Honest Review: Teaching English at Angloville

This summer has been full of travel adventures. I spent most of those days teaching English at a summer camp called Angloville. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing stories and reviewing my experience and giving you my opinion on whether this might be right for you. Keep on reading if you want to read my review and stories from camp.

What is Angloville?

You might have seen advertisements for Angloville on Facebook, Instagram, GoOverseas, Workaway, Helpx, or even Couchsurfing. They typically target young backpackers looking for a cheap way to travel around Europe and get some work experience in teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language (TEFL).

In their advertisements they mention how you’ll get six days of free accommodation and food in a 3 or 4 star hotel in the countryside of various Central European countries with a tagline like “Come and see Europe for free for 3-4 weeks.” Does that sound too good to be true? Well yeah, but I’ll explain that later in the post. Because there are a lot of catches and perhaps some slight exaggeration.

They frame it as volunteering, but let me dispel that. Angloville are not a charity. They are a for-profit company and families pay anywhere between €1000-1500 for their children to go to a week long camp. In a camp, there are a handful (often less than I can count on one hand) of paid staff and usually about 20 volunteers (mentors), often less. If the camp has too few mentors, good luck because you’ll be doing a lot more work. Instead, I’d recommend thinking of your time at Angloville like being a camper. However, if you’re doing the programme in London there is a lot more work and responsibility involved. Basically, think about if the accommodation and food for the week is worth it for the time you give.

So how is this legal? Angloville set up a non-profit called Fundacja Rozwój Bez Granic (Development Without Borders Foundation) that provides the “volunteer opportunities”. You can find this information on the website under their Terms & Conditions agreement. This isn’t top secret.

Programmes with Angloville run year round, so if summer isn’t convenient for you, you can do a programme in the spring, winter, or autumn. Programmes can run as short as 3 days or as long as 11 days. From 8 or 9 AM until 9 or 10 PM, you’re talking all day long to the participants, or language learners.

Most of the day, you’re talking to the participants, sometimes by themselves, but most of the time with a group of them, 2 or 3 participants. I find the one on one discussions are good because it’s easier to focus, but the participants have to talk more and they may not like that. The problems with the group speaking sessions are you can get students with way different levels of English, someone always ends up getting left out, and students have different interests. It can be interesting though because students can learn from each other and they can help each other understand English better. Often, students will translate the question in their native language to each other if they don’t understand.

When you have these speaking sessions, you can talk about whatever you want. Angloville provide cue cards, but the campers get really bored with them and want to talk about something more interesting.

If you’re lucky, the venue may have some games you can play during speaking sessions. These were a godsend because they helped the time pass more quickly and the campers enjoyed the games. Conversation during games is a lot more natural.

For a couple of hours a day there are group activities, but if you do multiple programmes you’re going to be bored because they play the same games at pretty much every camp: werewolves, stop the bus, do you like your neighbour, bingo, etc. Volunteers can suggest their own games and activities, and this is encouraged on the domestic programmes because there is so much time because you’re at the venue pretty much the entire time, bar a half day field trip.

Participants on the junior programme are between the ages of 12 and 19. Their level of English varies and you don’t get any information on what level of English each of the participants are. You just find out when you talk to them. They’re supposed to have at least a CEFR B1 level of English, but there were many participants who spoke very little or even no English. I guess that doesn’t matter because Angloville’s got to make money somehow. I find that students get the most benefit when they at least have a level of English where they can have a basic conversation.

You only get an hour and a half of free time a day and it’s really not enough because the days are really long. I wouldn’t even call the mealtimes breaks because you’re expected to talk to the campers during meal time. Whether that happens, depends on your co-ordinator. As an introvert, I was left exhausted after each programme. Felt like I was on Birthright all over again, but with not very nice food and I have to do work.

Once a week on the domestic programmes (the ones in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania), there is a field trip, but for the most part, you’re stuck at the hotel and you can’t leave because there’s nowhere to go. You’re a captive audience. The only fun thing to do at night was stargazing because we were away from civilisation, therefore no light pollution.

Part 1_ Angloville Czech Republic

Act I: Hotel Excelsior – Czech Republic

I’ll talk more about the journey to the Czech Republic and what I did in Prague in a later blog post, but in this post, I’ll be talking about the Angloville part of the trip.

