After completing the South America segment of my one year trip around the world, my first lengthy stop in Europe was in Poland. My first destination in Poland is Poznan where I managed to secure a volunteer work through Workaway. My volunteer work is for a company called JustSpeak and my job is to mentor, teach, and coach adult Polish students to improving their English speaking skills.
Benefits of teaching English to Polish people for JustSpeak
Besides having free accommodation, the benefit of teaching English for JustSpeak are the following:
- Stay for four free nights at a hotel in Kwiejce, Poland where the program is being held
- Get free gym access
- Three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and two bottles of beer for alcohol lovers)
- Transport from Poznan to Kwiejca and back
- Make friends with Polish locals
- Make friends with fellow Workaway volunteers
Before the program in Poznan starts (how I travelled from Warsaw to Poznan)
Before the program in Poznan begun we needed to make our way to the city first. After my lengthy plane ride from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with a long layover in Lisbon, Portugal, I made it to Warsaw, Poland.
From there, I went to a website called Blablacars and booked a shared car ride going from Warsaw to Poznan. The ride costed me 10.50 Euros. This Blabla shared car ride turned out to be a good decision because I was able to get a car ride with a Polish local going to Poznan. He told me stories about his country during the road trip. When we arrived Poznan, he dropped me off directly at my accommodation saving me the effort to find it.
I used my Airbnb travel credit to book a one night stay in Poznan.
That evening, I met up with my fellow workaway volunteer at a pizza restaurant. The program coordinator, Malgosia, provided everyone a free dinner as everyone took turns introducing themselves and getting to know each other.
Travel day to Kwiejce, Poland
The following day, we all met up at the central train station in Poznan that is connected to a large mall. From there, a large mini-bus gathered everyone up as we got ready for the 2 hour car ride to Kwiejce.
Inside the mini-bus, we were seated with the Polish students where we got a chance to interact and get to know more about them. At first, they were apprehensive to speak to us because they were not confident with their English. However, after speaking to them for a bit, they started sharing to us stories about their life.
I learned a great deal about Poznan and the Polish people while having these conversations. For example. Poznan is actually one of the busiest business cities in Poland that rivals Warsaw.
I also learned that when Poland was part of the Soviet bloc, they were forced to learn Russian. As soon as they got their freedom, they immediately discarded learning Russian and switched to English. Not everything was bad for them when they were part of the Russian bloc. One of their favourite journey during that time period was taking the trans-Siberian rail going from Moscow to China (while passing by Mongolia).
Because of this “pilgrimage” they used to do through Russia, Mongolia, and China, the Polish people are quite warm towards Asians.
Volunteer work itinerary
We had a very set itinerary while doing volunteer work for JustSpeak. Our daily itinerary would look something like this:
- 8:30-9:00am: Breakfast
- 9:00-10:00am: English speaking warmup game with Polish students
- 10:00-11:00am: Group English game activity
- 11:00-12:00pm: 1-on-1 coaching with a new Polish partner
- 12:00-1:00pm: 1-on-1 coaching with a new Polish partner
- 1:00-2:00pm: 1-on-1 coaching with a new Polish partner
- 2:00-3:00pm: Lunch
- 3:00-4:00pm: Free time
- 4:00-5:00pm: Group game activity
- 5:00-6:00pm: 1-on-1 coaching with a new Polish partner
- 6:00-7:00pm: 1-on-1 coaching with a new Polish partner
- 7:00-8:00pm: 1-on-1 coaching with a new Polish partner
- 8:00-9:00pm: Dinner
- 9:00-10:00pm: Game time and socializing with Polish students
As you can see, our day is quite packed. We aren’t always working during the day. At some of the 1-on-1 coaching time slots, some volunteers will also get a break. However, in my case, I was usually working during all the 1-on-1 coaching time slots.
Program benefit to the Polish students
One of the best feature of the JustSpeak program is that the volunteers come from every major English speaking country around the world. From USA, Canada, the UK, India, Philippines, South Africa, Guyana, Ireland, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, and many more.
Because the Polish students are exposed to the many English accents all over the world, they start developing a good ear for the language. Also, because the immersion level of the program is quite intense, the Polish students are forced speak nothing but English for five days in a row.
The Polish students are also learning English from both a social and professional stand point equipping them with valuable language usage skills.
Many of them report improving massively during the program and they also made friends with many of the volunteers.
I personally saw an immense growth in their ability to confidently speak English.
Program benefit to the volunteers
Besides getting free accommodations, the other main benefit for volunteers is the new new friends we made. Right after the program, I was friends with two Polish locals who I visited in their home towns.
Another volunteer and myself stayed a night at one of the student’s home and he also showed us around Wroclaw. Our other Polish friend also showed us around Wroclaw and got a chance to hangout with them while we were in their city.
This gave the volunteers a chance to see Poland from a local perspective. If we never volunteered for JustSpeak through workaway, we would have get this opportunity.
I also got a chance to befriended some of my fellow volunteers. In the neaby future, I will also be visiting them in their home countries.
The last benefit for volunteers is from the experience we get working as a teacher, mentor, and coach. This experience is transferrable to our professional career which will definitely enhance our resume.
Program benefit to the JustSpeak company
Because this is a business, the main benefit for JustSpeak is the big profits they make. They typically charge students roughly $800-$1000 per person. The more students they sign up, the higher their profit becomes. I believe the company made $8,000 in gross profit when I did the volunteer work in Poznan.
The JustSpeak company makes sure the volunteers are well treated because they want us to come back and teach. It is easier for them to have a repeat volunteer than to find newer ones. They also prefer having extra volunteers in case a volunteer doesn’t show up last minute. This gives them a buffer to ensure the program goes through as planned.
The downside of volunteering for JustSpeak through Workaway
While there are many excellent benefits to volunteering for JustSpeak, the main downside would have to be the lack of free time. Because we are working all day, we don’t get that much free time to really explore the town we are volunteering in. We are often tired and exhausted by the end of the day because of the little downtime we have.
Some of my fellow volunteer even joke that it was somewhat doing slave labour (a more glamorous version of slave labour).
One thing I particularly did not like was the game time after dinner. This tend to drag on longer than what the volunteers and students wanted and it was clear people would rather rest at this point on rather than play games.
Overall, I had an amazing experience doing volunteer work for JustSpeak through Workaway. As someone that is backpacking around the world, it feels very nice to get a chance to stay put in one place and have a bit of structure after moving around so much.
I would definitely recommend volunteering for JustSpeak and also to find other volunteer gigs through Workaway should you decide to embark on a round the world journey. In my opinion, teaching English beats doing manual labour or doing farm work picking vegetables and gardening. But to each their own; of course. I know people who love doing manual labour so kudos to them.
In the coming future, I have two more volunteer work lined up through Workaway in Europe. I’ll be journaling my experience so you get a good idea what to expect should you decide to follow a similar path!