Leo Passaportis - 2015 Program Participant
On the final day, native and Polish participants combined photo, Dwór w Zabużu
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
The reason I chose an international program was part of a broader travel plan that I conceived a few months earlier when I set off. I started my journey from the UK in August, travelling through France, onwards to Greece, the Balkans, and finally Poland.
Why did you choose AIP Angloville?
I chose to volunteer with the Angloville English Language Immersion Program as a native speaker because I've developed an interest in language intuition and learning, even though it is not something I qualified for professionally. Angloville was attractive because it put an emphasis on conversational English rather than grammar, writing, and formal language. My whole approach to this episode of travel from start to finish was to try and engage with people and communities with regards to their way of life, culture, and ambitions. The Angloville program was therefore an ideal way for me to meet Polish people and interact with them in a largely informal, relaxed manner, exchanging my knowledge of the English language in return for their insights on Poland and its culture.
A contemporary sculpture, Market Square, Krakow
What was it like living in Poland?
The program was set in a quiet, rural setting with access to a great range of facilities, including a spa and indoor swimming pool. The venue was tastefully decorated and the food was great: a selection of traditional Polish cuisine alongside cereals and pancakes and select dishes for those with specific requirements.
What made your program experience unique?
I suppose it would be the particular participatory approach to learning English, whereby the learners (the Polish participants) were encouraged, but never obliged, to converse with several native speakers, such as myself, in the course of a day, and simultaneously take the opportunity to engage socially during mealtimes and during free time later in the day.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
They were very helpful indeed. Ross and Marlena were always on hand to answer any outstanding questions and to provide a framework for the various learning activities on the course.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
If I could have changed one thing it would have been the weather. I think a summer camp would be even better than a winter one. As it was, this was the last one of the year. The next program would recommence in the spring of 2016.
Traditional horse and carriage, Old Town Krakow
Describe a day in the life of your program.
I would get up between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., take a shower, and head for breakfast with my roommate Alan. At breakfast I would make a point of sitting with one or some of the Polish Participants (PPs). Conversation at this stage of the day was not obligatory, but there was the opportunity for PPs to chat if they wanted to. Thereafter I met up with my mentee Krzystof for an hour in, during which I helped him prepare for his end of week presentation. Following this were several hour-long, one-on-one conversational English sessions. The morning usually finished off with a group activity, like a quiz or other imaginative exercise.
Lunch took place between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. After this we were free to socialise or relax for an hour and a half. This time was spent either catching up on sleep if the night before had been a bit too sociable or relaxing in the spa/indoor swimming pool. The evening session involved a further two one-on-one conversational English sessions and another hour dedicated to a particular scenario: a business discussion, negotiation, or similar.
After dinner I would meet some of the other native speakers and PPs in the reception area of the hotel and we could have a drink and socialise for half an hour or so before the reception closed. Typically we would then move in the direction of the only outbuilding to house some of the native speakers on the course, a nearby cottage which boasted a fireplace and ample space for visitors. These evenings could be very entertaining indeed. Alan would bring his guitar along and play some tunes, and on other occasions we just chatted and exchanged jokes and anecdotes.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time most?
Without a doubt the evening “cultural exchanges”!
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
The accommodation was a very comfortable bed in a moderately spacious room on the second floor of the hotel. I shared it with another native speaker, which was not a problem at all. We also had an en suite bathroom which was convenient. A comfortable bed is probably tops my list of criteria for a good stay.
Socialising in the cottage after dinner, Dwór w Zabużu
Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?
Being back home is a little bit of a disappointment after these sort of adventures to be honest. However, I know I can translate this experience in a positive way.
Learning need not be reserved for the classroom.
It was great to see that even adults can participate in an immersive learning experience, as I saw with the PPs, where a social dimension is just as important as formal instruction. Having grown up in quite a restrictive society I feel that I can take a lot away from this experience, especially when it comes to further education and professional development.