Angloville aren’t the most organised company, so be prepared to send follow up emails and copy supervisors and the general contact email. I noticed this early on when I was submitting my documents like background check, European Health card, reference letter from employer, passport scan, and itinerary that the emails wouldn’t always arrive. They will also send a lot of newsletters that clog your inbox and even occasionally call you on WhatsApp about doing another programme at an understaffed resort.

Super annoying because I live in Ireland, removed from Continental Europe. I’m not a Flixbus or train ride away from the departure cities – I can’t get there last minute. This must have been super annoying for the volunteers from overseas because they planned their return flights way in advance. What incentive is there to volunteer more? You only need to volunteer in three programmes to get your TEFL certification for free basically. They won’t pay for your transport or hostel nights before and after.

But this wasn’t the biggest problem I ran into in my communications with Angloville.

When I signed up for the programme in March, I was told that the programme at the Excelsior would be departing out of the nearby city of Ostrava, near the Polish and Slovak borders. Angloville also organise a walking tour of the departure city, so we would see something in Ostrava. Grand, so I’ll book my train ticket from Prague to Ostrava and book an Airbnb there.

Sometime between March and early July, they changed the departure city to Prague and notified us on the intro to the programme email that we will be taking a train to Ostrava and getting a bus. I got this email while I was in Manchester with my husband, just one week before I go to Prague. Let’s just say I was cheesed off. Thankfully most of what I booked was refundable bar small service fees, but I’m annoyed because Angloville misled me and a bunch of other people and didn’t give us much time to rebook stuff, so I was in a scramble. Luckily things worked out transport/lodging wise in the end. There’s really nothing to see in Ostrava anyway.

Since there were a lot of programmes departing from Prague on the same day, our walking tour had a big group. It was great to meet people from different countries and from different walks of life. Some people were backpacking across Europe (and even the world) for the summer and some wanted a short break. I don’t know how people backpack for months at a time. I was exhausted after a couple of weeks. I definitely appreciate being at home with my husband and my cat.

 

Pictures from the walking tour

After the short walking tour of Old Town and the Jewish Quarter, we went for lunch at a restaurant. I went with another volunteer to Petrin. We walked around the park and took an uphill train and I saw this space museum/observatory place and we went there. It was right around the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing so there were exhibits related to that. The coolest part though was looking out the telescope and because it was daytime we couldn’t see the stars, but we could look at Petrin Tower.

 

Space!

Now let’s talk about the meeting point. The central train station is in a very annoying location, especially for pedestrians. There are hardly any zebra crossings and there are limited underground pedestrian walkways to cross. It’s even more of a pain when you have a lot of bags. Thankfully, they gave me a contact number and I called that when I was confused about the meeting point. I didn’t look that stupid because there were others who were confused.

The train ride was 3 hours long and went smoothly. Most of the time, I was talking to other volunteers. The trains are modern and have outlets and WiFi, which is handy.

When we arrived in Ostrava, we get put on this old bus to the hotel. I sat next to a funny group of people and laughed a lot on the way there. While on the bus, we were notified that there is not enough room for everyone in the main hotel building, so some of us were going to be roomed in a sister hotel a few kilometres away from the main hotel.

We dubbed this sister hotel, “The Shed” because we joked about how we’re going to be thrown into a shed. In actuality, the hotel was a bit old, but it was liveable. The biggest annoyance is that there was only one shuttle in the morning and one in the evening so you needed to bring everything you need for the day with you. A popular thing to do during free time was take a nap, but we couldn’t take naps because it was too far away. We also had to get up earlier than everyone else to account for the shuttle.

There were a couple advantages. My favourite one was that people in The Shed bonded and became friends. We’d chat in the shuttle, at breakfast, and hang out in each other’s rooms. The other advantage and it comes close to the friendship was having two breakfasts, one at The Shed and one at the main hotel. Not much of an advantage though when you’re vegan, but that’s something we will address.

This camp was my first impression of Angloville and it left me with a sour taste for many reasons. Let me count the reasons.

The Hotel

The hotel is in a rural part of the Czech Republic that doesn’t get a lot of foreign tourists, therefore the staff don’t need to know any other languages and menus and signs aren’t in other languages. They also have little understanding of what vegan and vegetarian mean. This is understandable, but the second bit annoys me. People forgo meat and other animal products for many reasons and it can make someone sick if they get served animal products. We were promised vegan options and while I wasn’t expecting Michelin Star quality, the food was poor quality. It must have really sucked for the kids whose families paid a pretty penny for this camp.

