Contrary to popular belief, there are a variety of ways to travel. Some people travel to sightsee, others through volunteer work, others through study abroad, and still others through work. When traveling to Poland, I took an alternative way to travel, I volunteered with Angloville.
Before I get to the real crux of the blog post, Angloville was quite possible the best thing I happened upon during my random google searches prior to my summer abroad trip. Angloville, a camp program, typically runs 1 week programs and all one has to do is assist adults, adolescents, or kids with their English in exchange for room and board (this is not just limited to Poland!). Moreover, as of recent, Angloville partnered with Premier TEFL so any Angloville volunteer can register with Premier TEFL, volunteer for 2-3 weeks with Angloville, with at least one program in Poland, and then receive the TEFL Certificate Teaching English as a Foreign Language) for free! This is what I happened upon and signed up for.
Through Angloville, I spent two amazing weeks with two different programs (one at the Bobrowa Dolina Hotel and the other at the Hotel Ameliówka) assisting Polish teenagers with their English. I was able to experience not just the Polish culture and Polish cuisine, but I was able to really interact with the Polish youth, I was able to connect with them. Despite not speaking the same first language, I became good friends with the Polish students.
During my first Angloville program, I had no idea what to expect. My extent of knowledge of teaching English was limited to the online lessons through Premier TEFL. I had no idea how to apply the lessons to real life. I was terrified I would not know how to teach and would be lost in what to do. That was not my experience. Despite having no prior teaching experience, I found the program to run quite smoothly. The native English speakers goofed off with the Polish children, played a variety of group games (such as Hide-n-go-Scare), had 1:1 and 2:1 conversations with them, and even had a mentee/mentees.
My first week was filled with Olympics themed games, funny group activities, walking around the hotel gardens carrying on conversations with different Polish kids. I talked about everything from my experiences in America and American customs to discovering Polish customs and learning about Disco Polo, famous Polish dance music, and even connecting with students over shared experiences (being the oldest sibling and always getting in trouble to vacationing in Tenerife). Every night that was a fun group event ranging from silly games (who can suck up coco puffs through a straw the fastest) to dance parties to learning a flash mob dance to Disney karaoke. All of these activities allowed us native English speakers to better connect with the Polish students. We were even assigned Polish students as mentees (I had two my first week and one my second)!
The most amazing part about working in an immersive English program was being able to see the transformation a week of English-speaking provided to a student. One of my mentees, one of the youngest participants in the program, came in a very shy student. She was uncertain if her English grammar was proper and unsure she used the right verb tense, which made her speak low and timid. However, after a week of her constantly asking about proper grammar and interacting with the native speakers, she blossomed into a confident young women. By the last day of Angloville, she spoke confidently and was not afraid of making mistakes. When she presented to the camp about her favorite musician, she thanked me after words and gave me a tearful hug before departing the camp. I did not anticipate having such an impact on one person, but would not change a thing.
It was here during my first week of Angloville that I garnered a huge appreciation for people to people interactions. I can read about Polish life and Polish history as much as I want, but hearing how these students live, holidays they celebrate, sports they play, just about their everyday lives, I now know more about the everyday Polish adolescent than I could through research. Moreover, I was able to really get to know people of a different country than mine and appreciate their traditions. Now when I think of Poland, I think about the wonderful teenagers I had the opportunity to get to know and who I can still talk to. I no longer judge a country but the sites it holds, but by the people I have the opportunity to meet and genuinely get to know. I can never thank Angloville or the students enough.
If any of my readers wish to know more about my experience with Angloville, simply leave a comment! Furthermore, if you wish to know more about Angloville and the opportunities it provides, check out angloville.com!
Do następnego razu! Zobaczenia! (until next time and goodbye in Polish)