Derek Lynn - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you choose to go abroad with The English Camp Company?
I have been involved in education and the study of European culture for years. The ECC is a marriage of the two.
What was your favorite part about Italy and Austria?
I loved the authentic experiences. The ECC is established exclusively in small Italian/Austrian towns, often satellites of some metropolis. There is no better way to experience local culture. These insulated communities, outside the influence of tourist dollars, have yet to succumb to McDonald's, English, and Walmart.
What makes the program you participated in unique?
Locomotion. Every two weeks, a new train ticket arrives with your name on it; it is a surprise every time. With a rough itinerary, you brave the rails in search of a new location. It forces you to be independent, gives you the opportunity to practice language, and shows you Europe by train.
What role did local staff play in your stay with The English Camp Company?
Rarely did I feel isolated with the ECC. Host families are busy bending over backwards to make you feel at home and each camp is staffed with fluent English speakers. However, this is an itinerant job, and some may still feel estranged. Just keep in mind you always have a support network willing to lend a hand and those not on site are never more than a phone call away.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Spoken more Italian! I was there for months and did not make enough of an effort. My listening comprehension went through roof and I can order an espresso like a champ, but overall it was an opportunity squandered.
How would you describe your average day with The English Camp Company?
At 8 a.m., I would wake to the patter of feet and peals of laughter that come in a house of children. After freshening up, I would join breakfast, "buongiorno!" echoing all around. (Italian breakfast: hot milk with coffee (latte) and cookies or cake. Austrian breakfast: cold cuts and bread.) After breakfast, the children and I pile into the family car and ride with Mom or Dad to camp.
The Italian sun is already stifling. Upon arrival, I greet parents and children (now exclusively in English) and prepare my materials for the day's lesson. At 9 a.m. camp begins. All children are marshalled onto the grounds and tutors lead the group in song for at least half an hour. ALL TUTORS MUST SING! Games follow songs and then it is class time. The next seven hours are punctuated by English class, group games and activities, and snack breaks.
At the end of camp, the day is far from over. Mom or Dad arrive to chauffeur us home and the family prepares for the evening. Family outings, often with another tutor and their family, are quite frequent. Visiting Rome, seeing a play, swimming in the Mediterranean, or dinner with friends often lasts until late in the night. When I am finally stumbling back to bed "buena notte" it is with relish and exhaustion.
What did you enjoy most about your time abroad?
Eating! Meal time was by far my favorite time of the day. The authenticity of grandma's homemade spaghetti noodles or Knoedel eaten on a farm is unmatched in restaurant cuisine. At the dinner table is where cultural connoisseurs will find their fix.
What were your accommodations like? What did you like best about it?
Accommodations change with the family. I always had my own bedroom and a place to prepare my lessons, but some houses were more lavish than others. Living with these families was great because it was a peek behind the curtain. A look into the lives of others that taught me things stereotypes and generalizations strive and fail to elucidate.
What was the hardest part about teaching abroad?
The hardest part for me was (as you might think) the language barrier. We take for granted the ease with which we converse with others. While teaching abroad, you rarely find someone who is masterfully fluent in English. Many people are able to hold a conversation, but it's not the same. You tread carefully, choosing your words for clarity, speaking slowly, and facilitating the language on both sides. You don't realize how cumbersome this is until you happen across a fellow native speaker and you slip into the conversation like a warm bath; speed, inflection, idiom, and frivolity abound.
What surprised you most about Italy or Austria?
Italy is a place of personability, if you'll allow me the adlib. I was always surprised to find how willing perfect strangers were to put their hands on me. I was pinched, smacked, and clapped on the back more in two months than in the entire rest of my life. People really want to know you.
Austria is surprisingly like America. Stereotypes aside, both cultures put a premium on orderliness, cleanliness, technology, and economics. I often found myself thinking how remarkably American the suburbs, shopping malls, and city streets appeared to be.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before teaching abroad in Italy and Austria?
I wish I had known how perpetually hot it is in Italy. I was fully aware of the blazing Italian summers, but I still found myself unprepared for torrents of sweat that I would endure. Tank tops and breathable cotton! They'll save your life.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Europe?
I've traveled most of western Europe at this point and two things have been essential to my travels: good shoes and vacuum bags. You're going to walk like you're training for a marathon. Do your feet a favor and wear good shoes. And if you truly want get the best of every inch in that new backpack, get vacuum bags that seal when rolled up. Your clothes won't wrinkle and your bag will have twice the room for souvenirs.
How did your time with The English Camp Company change you as a person?
My outlook is forever broadened. There are so many great things in the world and with a little effort anyone can take part in them.
Would you recommend The English Camp Company to other teachers?
I recommend the ECC to anyone who is looking for an amazing, truly immersive, cross-cultural experience and isn't afraid of some hard work.