It’s fine for the local participants, but it’s not convenient for us, the mentors. If we have a problem, we would have to talk to a local Czech co-ordinator or a participant and have them translate for us. You feel vulnerable. Definitely makes me want to consider teaching English somewhere where at least I can understand the language and I luckily have some good options since I understand Spanish well and I can read basic French. I’d be better off than a lot of TEFL teachers because many of them only know English. There’s no similarity between English or Romance languages and Slavic languages, so I felt lost and dumb, just like when I was in Israel. Here is an accurate depiction of me travelling in Central Europe and Israel:

That sign won't stop me because I can't read DW Arthur sign meme

Now I know how my Venezuelan family feel when they travel to America.

The staff were definitely annoyed having to deal with us. I can’t blame them. It takes a lot of patience.

The rooms were a bit old and small, but I can’t really complain because this beats staying at a hostel. I wish they offered single rooms for volunteers, but I know why they don’t, because that would cost them a lot of money and as I said earlier, they are for profit and they’ll cut corners where they can.

The biggest complaint I have about this hotel and the one in Poland (but this complaint applies to a lot of the other venues) is the slow, unreliable WiFi, and oftentimes poor mobile reception. It really felt like I was off the grid and not in a good way. Because of the poor WiFi, we couldn’t have a movie night and we couldn’t make Kahoot quizzes. A lot of students request if they can make Kahoot quizzes for their presentations, and in most of the venues it isn’t possible because of the bad WiFi.

The Staff

In Angloville, the co-ordinators and other staff will make or break your programme. Our native speaker co-ordinator was not the friendliest or most approachable and he didn’t seem like he knew what he was doing or even cared about us or the participants. He wasn’t much of a leader either. He was a good example of how not to be an Angloville co-ordinator. Reminded me of Squidward. I have a feeling he was inexperienced and I heard somewhere that they don’t get much training before they lead a programme.

Every day, we had staff meetings, but it was basically just gossip and not much was accomplished. We really should have been giving each other feedback, advice, and rating the participants’ English.

The local co-ordinator looked at us vegans as if we were whiny and entitled. At one point, he asked one of them why can’t they eat dairy for the week. Really? Did it ever occur to him that some people have allergies or are just grossed out by animal products?

I understand that it’s a poorly paid job, but they represent the company. Some important qualities to have are: friendliness, passion, good leadership abilities, good listening skills, and kindness. Talking to other people at other Anglovilles, no one had anything nice to say about this staff member.

The Food

This has to be my biggest complaint. If you’re a vegan, or even a vegetarian, do not do an Angloville programme at the Excelsior. The food was abysmal. So bad that in order to cheer ourselves up, we made memes about it. Those who aren’t vegetarian and don’t have food allergies take food for granted, like you don’t think about it. Like “Am I going to be able to eat this?”

 

Just a few of the memes volunteers and mentors made. I made a few of these (the dumpster one, the cheesy boi vs me one, and the upgrade one at the bottom)

Here are a couple choice meals that us vegans had: chips and broccoli, cheesy pasta (yup, served to us by accident), and these depressing looking crepes that may or may not have been vegan.

 

The night we vegans had the crepes and everyone else had these sort of sweet dumpling looking things for dinner (Really? Dessert for dinner? Even the Czech participants thought it was weird), we were dissatisfied. All of the volunteers got together and lobbied the Angloville staff to order us some delivery because this was ridiculous. Everyone was left hungry and the hotel stopped serving food for the day. Since we are in the middle of nowhere, it was slim pickings. The only delivery place nearby was a pizza restaurant, of course, and that means once again nothing for vegans. I was desperate and really hungry. Days of eating inadequate food piles up and I didn’t want to go to bed on a grumbling stomach, so I sat in the hotel basement with all the volunteers and ate chips and pizza crusts. I tried my best to avoid cheese and I thought sure it will be fine…

giphy

I went back to the hotel room and fell asleep, but not for long. When I get the stomach flu or food poisoning, I run back and forth between the bed and the toilet for a few hours and then I throw up. I’m thinking I got sick for a few reasons. Eating traces of dairy, which I’m lactose intolerant and it must have gotten worse since going vegan, and eating mushrooms, I’m allergic to certain types and didn’t think my allergy was that bad. That happened mid-way through the programme and I had to take the most important day off, the day before presentations, the capstone project of this weeklong camp. I was supposed to help the two students on their Beatles presentation and I couldn’t because I was too sick and weak. I was sick for the remainder of the programme, which put a damper on everything. I couldn’t even be there for my students’ presentation because I was too weak to sit through everyone’s presentations and since their presentation was towards the end, it was bad luck for them.

