Video Call Recaps
Our tour video calls took place April 13, 14 and 16. If you couldn’t make it, here’s a summary of what you missed.
Adoption Agency visits in the morning
Explore Han River Park
This year, all tour member agency visits will take place on Friday morning. We know that these visits may be emotional for many of you. So, following the meetings, we’ll all visit Han River Park together, a beautiful public park that runs along the Han River. Following our time outside relaxing, we’ll head back to our hotel for dinner and the tour orientation.
Optional early morning visit to Noryangjin Fish Market
Tour of Seoul
Programs with children from Angels' Haven
For those who are up for it, Saturday morning will kick off with a very early visit to Seoul’s largest fish market. Minyoung’s friend—who is a local restauranteur—will lead us on an insider’s tour of the market. This is a very unique experience to see a Korean fish market, and through the eyes of a local!
Later in the morning, we’ll visit significant historical sites (such as Gyeongbokgong Palace and more), then head to Angels’ Haven. Each tour member will be paired with a child for the afternoon, during our “Olympics Day” on their new playground. You will have the opportunity to meet with college students living in Angels’ Haven Independence Hall, as well as infants living at the orphanage.
We know the experience of working with orphaned children may be nerve-wracking or emotional for many tour members. Angels’ Haven staff, and Me & Korea tour volunteers and staff will be on hand to assist—with translation, support, and more! This will be a fun day, one that many of the children look forward to all year.
Child assignments will be released in May.
Host family experience
Our morning schedule is still being finalized, but after lunch, each tour member will meet up with their host family to spend the afternoon and early evening together. Some of you will be paired with another tour member, and others will be solo. You will not spend the night with your family.
Many of our volunteer host families have spent time with our tour members over several summers/tours! All will speak English. We also make an effort to pair you with a family that may share similar interests.
Host families will be announced in May. At that time, you will receive information about your family, as well as their contact information. We always encourage tour members to email their family, but if you don’t hear anything, don’t worry—it’s not as common for people to check and respond to email regularly in Korea.
Travel to and around Paju (Omma Poom park, DMZ, etc.)
On Monday, we’re waking up early and hitting the road! Our day in Paju will include a visit to Omma Poom park (Korea’s first dedicated public space to adoptees), tourist sites in the DMZ, and more. We’ll also have an opportunity to make kimchi with local halmonies.
In Korea, there is a national exam required before one can become a police officer. After passing, individuals train at an academy, like the one we’ll visit. Recruits typically spend 6 months in training, and are then assigned to stations all over the country. Our Police Academy visit is a unique opportunity to learn about this aspect of Korean life, while participating in a fun day of events and cultural exchange.
We are fortunate that Minyoung is friend’s with the head of the Academy we will be visiting (they attended school together!). While you might wonder about the significance of visiting an Academy, last year’s inaugural visit proved one important thing. While many adoptees rely on the services of Korean police to initiate a DNA search while in the country, it’s not common for Koreans—let alone Korean police—to have met a Korean adoptee. Our visit allows us to share our experience with the individuals who may be instrumental in helping future adoptees.
Visit to beach in Pohang, and hiking trip to Mount Naeyon’s streams and waterfalls
Wednesday we’ll spend time outside hiking in the beautiful Mount Naeyeon Forest Walk. It’ll be a great chance to relax, unwind, and have fun with your fellow tour members.
Check out more information about the park here.
Elementary School visit in Pohang
Some tour members depart for Meaningful Places
Thursday morning we’ll head to the elementary school for our honorary teaching day. Be sure to check our section below about questions and tips that came up around our school day visit.
For tour members who have to travel a long ways to their meaningful place, you may depart Thursday evening (or in some cases, during the afternoon, requiring that you miss the afternoon session at the school). We will keep everyone apprised of their specific departure schedule.
Tour members will each travel to/visit their Meaningful Places, alongside volunteers
On Friday, all tour members will visit their Meaningful Places. You will have a volunteer/translator alongside you, who will travel with you to your Meaningful Place, and facilitate communication as necessary. Please read on below for more info about how Meaningful Places are determined, what to expect, and if applicable, how reunions are facilitated.
Friday evening, all tour members will reunite in Seoul for a group session to discuss their Meaningful Place visits. This is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and talk through our experiences in a safe, supportive environment.
