I spent the weekend at Dwór Mościbrody, Poland, as a volunteer to teach English!
The summer between the completion of my undergrad degree, and the start of master’s programme, felt like a life-time. In reality, it was two months; but even with a part-time job and other commitments, I still had far too much free time on my hands. For me, a break from learning is uninteresting and lacks stimulation. It’s for this reason that I’ve been pursuing language learning in my spare time, too.
As such, over the summer I completed a TEFL qualification, with the idea that after my degree I could travel and find work as a teacher of English in various places across Europe (Brexit outcome dependant, of course). I completed a 120-hour accredited qualification from the International Open Academy, and decided to take a look at some of the opportunities available so that I could get a feel for what to expect. This is how I discovered Angloville.
Angloville is a volunteer led programme; this is the brief explanation they provide on the front of their website:
The Angloville project is a unique experience that enables linguistic and cultural exchange between the native English speakers and language students, most of whom are successful professionals or ambitious youth; depending on the program you attend.
As an English speaker, you stay in one of Angloville’s beautiful venues in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Ireland, England or Malta for 1-8 weeks and help local students improve their English through a series of conversations and activities. During each programme, your stay with full board is covered and an unforgettable cultural exchange experience is guaranteed.
For the full information pack, here is the link to their website- I really recommend looking at them! https://angloville.com/
I wasn’t going to apply, I was going to wait some months as, to me, my education is more important. And then, had a bit of a crises, thought ‘fuck it’, and I applied as a volunter as a native English speaker, not really thinking I’d get considered. By the end of the week, I had been accepted onto a weekend programme helping adult Polish speakers with their English skill. Within a month, I was on a plane to Warsaw, alone and surprisingly not freaking out or feeling too stressed or overwhelmed. Travelling there was a slight disaster, however. My flight was delayed for almost three hours, which screwed up my airport taxi transfer service – if it weren’t for the incredibly kind woman seated beside me on the plane, who saw me stood outside the airport at 1AM looking like I was about to cry, I probably would have cried. I explained my situation to her and, bless her, she put me in a taxi with her to make sure I got to my hostel, as apparently it was on the way to her hotel anyway. I am so grateful to her and for her kindness.
I’ve never stayed in a hostel by myself before, and not one that was an independent venue (I have previously stayed in the Generator Hostel chain, the Dublin establishment, with friends and I would recommend them), so I was apprehensive about what to expect. You all will have heard at least one horror story from the condition of hostels, but I was reassured by the fact it was only for two nights – the night I arrived, and the night before I departed. Simply put, I couldn’t have asked for a better first solo experience from GreenWood Hostel Airport, and I plan to leave a great review on Expedia and TripAdvisor (I’m currently writing this blog post in my notebook in my bunk there).
- This day started with a tour of Warsaw and the Old Town.
- I learnt so many interesting facts – for example. Polish kings used to be elected, rather than ascending to the throne through lineage; some harrowing facts about the concentration camps; the country’s traditional beverages; Marie Curie was born in Poland; the devastation and subsequent rebuild after the bombings in WWII, and so much more.
- I tried ‘traditional’ dishes – beetroot soup, dumplings, kompot – which my one housemate is going to teach me how to make.
- In the evening, we were transported to the Angloville venue.
The Angloville weekend was hosted at Dwór Mościbrody, just shy of 100km east of Warsaw. I have seen beautiful places before, but boy, this really takes the cake – especially in autumn. I studied creative writing for three years, yet I can’t even put into words how beautiful this part of the country was.
Due to it being a weekend programme, it was intense – from breakfast at 8.30 to dinner at 7.30, followed by an entertainment hour and then some free time at the bar (during which we played Scrabble Mania (English and Polish allowed in some rounds), and card games).
My two days consisted of several one-to-one conversational hours and a group activity.
Now, one thing to note is that to take part in Angloville, any kind of TEFL qualification is not required – in fact, they even offer their own scholarship programme for volunteers! Therefore, these conversation hours aren’t strict lessons – they are just purely conversational. They’re designed to be friendly and relaxing, giving the native English speakers the opportunity to learn about the English learners, and help them with their speaking skills, the pronunciation of words and their meanings, help with differentiating close sounds in the English language (such as ‘th’ and ‘f’). We were given some prompts to help get the conversations flowing, and some exercises too, but they weren’t always needed – it was great to just converse with all of the different participants and learn all about their lives, jobs, culture.
It was awkward at first. This was my first time, and meeting new people can always be challenging, especially with a language barrier thrown in. But it got easier as the sessions progressed, and I feel everyone grew more and more comfortable with one another.
Angloville was a great volunteer experience for me, ran by a great and enthusiastic coordinator named Filip. The programme was filled with volunteers and participants from all walks of life, with careers ranging from veterinary technicians, GP doctors, English teachers, and even members of the Polish parliament! And yet, everyone was equal, all there to help with the improvement of English skills.
I definitely plan to volunteer again with Angloville in the future, and there are so many different options – weekend courses, week-long ones, and working with kids, adults, or juniors, and in a wide range of locations across Europe too. I can’t wait, and if this sounds like something you would be interested in, then I definitely recommend you check Angloville out. For the duration of the programme, they cover the cost of transport to and from the venue, price of overnight stay, and food – three meals a day. The only costs volunteers are required to pay is a deposit, of which approx. 90% is refunded after the programme ends (the other ~10% covers admin fees), flights (which can be as cheap or as expensive as you like – mine were less than £40 each way), and then any accommodation that is needed before or after the programme – my hostel worked out free for me as I used my Expedia reward points to pay!