One of the days I was sick, a group of volunteers wanted to go hiking in the morning and the surroundings were beautiful. I couldn’t go because I was sick. The field trip, which was on the last day was a hiking trip with lunch. Again, I could not go because I was sick.

 

These were pretty much the only good pictures I got of the hotel

Never once was I taken to a doctor even when I asked a staff member. All they did for me was give me medication and they sent someone to check on me once in a while. I was stuck in the hotel room all day with nothing to do except watch whatever episodes of Stranger Things I had downloaded to my iPad. Remember how I said this camp cuts corners? There was no nurse at this overnight camp. I went to an arts camp as a teenager that cost about the same as Angloville and they had a nurse there throughout the duration of the camp, they’d be responsible for giving the campers their medications and caring for any injured or sick campers.

Imagine not having your nutritional needs met and you have to work 12 hour days. You’d feel like shite. Food is a basic human need. Vegan food isn’t hard to figure out. Just give me a salad bar, fresh fruit and veg, nuts, seeds, rice, and some beans and I’m good. I’m not that high maintenance. This other vegan girl and I had to beg the local Angloville Czech staff to get the hotel to buy us some soy milk and vegan yoghurt. Thank goodness there were two other vegans on the programme or we wouldn’t have gotten some crumbs.

I was feeling so miserable that I was considering not going to the programme in Poland because I was worried about the food situation and I didn’t want to get anyone sick. When I called the main office about getting a doctor’s note, skipping one of my programmes, and still getting my deposit back, they said that wasn’t possible and they didn’t offer any solution or option beyond do the programme you were assigned and get your deposit back or don’t and lose your money.

Even Birthright gave me back my deposit (and it was a $250 deposit, not €70) and I left mid-way for health reasons. Angloville will make a big point about how you need insurance, but for what if they won’t take you to the doctor and won’t give your deposit back if you get sick, through no fault of your own. What a slap in the face and a demonstration of how little they care for their volunteers.

It’s ridiculous and this leads to people getting other people sick and you don’t perform to your fullest potential. The deposit isn’t hundreds of euro, but still for me and a lot of other people, every euro counts. It makes me question how this company treats paid employees.

What prevented me from going crazy

This camp overall was awful, but there were a few saving graces and a few things that helped me tough it out. I loved talking to my fellow volunteers and it was so much fun having that loud techno dance party in the pool and sitting in the sauna and talking. Big shoutout to Donny, Tara from Ireland, Sara, Sam, Adrian, Maggie, Hampton, Cat, Rita, Ed, and Kit. Thanks to you all, it brightened my day talking to all of you. Especially The Shed crew, you were all great.

It may sound weird, but I need to thank the stars for saving me. My hotel room had a balcony and when we had a clear night, I loved going out there to see a sky full of stars. It was magical.

Part 2_ Angloville in Poland

Act II: – Modrzewiowe Wzgórze – Poland

Getting There

I took an overnight train from Prague to Krakow and that took about 8 or 9 hours. It was confusing figuring out the numbering of the train carriages and where I’d be seated, but I ended up figuring it out. The seat reclined a decent bit, well enough so I could sleep curled up in a ball and there was an outlet nearby so I could charge my phone. On the way there, I was listening to Brian Eno’s Apollo album and Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express and Autobahn albums to help pass the time.

I had a couple hours in Krakow before I had to catch the bus to the venue. The bus to this venue was much newer and had air con, thank goodness!

The Accommodation

It’s common to talk about what other programmes you’re doing in your Angloville stint, and this programme was hard to talk about. I mean, look at the name. Same energy as Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz? Close enough. It’s a flex to pronounce that name or the name of the hotel. That is all the jokes I’ll be making about the Polish language for now, because I got to talk about this programme.