Meaningful place visits will be discussed and assigned by mid-May.
Free time; morning group activity
Saturday morning, we’ll have an organized group activity. In past years, tour members have visited a local Buddhist temple, but stay tuned—Minyoung always has something fun up her sleeve! This morning is a great opportunity to explore other parts of Seoul, do some shopping, or simply rest after our busy week.
In the afternoon, most people will return to the hotel to get ready for our banquet! For the banquet dress code: think somewhere between business casual and cocktail. Some ladies choose to wear cocktail dresses or sport a new hanbok, but something comfortable like a jumpsuit, or skirt and top, is great too. Men can plan on wearing chinos and a button down, or dress pants with a button down. No tie required!
Generally: what you might wear to church, or a casual afternoon wedding will be fine.
Check out; Official end of the tour.
Some tour members are taking a side trip to Busan—everyone is invited! Please see this post on Facebook and contact Cole (tour member) if you’re interested.
STILL WANT MORE INFO? Our detailed tour packet will be released in May. The packet will include even more in-depth information about each day, including details on attire, what to bring with you, and any relevant cultural notes.
School Visit Info
More tips we discussed about the school visit day
Curious who you are teaching with, if anyone? Don’t forget to check out the Tour Assignments section of the Tour Members page to see who you are paired up with.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT TEACHING
It's important to remember that you are honorary teachers during the assigned classroom time. In turn, we request you act like a teacher. While games and activities are fine to plan, remember to maintain a learning environment, and not get too loud or rowdy. The time in the classroom is meant for learning, though after, you’ll have a recess period to play with kids outside!
CRAFT YOUR LESSON PLAN AND SUBMIT!
All lesson plan outlines are due by May 1. What you write in these does not have to be set in stone—we just want these to give us a general outline of what you’re interested in teaching. Check out this page to download sample lesson plans from years past, as well as blank templates for your own lesson plan.
WHAT’S WORKED WELL ON PAST TOURS?
Try to plan something interactive. While the kids are generally curious about our lives outside of Korea, 45 minutes of talking at them may feel stale.
Try to incorporate something from your own life. For example, a short lesson about a landmark or interesting cultural tidbit about your hometown, paired with a craft project is great!
Teach them something all American/European kids would know. Is it a song, a game, a book?
Don’t forget small gifts! At the school, we recommend bringing an age/gender-neutral gift for your translator. Some translators are student volunteers, others might be parents. Candies, soaps, sports team items, tchotchkes, etc. from your hometown are great. We also recommend a small gift for your classroom teacher. One idea is to combine the teacher gift with your lesson, and gift one or two children’s books (that you also teach from).
Plan ahead. We know this day feels daunting. Even taking half an hour to connect with your teaching partner can really help. We also recommend doing a fast practice round the day before we visit the school, just to get a feel of what you’re going to say, and the pace and flow of your lesson. That little bit of prep makes a huge difference!
Leave time for a Q&A. Trust us. Not only will the kids have lots of questions for you, it can help you plan your lesson overall if you’re worried you won’t have enough to say.
In Korea, it is common to bring gifts for significant meetings, events, and to people who have done something kind for you. We’ve put together a shortlist of individuals you might want to consider bringing a gift for. Individuals with an ** by their name indicate we strongly recommend bringing a gift, while the others can be optional.
Your host family**
Your classroom teacher**
Birth mom/father** (if applicable, and only if you feel inclined. Be aware it is likely they will bring you something.)
Agency social worker
Tour bus driver (he is with us most of the tour)
Minyoung’s restauranteur friend (fish market day)
Student/parent volunteers at elementary school; student interpreters
Tour Staff/Volunteers (however, tour members often coordinate a group gift)
Group gifts for places like the Police Academy, School, Church, Kimchi making, etc.
WHAT ARE GOOD GIFT IDEAS?
Something that relates to where you’re from. Great ideas: a baseball or football cap from your local team; locally made food products; locally made beauty products; a coffee table book about your town. If you’re familiar with See’s Candies lollipops, Koreans love these.
Something that’s easy to pack. Keep in mind you’ll need to carry your gifts to, and in some cases all over Korea. Consider small items.
Something with a thank you note! You might want to bring a small set of notecards or stationery to quickly jot out notes to people who impact you. We often find tour members are surprised at the generosity and kindness of people who help us along the way, and many feel compelled to express their appreciation on the go.
