My volunteer work in Gdansk, Poland started when I arrived in the Baltic city after completing my trip in Northern Scotland. I was quite surprised that there was a flight availability from Aberdeen, Scotland going directly to Gdansk, Poland and the price was quite affordable. I soon learned that many Polish people go to Aberdeen, Scotland to work in the oil industry.
Just like before, I will be doing volunteer work teaching English in Poland. This time, it is for a company called Angloville and I will be teaching teenagers instead of adults.
Gdansk free walking tour
As part of the Angloville volunteer program, we are all eligible to join a free walking tour that is paid for by the company. After the tour, lunch will also be provided.
However, by bad luck, there was some sort of event going on in Gdansk that day creating massive amounts of traffic and road blockage. I tried taking Uber to our meeting spot and the driver was unable to take me there due to road closures. As a result, I completed missed the walking tour and lunch.
I was a bit annoyed by what happened because Gdansk looked like a nice city and wanted to learn more about it. At that point, I decided to make the most of it by walking around the city and take pictures. The bad thing was, I had no idea what I was taking pictures of.
First impressions of Angloville
The next day, we gathered together to board a bus that will take all of us to the location where the English camp will be held. My first impression was that Angloville is very organized. The company also had tons of students compared to JustSpeak. At the same time, it felt like an English school factory and didn’t have that closeness to it like JustSpeak did. I felt unsure if this was going to be a good experience or not just from the initial factory-like vibe I got. (Thankfully, the first impression did not match the actual experience…more on that below)
We were then seated beside teenage students in the bus so we can start helping them converse in English.
When we finally arrived at the camp, the coordinators gathered all the volunteers together and asked us who wanted to be roommates with whom. Unlike JustSpeak where we all got our own private rooms, we all got roommates to share the hotel room.
I think I was lucky because I ended up with a roommate I got along with.
Me and my roommate Chris
During lunch, we all gathered together in the dining area and I thought it was hilarious. One of the staff members was looking at the rhubarb drink and said… “what the fuck is this???” Even I thought it was weird seeing this clear liquid with some weird pink fuzzy stuff inside.
We were then served food and began chatting up with students. (I think my only complaint during the whole Angloville, Gdanks experience was the lack of healthy food available. Most of the food they fed us were processed and clearly unhealthy)
Meeting my mentees
During lunch is when I met the two teenage girls who ended up being my mentees. As part of the program, each volunteers get two students that we will mentor and guide as they prepare their final presentation in this English camp.
While we were eating, Nina and Monika started teaching me some Polish words. They were very amused by my attempt to speak Polish that afterwards, they went up to the coordinators and asked them if I can be their mentor. This turned out great because I got along with them really well and we had a great time preparing their final presentation. (Thanks to Nina and Monika, I know how to say some Polish words now!)
Me, Chris, Monika (tall girl), and Nina (short girl)
Angloville volunteer schedule
- 9:00am-10:00am – Breakfast
- 10:00am-11:00am – Mentor Meeting
- 11:00am-12:00pm – One-on-one Session
- 12:00pm-1:00pm – One-on-one Session
- 1:00pm-2:00pm – Group Activities
- 2:00pm-3:00pm – Lunch
- 3:00pm-4:30pm – Free time
- 4:30pm-5:30pm – One-on-one Session
- 5:30pm-6:30pm – One-on-one Session
- 6:30pm-7:30pm – One-on-one Session
- 7:30pm-8:30pm – Dinner
- 8:30pm-9:30pm – Entertainment Hour
- 9:30pm – ?????? – Social Time
My revelation during the week
Throughout the week, we followed the schedule listed above. We various different activities from playing games to chatting and having a conversation. I managed to get to know many of the teenagers and learn more about their life in Poland.
To be honest, I anticipated working with teenagers to be a nightmare. I thought they were all going to be crazy kids that won’t listen to you and this was going to be a pain in the ass.
Man…was I WRONG. These teens are great. I absolutely LOVED my experience teaching these Polish teens English. Many of them have such interesting stories to share and they are all eager to learn.
They are also very intelligent and I can’t believe how hilarious these teens are. For example, I was surprised to see that many of the male students already have a pretty good command of English. When I asked them how come their English is so good, they told me it’s from playing games online or from trolling internet forums.
Brilliant. I did this, too, when I was a kid. I played online games and trolled internet forums. Who said playing online games and being annoying in online forums would be a waste of time? Clearly, this sped up these male teens’ ability to learn English.
The teen Polish girls also had great English and I think it’s from listening to American music and Hollywood movies and TV shows.
The American dream
Many of the Polish teens seem to idealized the American dream or American way of living. A bunch of Polish teens told me they wished to travel or study in the USA when they reach university age.
I think one of the most interesting observations I had when I talk to Polish people is their view of America. Many of the Western European countries would flat out have this attitude that they are superior to USA. However, Polish people seem to idealize USA and dream that their life would be like the Americans.
I found this very fascinating and I guess USA is definitely doing a good job in the marketing department.
Boat trip and final presentation
Near the end of our time in the Angloville camp, we all went on a field trip which included a boat ride on a lake. We all took pictures with fellow volunteers, coordinators, and students to enjoy the last days of our time in this English camp.
Angloville staff members
Angloville students and volunteers
On the last full day in Angloville, Gdansk, the students did their presentations. They definitely did a great job and it was awesome to see how much they improved from only one week of intense English speaking camp.
On the final day, all the students were presented a certificate of completion and everyone said their goodbyes. It was a sad goodbye because you can see the students were happy to make new friends and have formed a bond with the volunteers.
Most people will be travelling back to Gdansk while I followed a group going to Warsaw because I will be taking a train going to Czech Republic.
This was also my last day in Poland before moving on to the next country. A part of me felt sad because I was treated so well by the Polish people and felt like it was my home country during my time in Europe. I will definitely return one day.
The biggest thing I learned while teaching English to Polish teens is how much I vividly remember being a teenager. As a teen, you are in a vulnerable state where you are finding yourself and seeking answers. The mentors and coaches you get can really make a huge difference in the path you choose later in life.
I was very shocked to learn that I actually enjoyed working with teenagers more than adults. Looking back, I think it goes back to relating to these teens who are seeking guidance and answers. Many of the teens shared with me their struggles, their dreams, and hearing it from them made me relived my teenage years when I also felt lost and seeked guidance.
Moving forward, I would definitely like to work with teenagers again in the future. Mainly, because I think I can help them find the answers they are looking for as well as guide them towards the right direction.
I’m grateful for my experience teaching English to Polish teens at Angloville, Gdansk. The whole experience taught me a surprising life lesson which I will never forget.