Back in Janury I did the crazy thing of hitchhiking to Poland from central Belgium with a 24 hour deadline. Why? To become an Angloville volunteer in Wrocław. Many times I thought myself crazy, taking a risk and running to Poland for a week after being asked via couchsurfing. But after some research and a little faith I put my trust in my gut and went for it. Honestly, I would say it was the highlight of my European trip this winter.
Who are Angloville?
Angloville are the biggest language immersion company in Poland and with new programmes in Hungary, Czech Republic and Romania, they offer you a chance to get some experience teaching English throughout Central to Eastern Europe. The programme includes participants, either juniors or adults, a chance to practice their English in an environment that is 100% English, with native speakers from various countries. Through the use of role plays, conversations, group activities, presentations and interactive games the participants can improve their English at a quicker rate than if they were simply learning within the classroom.
For the native speaker volunteers it means a chance to not only interact with local people, but also to gain some experience teaching conversational English. In exchange for your participation you get to stay in a hotel and eat three meals per day for free. Which, if you’re travelling on an extreme budget like I am and are used to buses and airport benches, is a very welcome change. Sample the local food, meet some great local people and make friends with some brilliant people from all over the globe. The catch? There is none! It’s exactly what it says on the tin, 70 hours of volunteering in exchange for a great time.
What’s not to love?
If you are looking to boost your credentials even more, Angloville also offer a TEFL scholarship in which you can apply for. It includes the 120 hour TEFL certification and 200 hours of experience, volunteering in their programmes. It’s a great option to kickstart your career as an English teacher, and with support from the coordinators of the programme. If you’re not sure teaching is for you, or if you want a taster of the busy life led by a teacher this is certainly the way to do it!
What was my experience?
When I first thought about writing this article I was on a high from the end of the programme, and a little bit emotional because the participants all had to part ways. When you’re in a hotel with people for a week on your own, you get very close very quickly, which is one of the beautiful things about this programme. But it does make for emotional goodbyes.
When I first asked to take part in this programme I saw it as a way to save money for a week. I already had some złoty left over from an old school trip that I just happened to have with me and I was running dangerously low on money. I didn’t really think past that point in the negotiations. By the time I got to Poland I was wondering what I had gotten myself in for. I hadn’t tutored anyone in years, I hadn’t met any of the other participants as I was unable to attend the free tour the day before and I was convinced they would all have their own cliques already. What I found couldn’t be any further from the truth.
I immediately bonded with a fellow northern English girl, and later a Californian girl who were both my roommates. The coordinators of the programme made us all feel at home and welcomed. My fears over teaching were eased a little once I realised that all the materials were provided and it was mostly a one on one tutoring experience. I had done this before in both English and maths, this would be okay. I could do this.
And the whole experience felt… surprisingly natural. It was easy to carry a conversation with a different person for an hour a day. It was easy to interact with other natives. Most of them were also long term travellers who had some great tips and stories to tell. As far as I could tell from the participants who had taken part in both the junior and the adult programme, the adult programme was much easier on the native speakers as the students wanted to improve their English. The children were sometimes reluctant as they were there in their holidays. But by the end of the programme the stories were always the same; tearful goodbyes and happy memories all around. Oh and a party, of course! A little celebration and a well done to the participants that’s certainly needed after the week has ended!
A tip from the organisers; don’t take part in two junior programmes in a row. Either have a break or take part in an adult programme. Many participants agreed this was the best route. Junior programmes are more demanding and therefore more tiring. Use this time to explore the area. You won’t be in the city for the programme, you will be in the middle of nowhere (the bus from the city to the hotel is provided) so it’s a good chance for you to kick back and relax, explore the country and enjoy everything that Central Europe has to offer.
If that is a Burger King and some M&Ms after a week of polish food then so be it! (Guilty of that one!)
If you would like more information on Angloville or would like to apply for one of their programmes then visit their website at; www.angloville.com