This programme was much better than the last one for multiple reasons, but it still wasn’t perfect. I think this hotel has a better reputation than the Excelsior, not a difficult accomplishment, but still not one of the better Angloville hotels. But since this was my second programme I didn’t know what a good programme was.

 

Some pictures of “the shed”

Once again, I got placed in “the shed” and that nickname is more apt here. Where I stayed was a haunted looking cabin. It was old, dusty, not well lit, had few power outlets, and it looked like people were living here and abandoned the place. It was still fun to explore. You can find pictures of Pope John Paul II and family photos. There were some positives about the place. There was a full kitchen for… I don’t know what exactly since we don’t have any leftovers. I guess putting water bottles in the fridge so they can be chilled. The best thing though was for the most part, everyone had their own room. My room had a balcony and a couple times I’d go out there to look at the forest. The annoying part was the cabin was a short walk away, and very slippy, especially if it rained, but the nice part was seeing the cats that lived on the property, and they were cute!

 

I literally spent half my time jumping on the trampoline.

There was more stuff to do at the hotel. We had board games, trampolines, swimming pools, pool and foosball tables, a piano, and volleyball courts. A lot more space to walk around and we were the only people staying at the hotel, no other guests. So that was nice.

The trampolines were my favourite amenity and there were so many campers who could do flips and there were two competitive gymnasts, really talented bunch we had at this camp. You’d often hear the kids playing piano, songs like the Star Wars theme, Dancing Queen, Old Town Road, and Bad Guy being played. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to use the pool though. We could only use the pool in the evening and most of the time we were too exhausted to use it. The pool was cold, the room it was it would get stuffy at times, and the small pool in the same room that I mistakenly thought was a hot tub was nasty. There was a spider in there. That definitely turned me off from swimming again. There was an outdoor pool, but we never used it. Most often, we were in the oldest, most boring looking parts of the hotel.

 

Some pictures of the hotel itself

Obligatory Food Rant

The food and drinks were a lot better than at the previous programme. We had more actual vegan options, non-dairy milk available to us at all times, tea available all day, and a buffet for breakfast and dinner so you can take as much food as you’d like. At the Excelsior, I was often left hungry, but here I felt more full and didn’t feel malnourished. The food itself wasn’t gourmet, but it was edible enough, what I’d expect for camp food.

 

Apple pasta and pierogi

I’m not going to act like a princess. Some of the dishes were weird, like apple pasta. Apparently, the campers said it was totally normal in Poland (or maybe they were taking the piss and I couldn’t tell), but for me, I expect pasta to be savoury, not sweet, so it was jarring to eat. Could be worse though, because the previous week at that camp, they served strawberry pasta and I didn’t hear good things about it.

The other issue I had with the food is the menu was posted on the main information board for the camp, but only in Polish. Why no bilingual menu? They really should be letting those with dietary needs know what will be served.

I thought this was an English immersion camp. Luckily, there was always someone around who could translate. Sometimes the staff wouldn’t make clear what was or wasn’t vegan. Especially the soups or mashed potatoes, and I wasn’t willing to chance it and possibly get sick.

Field Trip???

In this camp, we had a field trip in the middle of the week, to a place called Rock Town or something like that. Just a slippy walking/hiking trail where you walk by a bunch of rocks and no really scenic views. There’s supposed to be a bunch of bats living around there, but we didn’t see any. The bats would have been the most interesting thing about it.

 

Pictures from Rock Town

Frankly, I wish I didn’t go hiking there because it was so dull that later on we were making jokes about it. The weather wasn’t great either so that made it worse. There was nothing enriching about this field trip. I wish we could have gone to a lake, water park, museum, cultural village, or something like that instead. Heck, even an arcade, go kart track, roller disco, or bowling alley would have been more fun. There’s bound to be something like that in the area at least. We weren’t that far from Krakow.

The people

What really made the camp enjoyable were some of the volunteers with interesting and unique stories and our co-ordinator, Colten. Before I arrived at this camp, I heard great things about Colten. He has experience teaching English overseas, he’s passionate and enthusiastic about what he does, he’s funny, he knows what he’s doing, and he genuinely cares about the volunteers and campers. He was great about giving us extra free time so I didn’t feel like this camp was as hectic as the other two.

 

Not gonna lie, the cats were my favourite part of Angloville.

