Alumni Spotlight: Rathi Sivasothy


Why did you decide to teach abroad with EPIK in South Korea?

I was actually at work one day, when one of my best friends rang me up and asked me how I would feel about going abroad to teach. To be honest, I had never really thought about it. I had always wanted to go travelling, but had never considered working abroad. My friend read out to me the job description posted on the Reach To Teach website. It sounded like fun and the best part was I didn’t need a teaching qualification and this opportunity would also allow me to travel.

My friend then proceeded to read up about various teaching opportunities abroad. He spent days scouring numerous websites, looking at the pro’s and con’s of it all and just trying to find out how legitimate EPIK really were. Having also researched into teaching opportunities in China and Japan, my friend concluded that the programme with EPIK was probably one of the better ones out there. It appeared that EPIK really looked after their teachers, providing them with housing and medical cover, and the salary wasn’t too bad either. We had read several reviews by other existing and previous teachers, detailing their adventures inside and outside of school. So with a string of plus points against EPIK, we took the plunge and applied for a teaching position in South Korea.

Describe your day to day activities as a teacher.

I like to arrive in school early, so that I have time to check my email, Facebook, the news and then make any photocopies that are required for the morning lessons.

I will then wonder down to the English Department and open up the classrooms and get the room ready for the first lesson. This will include putting out the children’s name cards, writing the objectives and activities on the board, getting the PowerPoint presentations ready, sweeping the floor in the classroom, etc.

I would normally then teach four lessons and then break for lunch. In between each of the morning lessons is a ten minute break, where I will either check my email again or have conversations with my students.

After lunch, my co-teacher and I will then discuss about the following days classes. What activities need to be prepared and any other projects that need to be completed. On Thursday’s, I teach a class after lunch, and on Monday’s and Wednesday’s I teach the after school English Club.

When I’m not teaching (in the afternoons and days where the lessons have been cancelled), I’ll be in the teachers room on my computer preparing lessons for the following day. My school provides me with a computer and a desk in the teacher’s room – I share this teacher’s room with another contract English teacher and two science teachers. However it’s not all work, work, work. The teachers whom I share the teachers room with, we will often share snacks in the afternoon together and have a bit of chitchat. I usually also use this free time to plan my weekends adventures and do a spot of online shopping with the help of my co-teachers.

Before you know it, five o’clock has come around and it’s time to go home – they always say that time flies when you’re having fun!!

How has this experience impacted your future?

Prior to Korea, I had been working as a Branch Manager for five years in the car rental industry. Part of my role as Manager was to train (teach) my staff in their roles, however, these were adults that I was training. Going from teaching adults to teaching children, whose first language is not English, was a challenge. However, it has definitely broadened my thinking and creativity and has strengthened my managerial skills.

A manager in a business situation is very different to a manager in a school environment. However, the key strengths of a manager should be the same. So, what makes a good manager? Some might say; “A key to successful management is the relationship between the manager and his or her staff. Good relationships are based on trust, commitment and engagement, and a good manager’s essential role is to build these relationships for the benefit of the organisation.” Having come to Korea with no teaching qualifications, I put to use my acquired managerial skills into my teaching. I built relationships with my co-teachers and students, gained their trust and commitment and have managed to make my lessons interesting and fun so as to keep them engaged and wanting more, and all of this in English – their second (or third in some case) language.

To succeed here, in Korea, as an English Teacher, I have really had to come out of my comfort zone and have had to be extremely creative in my teaching. Professionally, the new skills which I have acquired will be extremely beneficial to me when I eventually return back home and seek future work. To have the experience of coming to a foreign country and working in a very different environment to what I am used to, has given me the confidence and strength to try any challenge that may come my way.

On a personal level, the boost in confidence you get from seeing and hearing your students speaking in English, is indescribable. To know that, your presence and hard work has encouraged them to learn English and to succeed is an amazing feeling and one to be proud of.

I will forever cherish my memories from Korea.