I have always wanted to travel and take little trips here and there. I read an article in Backpacker magazine about ways to extend your budget and enjoy new opportunities while traveling by volunteering. After reading the article, I was inspired to investigate, which is how I ended up onGoAbroad and discovered the Angloville program.
Why did you choose Angloville?
After reading the description of the Angloville program, I was sold on it. The program offers a chance to meet and connect with people living in Central and Eastern Europe through your willingness to offer a valuable service - teaching the English language. Seriously. Fun! I visited their website and completed the application shortly after.
What was your favorite part about your host countries?
I participated in programs in both Poland and Hungary. First, I fell in love with Poland. Then, I fell in love with Hungary. In both places, it was the people that stole my heart first. I did spend more time in both countries outside of the program dates and even visited some of the places that were recommended to me by participants in the program. Some of those places I may have never discovered if not for my new Polish and Hungarian friends. It was quite magical.
What made your experience abroad unique?
Angloville is a language immersion program that provides practice speaking both general conversation English and business English. The program requires two groups of people – native English speakers and foreign language participants. The brilliance of the program, perhaps, begins with the types of people that are attracted to these programs in the first place. We are all conversationalists. We enjoy being around people. We love to travel. Take that description and think about twenty people that fit that build in a hotel together for five days. If you expect them to walk out as lifelong friends, you would be right. At the end of each program, there was a frantic exchange of information, typically Facebook, and a sincere hope that we would all meet again.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The project coordinators for my programs were Liam Nelson, Ralph Patrick, and Krzysztof in Poland, and Sebastian Durkin and Anett Turoczi in Hungary. All of them were amazing. While in Poland, I learned that my aunt was killed in a car accident. I was cried spontaneously on and off over the next several days. Nelson became one of my heroes. He gave distance and comfort exactly when I needed it, and I never had to ask.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
It was nice to be able to have some solo travel time between programs, but I would probably plan it a little better next time by signing up for all the programs I want to participate in before traveling.
I applied and was accepted into the program in Poland first, and bought a ticket to Poland intending to stay in Eastern Europe for six weeks. After the Polish program, while I was still in Eastern Europe, I applied for additional Angloville Programs in Czech Republic and Hungary. I was accepted in the Hungarian program. It worked out, and I am ever grateful for that trip and experience, but if I had planned it a little better before leaving, I could have cut some unnecessary costs and still had all the magic.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
Our day begins at 8:30 a.m. We have three meal hours – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and the remaining hours are spent in alternating one-hour sessions. For example, I may have a one-hour speaking session with Ewa Czarnecka, which means Czarnecka and I will go somewhere on-site and converse for one hour. Then, we report back to the lobby and Czarnecka may go to a speaking session with Moire Peters, and Piotr Czekala will join me for a speaking session. Every native speaker will have at least one session with every Polish participant. We also have mentees that we see every morning just after breakfast. At the end of each evening, we have entertainment and social time. The important thing to note is every minute is a planned opportunity for the participants to speak English with native speakers from across the globe. In the programs I participated in, there were native speakers from Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, the U.S., and even the Netherlands.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
In Poland, one of the native speakers brought his acoustic guitar. He strummed songs that we knew, and we all sang together. That was my favorite. In Hungary, I enjoyed swimming most. The water was freezing, so we would jump in, swim three or four quick laps and then climb out. It was so exhilarating.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
The accommodations were always in remote places just outside of a major city. They were spacious and had a variety of things for us. In Poland, there was sand volleyball court, a pool table, spa, and walking trails. In Hungary, there was a pool, spa, pool table, table tennis, and walking trails. There was also a bar at every accommodation.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
The thing is, while the native speakers are there to explain the English language and as Sebastian Durkin says “how unique, complicated and at times, thoroughly bizarre that can be,” the format of the program allowed us to teach in a setting that was comfortable and genuine. You don't have to be a licensed teacher to sign-up and succeed at this program. You just have to enjoy listening, speaking, and asking questions. Enjoy the moment.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
Something I realized while traveling – the person you are when you leave is the person you will be when you get back. Traveling did not change me. It gave me perspective. These serendipitous moments I refer to aren’t mine. It seems to me that we are all pulled in the direction that we need to be, and we get to our destination when we need to be there. The tricky part is in recognizing that pull and knowing when to let it take you.
Would you recommend Angloville to others? Why?
Absolutely. Without hesitation. Some of the other native speakers even talked about what a neat social experiment this program could be. You sign up volunteers from all over the world and put them in a remote hotel in a foreign country. Then, you give them an agenda that keeps them on-site, mingling, bonding, and connecting with each other under the guise of teaching the locals your native language. While there were no cameras, there was definitely a beautiful connection forming between everyone there all the time. While listening for pronoun use, verb tenses, and sentence structure, I was also learning about Kutasi Bálint’s love for basketball and entrepreneurial spirit, and Babi Reichardt’s love for Norway, cruise ships, and her daughters. We were always learning more about each other, our cultures, and about our languages.
Loretta Tappan writes for a weekly newspaper, The News Herald, in Grant County, Indiana. She wrote a column called Postcards for the paper while she was traveling. You can read them here - www.newsherald.org/past-issues. The first one appeared in the August 30 issue and the last one appeared in the October 4 issue.