Korean Fifth Graders’ Bucket Lists

Lesson 12 goes over the grammar, “I want to ~~”. To apply this key expression, we did a bucket list activity. We discussed the phrases, “life is too short”, “you only live once”, and “catch the dream”, showed the trailer of The Buried Life with Korean subtitles, and shared some examples from my personal bucket list: swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, running a half marathon, etc. Now, it was the students’ turn to write their dreams and desires – no limits. 

There were a few nice responses. 

  • I want to speak English well.
  • I want to travel to space.
  • I want to be in the Olympics.
  • I want to travel the world.
  • I want to bungee jump.

Most of the sentences that can tell you a lot about Korean culture. Remember, these are 10-11 year olds. 

  • I want to drink beer.
  • I want to have a girlfriend.
  • I want to get plastic surgery.
  • I want to sleep.
  • I want to get revenge on Japan

Often times, I feel bad for the pressures these students deal with. They’re always tired and hungry. I would, too, if I had private academies after a full day of studying. Pressure for good grades won’t end after high school – their parents might be under enormous pressure at work. As a result, some students may hear their parents stumbling in late at night after downing soju bottles as a result of a required outing with the company. Drinking is a very much a social activity here, but I wonder how much of it is to drown their stresses.

Besides being smart, being beautiful is highly valued. At such a young age, this girl explained how she wants her eyes and nose done. “But you’re beautiful now,” I say. Her face brightened as if she never heard that in her entire life. “Oh, THANK YOU!” was her response with a bow and a giggle. But it didn’t change her desire to change her face.

I love Korea,


but I’m glad I didn’t grow up here. 


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