids nowadays like an item of some ancient product that “grandfathers and grandmothers” used to have. (It’s only been 13 years since I was a Primary 1 kid myself…)
Apparently, kids nowadays even have a menu of milk they can choose from, which looks like this. Woww.
I still remember that the last day of my school in Korea was also my last day of “milk duty”.
I was carrying up a green box of milk packets with my classmate, who had sun-kissed skin and short hair cut to her ears.
As we were laboriously carrying the box to the classroom, she jocularly remarked, “Have fun in Australia! How am I going to carry this box without you?” (Although it wasn’t Australia but Singapore, I was touched by her words!)
My exam papers something looked like this. They were not printed on white, A4-sized paper like exam papers are in Singapore, but were on slightly thinner, darker-colored papers.
Plus, correct answers were marked with circles instead of ticks. In Singapore, ticks in schools are used to indicate questions students solve correctly.
Every classroom used to have a bell like this on the teacher’s table. When kids got noisy during class, an impatient teacher would ring the bell a few times, and usually, silence would fall over the classroom.
The classroom had a matted wooden floor, wooden tables and chairs (with iron legs), windows on the left and two sliding (heavy) doors on the right.
There were lockers at the back of the classroom, a green chalkboard at the front of the class, along with the Korean flag and a big TV (for broadcasting of the national anthem/important announcements).
In my time (wow makes me sound really old…), the teachers used to write on the chalkboards with white chalks.
When I moved to Singapore at the end of P1, I realized that teachers in Singapore use whiteboards with black markers and quite often, visualizers, screens and projectors.
The school building had a large sand field, which was circled by a running track. The running track led up to grey stone steps.
There was no canteen/cafeteria. Every lunch time, a metal cart would be dragged to the front of the classroom. A few parent volunteers (usually mothers) would then settle in front of the cart. The students queued up in front of the cart and waited for their food.
I was also shocked to read an article on how those who remember this cart are like fossils from the past (we were even likened to a T-rex, can you believe it- I’m only 20 hahha).
The food was given in a metal tray like this, usually consisting of rice, soup, about 3 side dishes, and sometimes dessert (fruits/fruit puddings, etc), the menu crafted by school nutritionists.
School areas were and still are designated as “school zones”, with speeding restrictions. Parent & teacher volunteers and occasionally policemen helped to ensure school children crossed safely.
My own homeroom teacher occasionally spent her before & after school hours with a whistle in her mouth, making sure cars slowed at the school crossing areas, greeting students and parents with a smile.
Much has remained the same and much has changed since my time in elementary school. I spent my first few in Singapore trying to adapt to a whole new environment and the next few years busy studying for the PSLE, O levels and just a year ago, the A levels.
I had a nice time taking a trip down the memory lane of my short school life in Korea- hope you enjoyed my post as much as I had fun writing it!
Cheers, Han Seol :))