Naturally, people can get a bit cliquey, even past secondary school and this was the camp where I felt most excluded. It’s just luck of the draw of who is there. I’m just some weird 25 year old girl who likes vintage clothing and classic rock and most of the volunteers are a good bit younger than me, have different interests, and are in a different place in life.

At this one, there were a good few people who came to volunteer with other people and it’s harder to make friends that way. There was also a big group of campers who have known each other for a few years because of Angloville and they keep going to camp together year after year.

I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere and I felt like an annoyance. Most free times were spent working on my Woodstock post. This isn’t the fault of Angloville by the way. This could happen anywhere. I’m an introvert and I don’t know if this experience was a good fit for me because I barely had time to myself to recharge. I’m also not one to ask for accommodations or anything because I have Aspergers. I try to be a trooper.

What I liked

My favourite activities overall was the bonfire and the Analogue Jackbox Quiz that a really cool volunteer named Robert came up with. For that game, he came up with a few Quiplash prompts that different teams would answer and the team with the best answer won points. The bonfire was awesome even if I couldn’t eat anything because all they had were marshmallows and sausages. They promised veggie sausages, but they didn’t have any. It was a beautiful, clear night and I sat down in this reclining chair, looking at the Milky Way, listening to space themed songs like “Space Oddity”, “39”, and “Rocket Man”. What an amazing feeling.

 

Bonfire and the outdoor pool and view of the hills

Overall, it was great to have done this experience and it felt good that campers were asking me about my blog. Some of them even took the time to read some posts. It feels good that the campers felt such a positive impact from this experience. They were sad to be leaving at the end.

IMG_9053-min

Drawings a mentor did of two of my favourite animals: penguin and hedgehog

Part 3_ Angloville London

Act III: – University of Roehampton – London

What’s an international programme?

This is one of the international programmes. There are four of them, the others being Colchester, University of Essex; Dublin, DCU; and Lija, Malta University Residence. These programmes are very popular among volunteers and they’re different from the other Angloville programmes because they are typically longer and they have more field trips. I mean, the families pay a lot more for this so you’d hope that the kids get their money’s worth. Another difference is that the campers come from multiple countries, in the case of this camp, mostly Poland, with a group of nine campers from France.

One thing that I wasn’t aware of until right before the camp was that because we have these field trips, we don’t have a city tour the day before camp and because London has good public transport, we don’t have a bus picking us up. You have to make your own way to Roehampton. This was a bit annoying, as there’s no tube nearby and you’ll likely have to switch buses. I got lucky that from where I was staying, in South Kensington near the museums, there was a bus that took you straight to Roehampton. Thank goodness because I had a really big bag and many of the stations don’t have lifts or escalators.

 

Some pictures of Whitelands College

The really nice thing about this programme is everyone gets their own room with an ensuite bathroom. Thank goodness! I definitely treasured the little downtime alone in my room, as much as I loved talking to everyone. I’m glad that this time, I wasn’t put in “the shed” because during the few free time slots we had, I took a nap.

Right, about free time. The schedule for this particular programme was way more packed than the other programmes I did, so we didn’t get free time every day. A couple of the days we were in the city the whole day, therefore no time to unwind. Also, one isn’t supposed to work for 9 days every day non stop. I really wish we were able to have more relaxed days or even just a day off. Of course the paid staff got days off, they’re supposed to, I mean if they don’t then that’s a real violation of labour law. But us lowly volunteers? No day off. You had some freedom to leave during downtime, but you’re too tired at the end of the day to do that anyway. All I had energy to do was go to the nearby Greggs and nearby Co-op.

We would get back to Roehampton, have a couple minutes to put stuff away, and go straight into an activity that used a lot of brain power. Just… why? It makes people stressed and camp is supposed to be about having a good time and it’s important for staff to be considerate and conscientious of how people are feeling. There is a bit of freedom to move scheduled activities around.

Disorganised at times

There were times I didn’t look forward to going to the city. These field trips could have been better organised. I understand that we didn’t have the budget to hire a coach, but we were sometimes taking public transport at rush hour. The whole group of staff, volunteers, and campers were around 55 to 60 people. This made taking public transport hard even at off-peak times. I could tell that locals and tourists were annoyed. The walking tours were really rushed too. At least people got their Instagram snaps right? It didn’t feel like I was really in London and immersing myself in it because as volunteers we were responsible for the campers’ safety.

