Volunteering in Europe with Angloville
Czech Republic has become the love I cannot shake off. Less than two months after my first visit, I returned, like a moth to a flame. This time, I decided to try something different. Whilst browsing through articles online about Poland and the Czech Republic, I came across a travel blog and the writer mentioned that they had taken part in a language immersion program with a company called Angloville. I would love to link back to the original article but I cannot for the life of me find it!
I had no idea who Angoville was or what happens on a language immersion program, so I quickly went to Google and found the company’s website.
Angloville is based in Poland and holds programs in various countries throughout Europe, including the Czech Republic. This blog is about the programs I took from Prague and Warsaw, so for now; I will speak just about these participants and these programs only.
I am led to believe that each one is slightly different, depending on the country and program organisers, but the idea for all is the same. They have courses for adults only and a youth program for teenagers. Czech and Slovakian people can pay to spend six days, speaking with English native speakers in the hope of practicing their English language skills.
The Czech, Slovakian, and Polish people are referred to as participants and us English speakers are natives. It is a fantastic way to meet new people and learn about different cultures. The participants enroll in these courses for various reasons, some want to further their English to find better work, some are sent by their companies to improve their English and then some, just want to be able to communicate better whilst travelling. Each person has a different agenda and the conversations you will have will blow your mind.
So, what does a native speaker do? It is actually very simple. They just talk.
When you volunteer for an Angloville course as an English speaker, the company covers all food (three meals a day) and accommodation, which you share with one other person volunteering; only whilst you are on the program. I volunteered at two different events, one after the other. The first was in Hrubá Skála, the Czech Republic and the second was about an hour outside of Warsaw in Poland, a village called Mościbrody.
The day before the program starts, you have the opportunity to attend a free walking tour of Prague/Warsaw (or whatever city it is you meet in) and they provide lunch, which is great for me because one of my absolute favourite things after dogs, is free food!
This is a great time to meet with your organiser and also other native speakers before it all begins. I actually missed the Prague tour, because I muddled up my days, which I was very annoyed with myself about! Luckily, I have already explored a lot of Prague, as I have a friend who is local, and she had previously given me a tour over two days on my last visit.
Day One. We had to meet at Hlavni nadrazi Praha, which is the main train station in Prague at 11.30 am. When I arrived, I couldn’t find the group and had to call Shaun (our event organiser) – it turns out, I was in the wrong place (as per usual) and he had to come and find me and lead me to the others. Shaun had to do this a lot and not once did he show any frustration or stress. The bus left at 12 pm and the journey to the venue took around 90 minutes. The course itself was held in a 13th Century castle that had been turned into a hotel called Hrubá Skála. The views are breath-taking, and I am really grateful that I was able to experience staying there (for free!)
Some of the people on the course, both participants and natives, had a lot of complaints about the hotel; their rooms, lack of amenities but more so, the service from the hotel staff. I personally didn’t have any problems, perhaps I was lucky or maybe, I have tougher skin, who knows. I once stayed in a hostel in Nicaragua and the ceiling boards were being held up by gaffer tape, so this was definitely a big step up in the world for me.
I shared a room with all-round awesome chic from Montana, USA called Elise. She was a dream to share a room with and just a sweet and beautiful woman. The hotel grounds make for great hikes and the views from the courtyard are stunning. Upon arrival, everyone is given a time-table for the week ahead. We then meet the very nervous participants for an ice-breaker session.
Throughout the program, you will have had a one-on-one session with pretty much every single participant. All you do is talk to an individual for 50 minutes about anything and everything, in English. It can be tough at times, I will be honest with you, you are constantly talking, and it can be quite overwhelming at first, even for a chatterbox like me! But with that being said, you will have the most incredible and inspiring conversations, with such a diverse bunch of people.
I spoke with business owners, a fashion designer, the founder of help the homeless organisation, a doctor, a miner, and an incredibly smart, 20-year-old student, to name but a few. The list goes on and so does the awesome conversations. On the second day, you are assigned a “mentee” – this is a participant, with whom you will mentor every day and help them to create a presentation in English, which they are required to show to the group at the end of the course. I was paired with a Slovakian man called Szilard. On day one, he struggled with my accent and my vocabulary but, he was very proud of himself on the last day, as he told me, he now understands what I am saying and recalled a list of “very British” sayings he had learnt. Shout out to Szilard, wherever you are, I wish you happiness and love!
The program organisers were brilliant, Shaun and Kačka. Shaun was like a Butlins Red Coat, so full of energy and enthusiasm and he really wanted to ensure that everyone had fun and got the most that they could from the experience. Every evening they held an “Entertainment Hour” – of course, attendance was optional, but the games were fun, and it was a great opportunity to mingle with everyone. I think Shaun and Kacka, put a lot of effort into making sure the program runs smoothly and enjoyable for everyone.
When the program in the Czech Republic finished, a group of us native speakers had all booked to stay at the same hostel in Prague and ended up going out for dinner together that night. The next day we all went our separate ways and I took a bus from Prague to Kraków where I stayed for a couple of nights before moving on to Warsaw.
The second program worked in a very similar way, except it was different. The organisers of this program were Steve and Gosia and they were equally brilliant and kind but in a different way. For me, I really appreciated the variance in each program. Each experience was completely unique, as were the people on the programs.
We stayed in a hotel which was beautiful but in my opinion, creepy as! I am a huge animal lover and so for me, I didn't appreciate the stuffed animal heads on the walls or the abattoir literally right next door to the hotel. In fact, on day one I asked to change my meals to pescatarian because I found that slaughterhouse smells and sounds had emotionally triggered me, to the point where I have still not touched meat since that day.
Again, I shared a room with another epic soul sister, Ashleigh from Australia (pictured with me in the first image of this post). I am super proud to say that Ash has remained a close friend of mine to this day and we talk regularly over social media and soundboard our business ideas with one another. Friendships are an incredible part of travel and I have a huge appreciation for the people that travel has brought into my life.
Becoming a volunteer
So, who volunteers? Well, anyone can. Our natives were a mixture of people from many English-speaking countries across the world, of all ages. From students to retired folk and everything in between. It is such a fun and different way to meet new people and expand your own knowledge of the world. From the UK, you can pick up cheap flights to and from most European countries, so I highly recommend applying to volunteer. New friends and a new adventure, why not?
Anyone can volunteer. No teaching experience is required, no qualifications, just an interest in meeting new people and helping someone of a different nationality achieve a personal goal. That alone is rewarding in itself! Angloville requires people to commit fully to the program and rightly so because other people will be counting on you to show up.
You never know where something like this will take you!