Questions from the calls
Is it going to be hot?
Probably. Korea is known for being very warm, and very humid in the summers. Even tour members who have lived in places where it’s hot might be surprised at just how hot it can feel. We’ll share this in a future packing list, but you’re going to want to bring shorts, lightweight tops, and for the gals, cool, breathable dresses. No matter what—yes, you’re going to sweat.
(That being said, all our accommodations and the tour bus have AC!)
Are there mosquitoes?
Yes, though it will depend on the weather, and where we are. We do recommend packing a travel size container of insect repellant. You can usually find these in the travel section of major drugstores (Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade, etc.). Two years ago, tour members visited the future Omma Poom site, and reported lots of mosquitoes. In 2018 during the same visit, it was raining, so the tour had fewer issues with bugs. Near the ocean in Pohang, it is unlikely there will be a lot of mosquitoes, though it’s possible (even likely) they will be around during the hike to the falls. Regardless, according to the CDC and Red Cross, the area of Paju does have a risk for mosquitoes carrying malaria, so it’s a good idea to come prepared, just in case.
I heard women can’t wear clothing that reveals their shoulders. Is that true?
When it comes to revealing shoulders and décolletage, Korean women dress more conservatively than American and European women. It is common for women to wear tops that cover their shoulders, and definitely tops that do not reveal any cleavage. In professional settings—like the agency visit, at the school, or with elders—we’d ask that you not wear clothing that is too revealing. As a baseline: spaghetti strap camis are a pretty rare sight in Korea. Off-the-shoulder tops even more so.
That being said, it is summer, and it’ll be warm. Sleeveless tops are generally ok, especially in more casual settings. If you have a dress or top that covers your chest, but is sleeveless, that is fine.
Ironically, Korean women aren’t so shy about revealing other body parts. You may be surprised to see how short some of the ladies’ skirts and shorts are!
Any other cultural things to know about now?
Three big ones come to mind.
1// In Korea, you will find that there are no trash cans anywhere. Most Koreans will carry their trash with them, until they can return home or to work or to somewhere where they can dispose of it. Be prepared to hold on to your trash! And don’t even think about littering—which you won’t want to anyway, because Seoul is extraordinarily clean. One idea is to bring a pack of small trash bags or old plastic shopping bags with you, so you have something to put your trash in, then store in your backpack/tote.
2// In public places, Koreans are generally much quieter than Americans. When we travel on the subway or are out in public restaurants together, be mindful of how your voice carries…and be prepared to be shushed!
3 // You’re not prepared for how amazing Korean highway rest stops are.
How old are the children at Angels’ Haven?
Can I bring my assigned child at Angels’ Haven a gift?
That’s very thoughtful of you! Generally, we ask that you not bring an individual gift for your child at Angels’ Haven, simply because we don’t want to incite jealousy if other kids don’t receive a gift! If you want to (but it’s NOT required), we’d encourage you to bring a small set of gifts that could be shared with all the children in your kid’s room. For example, last year one tour member brought a set of Hot Wheels race cars, so each boy could have one. Other easy gifts are stickers—the kids love those.
Me & Korea will also have toys and small gifts on hand to give out to the kids. So if you’re not into bringing gifts to Angels’ Haven, it’s ok.
One last thing to mention—if you feel compelled to give your child a gift, we’d encourage you to check out donating to our WINGS program. There are opportunities throughout the year to donate birthday and holiday gifts!
What’s the story with translators during the tour? Are translators available for individual meetings, agency visits, meaningful places, birth family reunions, etc?
Absolutely. Half of our tour staff speaks fluent Korean, and will travel with us throughout the duration of the tour. So no matter where we are, there will be translators on hand. More specifically:
At the agency visit, your social worker will speak English, so don’t worry about translation here.
For meaningful places, you will have someone who can speak Korean with you. If you will have a birth family reunion, you will have a translator with you to translate all conversations.
For individuals who wish to provide a DNA sample at a police station while in Seoul, we will both be organizing these station visits for groups of tour members, and a translator will go with you to the station to help navigate the forms and conversation.
Host families all speak English.
You will also be surprised how many people speak English in Seoul!
When will I know where my meaningful place visit will be?
Meaningful place visits will be decided around mid-May. Look out for any emails from Minyoung discussing your visit.