What could have been done better was explaining to everyone what would be happening better, give people ideas of things to do since for some people it was their first time in London, maybe breaking up into small groups, not travelling at peak times, making the time in the city about fun and being more relaxed, and having meeting points that were not in crowded areas. We really should have only full day field trips, not half day. Peak times can be so crazy and to make the time more relaxed for everyone we could have given people extra shopping or leisure time

The other thing that was disorganised was the presentations. At the end of Angloville, every student has to give a presentation either by themselves or in a group and we went way over time. What could have been done better was having time limits, signals for when time is almost up, and making sure all the presentations were properly queued up. Some presentations like the Kahoot quizzes took way too long, making it unfair for others who may not have had adequate time to give their presentation. The presentation is each kid’s time to shine and something they created that they can be proud of.

What really made the programme for me was talking to people. This is the first time I could say that I genuinely liked all the volunteers and I have nice things to say about everyone. The staff tried their best to organise a good programme and I think it was mostly good. Could use some improvements, but I think that it’s more the corporate office’s flaws like creating the schedule. The campers had some interesting stories, hobbies, and interests and there were so many bright, talented kids. The two campers I was mentoring did their presentation about climate change and they had an interest in the environment and cultures from around the world.

I want to thank these really awesome volunteers for really making this trip an enjoyable one: Bethany, Max, Smilla, Alicia, Carlene, Elica, Bisma, May, and Valentine. I loved chatting late at night in the common room in the dorm. It was great getting to know everyone and for those I didn’t mention, I wish I could have gotten to know you better. I’m really sorry for being a shy ball of social ineptitude.

The other thing that really made this camp great was the departmental cat. Don’t know the cat’s name but it was so cute.

 

The Field Trips

Since there wasn’t much information on what to expect on Angloville at Roehampton since I believe this is the first one held there, I’m going to share what you do on the field trips, if you’re interested in choosing this Angloville location for volunteer work. The landmarks we see are divided into different areas: West End/Westminster, South Kensington and Harrods, Thames Cruise and Greenwich, and Tower Bridge/Tate Modern/Thames walking tour.

Going on these field trips felt like Birthright all over again (except on Birthright we had a coach): large groups, people with different interests, gotta keep an eye on everyone, and there’s always a straggler. You get a packed lunch, which usually isn’t good. The Tofurky sandwich in the vegan meal is fine, but I almost always bought something to supplement it. Your Oyster Card for the week is fully paid for.

You truly don’t get to see London, so if you’re volunteering and this is your first time in London, take a few days to see it on your own. It’s such a big city and there’s always something new every time you visit.

 

Our first field trip was a walking tour from Piccadilly Circus (we breezed right past this because it’s basically a photo stop) to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Along the way, we saw Leicester Square (really just a photo stop), Pall Mall, St James’s Palace, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park, 10 Downing Street, and Trafalgar Square. Our tour guide was nice, but super chatty and when we got to Trafalgar Square he was talking and then suddenly, a downpour and we all had to run and take cover. My favourite part of the day was Max telling stories about living in London and going to secondary school there.

 

Our second field trip was the Thames cruise to Greenwich. This was a real highlight and I took so many amazing pictures, including a Polaroid of the Tower Bridge. What I really liked was the narration done by a crew member, he did a great job and I found his jokes funny. Along the way we saw The London Eye, the Millennum Bridge, Tower of London, HMS Belfast, Canary Wharf, Isle of Dogs, and Cutty Sark. We got off at Greenwich and we didn’t have nearly enough time there. We walked around and went to this park, but couldn’t see the observatory because it’s crowded.

The other scheduled activity in the city was Oxford Street for shopping and to get there we took a boat cruise back and then took a bus. It’s not efficient. Why the scenic route? We’ve already seen all the landmarks. It would have been much faster to take the tube or DLR. Or why didn’t they have the shopping somewhere else like the Westfield in White City? It’s less crowded.

The timing was also not great because it was a Sunday and it was Eid al-Adha, so it would be extremely crowded and busy. I would have rather moved the shopping to another one of the half days (which should be a full day) and just spent more time in Greenwich. It’s a part of London I didn’t really visit before, besides going to the British Music Experience at the O2, back in 2010.

