When I told my friends and family that Luke and I were going to stay in a hotel in the Polish mountains near Wroclaw for a week, for free, all meals included, they said we were being ridiculous, that it’s not possible.
But it is possible. Being a native English speaker is a sought-after skill these days. Even if you have zero teaching experience and no comprehension of why we use grammar like we do, being a native speaker can get you quite a far for not very much. There are people all over the world who want to learn English, and Poland is no exception.
And that’s how it works: you come to Poland and speak English all day, and you can get your accommodation and food for free. How? Join the Angloville programme. Angloville is an English language-immersion programme for the Polish participants, and for the native English speakers, it’s a cultural-immersion programme. Whilst they improve their conversational English all day, you get to learn about Polish culture first-hand.
With free time on our hands, we applied to the programme online, were accepted, booked a cheap RyanAir flight to Wroclaw, packed a rucksack and went on our way. After a few nights in Wroclaw and a tour of the city provided by Angloville, a mini-bus drove us 2-hours into the mountains to the hotel.
When we arrived, we soon realised that nearly all of the native speakers are travellers of some sort. An American who has hitched across the world with only her guitar, another who is a military wife at a base in Germany, an Australian whose been teaching in Asia for 5 years, a New Zealander who spent his last few months Thai boxing, a Welsh blacksmith, an Irish girl teaching in France, and a whole heap more. The Polish, on the other hand, all had high-powered jobs in big companies (many of which paid for them to attend the programme) – but that didn’t make them any less fascinating. Of course, it didn’t!
When you travel, you meet lots of travellers, but you don’t meet so many natives. On Angloville you actually meet locals, living their lives in a very different way to you.
Angloville isn’t just a free holiday in Poland though, it’s more like a kind of voluntourism. Conversation hours run from 10am – 7.30pm with only a 90-minute break, and nearly all of these conversations are one-to-one. Whilst the Polish definitely have it harder, talking for this long can still be tiring. At the end of the week you receive a certificate for 70 hours of volunteering, so conversations and activities aren’t optional.
You are also paired with a Polish participant who you mentor every morning for a presentation that they will give at the end of the week. This is an excellent opportunity to make a solid friendship, learn about their interests and even get some teaching style experience.
Though it might sound like quite a lot of work, it doesn’t feel like work at all. You can talk over coffee, take a short walk or play pool during these conversation hours, and you’re free to discuss whatever you like. Consequently, these conversations are usually of huge benefit to you as a traveller. By going to Angloville at the beginning of our trip, we got some invaluable advice from Poles living all over the country about where to go, which places to avoid, how to get there, what to eat etc. It certainly made us even more excited and much better prepared than we would’ve been for travelling afterwards.
Some jammy English speakers managed to hitch a ride to their next destination with their new Polish friends, and others were offered a bed for the night as well. Although we didn’t do this, one of our new Polish friends found us a place to stay at his friend’s apartment in Wroclaw for the night, and gave us a lift there when we got off the bus. Someone else offered to host us when we got to Warsaw too.
Was it worth it for a week’s free bed and board in the Polish mountains? Completely.
I would definitely considering doing a similar programme again. Whilst on Angloville I heard about similar programmes in Spain and Germany that I would like to give a try. It’s an amazing way to travel for free, learn about a country from the people living there, and make new friends.