How is my meaningful place visit chosen?
Everyone’s situation is a little different, but your meaningful place is primarily chosen based on your personal preferences, as well as the information provided in your paperwork. For many individuals, their meaningful place might be an orphanage they lived at, or a place they were found, or perhaps a place their foster family lived. As you can imagine, it’s extremely variable and unique to each individual, and we make every effort to make the visit truly meaningful.
Keep in mind that after reviewing the adoption paperwork you submitted in February, Minyoung might note something in your files which opens up a new, unexpected place for you to visit (for example, because the names of towns and cities have changed so much in Korea over the decades, a name that previously was unrecognizable to you might correspond to an actual place you can visit). For some tour members, visiting the agency on Friday 6/21 might provide new information which could alter your meaningful place last minute!
Generally speaking, Minyoung will reach out to each of you in May to discuss your meaningful place. For individuals who have a birth family reunion, these will be planned accordingly—sometimes as your meaningful place, other times not.
If you have a specific place you would like to visit, please reach out to Minyoung directly to discuss. We’re always open to your preferences! If you’d like to read alumni insights to meaningful place visits, check this page.
What if I end up having a birth family reunion? Who will arrange this, and what should I expect?
If your agency has notified you that your birth family has responded to their communications and would like to meet, please notify Minyoung right away. Me & Korea will work on your behalf to communicate with your family and arrange the reunion. Minyoung will keep you in the loop as planning progresses, so you’re aware of what’s happening. You are NOT expected to make the arrangements for your reunion on your own!
Birth family reunions are unique dependent on the situation of the family or family members you are meeting, where your family is living, and more. Based on this, we will work to find a safe, quiet place for you to reconnect. For some alumni, this has been at the agencies in Seoul; for others this has been in the birth mother’s home.
If you learn you are going to have a birth family reunion, please feel free to reach out to Victoria, one of our tour volunteers this year. She met many members of her family last year, as part of her Meaningful Place visit to the island of Geoje. She is happy to talk with anyone about the experience, the emotions, etc.
Can my teaching partner and I split the teaching time in our lessons?
Yes! Even though the assignment makes it appear one person should take the lead during each class, you don’t have to structure it this way. Do what works best for you, your partner, and your idea! Last year several tour members co-taught their classes, and it worked out fine.
I haven't heard anything from my agency for a while, should I reach out to them?
You can, but don’t worry if you don’t hear back. Sometimes agency workers are waiting until they have any news to respond to you. If you haven’t heard from them, it’s likely they don’t have anything new to report. Believe us, we know how hard and frustrating this can be, especially if you are waiting to see if a birth family member responds.
If enough time has passed and you are truly concerned with the lack of communication, please reach out to Minyoung, who can make some inquiries with your social worker on your behalf.
How do I exchange money and pay for things in Korea? Do I need cash right away at the airport?
When you arrive at Incheon airport, there will be places near baggage claim to pull money from an ATM. You can use your normal bank/debit card for this (just be sure to notify them you’re traveling internationally before you leave).
There are money exchanges all over Seoul, including one that is a short walk from our hotel. So if you arrive with your local currency, you can exchange it either at the airport, or at an exchange in the city.
Major credit cards are accepted everywhere too, though be aware sometimes vendors might charge a small fee to use these (especially in smaller shops).
Most tour members tend to take out money when they arrive, and use that as they go.
As far as needing cash at the airport, it depends how you are getting into Seoul. If you are taking a taxi, having local currency will be necessary. Do note that Uber coordinates with local taxis to run service from ICN airport into Seoul (get an estimate here). If you’re taking trains or buses, some automated ticketing machines/kiosks at the airport may allow you to pay for your fare with a credit card. However, it’s probably best to simply withdraw some cash once you land and have it ready. Alternatively, you can exchange your home currency at your departure airport for KRW, if you’re worried about finding an ATM when you land.
We’ll be sharing more about money matters in our upcoming Tour Packet!
What do I pack? What is the voltage in Korea? How do I get WiFi? Do I need to bring athletic gear/formal wear/business attire?
Hang tight. We’ll be releasing TONS of packing info, cultural info, and travel info about Korea in May. You’ll also get more info in the upcoming Tour Packet.
For now…have you submitted your lesson plan template yet?