While accompanying my mentees, who love makeup and Lush, they showed me this really cool glittery silver diamond highlighter Rihanna has in her line, Fenty Beauty. I really want it, but not for $40. If I’m buying it, it would have to be on sale. I showed my two mentees this one vegan allergen free ice cream shop called Yorica and they really enjoyed it.

 

Gotta love ice cream!

The third field trip was a walking tour from the Tower of London to the Tower Bridge to the Borough Market to the Tate Modern. The day was sunny and beautiful, the perfect day to take postcard quality photos of London and boy did I take advantage of that. The market was really cool and had a nice variety of food. I’m so glad I took a walk around there and saw this vegan Indian food stall where I bought a bhaji and a samosa and I saw this reasonably priced coffee stand called Change Please, which employ homeless people and help them get back on their feet, a really good cause. The Tate Modern wasn’t my favourite museum and it seemed like it wasn’t a lot of people’s cup of tea. Modern art isn’t for everyone.

 

Our last day of field trips was fun because we went to South Kensington to where the museums are. To the programme’s credit, they allowed us to split up and go to the museums we wanted to see. We ended up going to the Natural History Museum, my favourite there. A few went to the Science Museum, which I thought was okay, Boaty McBoatface is there and there’s a space exhibit and some went to the V&A, which is really nice. Earlier, I went to the Mary Quant exhibit there, which was really cool.

 

After the museums, we spent a really short amount of time at Harrods. I spent the entire time like wow this is absolute notions, and while we were there, Max, Alicia, and I talked to a friendly employee about how to get a job there and she asked us what programme we were doing. Max nearly knocked over like £50,000 worth of figurines, but luckily we were okay. Apparently, the best deal there is croissants for 80p. Still sounds a bit expensive to me. You can get the same thing at Tesco or Lidl for way less.

 

This is what we call in Ireland: Absolute Notions

To finish off the programme, we all went to a musical, Wicked. Teenage me’s dream come true. I was kind of into theatre when I was a teenager. I remember begging my parents to take me to Wicked and they said no because of the cost and because going to New York is expensive. At least I got to see it and I appreciate it more now that I’m 25. The annoying thing was there were some bratty tweens (not from our programme) behind us making noise and putting their feet on our seats and the parents didn’t care. I’d be upset if I were their parents, spending hundreds of pounds on a nice family outing only for the kids to be inconsiderate and ruin it for other people. Even my kitten, Bowie, is better behaved.

 

In all the times I’ve been to London, I never went to a musical or West End show, it’s too much money. So it was really nice that Angloville paid for all of us to go see the show and give everyone a really nice memory. This show was definitely a highlight.

Final Thoughts

In case you don’t have the time to read this in depth, honest, unfiltered review of Angloville, I’ll leave you with a summary and some main takeaways.

What I liked

My favourite things were talking to people, meeting fellow English speakers from around the globe from different walks of life, learning from the young campers, seeing all the different sights, and stargazing. It was a great way to extend my trips to these places and not have to spend much money really for the week. I like how this was the cheapest way to get my TEFL certificate and it came with some great experiences. The idea of the programme being more about conversation than about traditional book learning was good.

I don’t regret doing Angloville at all. If I had to make the decision all over again knowing what I know now, I’d pick different camps and have a different mindset going in and I think that would make it a better experience. I definitely feel like my confidence is higher because I did this programme and it helped me get out of my comfort zone.

A little advice: if you have your heart set on a programme that is completely booked and you live within Europe, consider waiting until the last minute and seeing if there are any drop outs. There are often no shows because the deposit is relatively low and some people decide not to do Angloville anymore.

What could be improved

It’s a lot of work for not enough reward. We did get accommodation and food for the week, but I wish we had subsidised travel or a small stipend. Deposits should be fully refundable. I know they say that Paypal take their cut, but it’s not €15 worth of fees. Perhaps they could switch to a payment service that take a lower cut than PayPal.

I noticed that now they indicate which programmes have vegan and vegetarian food options and this would have been helpful if they had this information back when I was signing up.

I also wish it was more clear how to get a reference from Angloville and how to get teaching work with their teaching English online partner Tutlo. This was mentioned in their training video, but never again. No programmes co-ordinator mentioned Tutlo and on the Tutlo website I never saw any place to apply to teach English through them.

When it comes to the programmes themselves, I would like participants and volunteers to each fill out questionnaires so we know more about each other and that can aid in pairing people with similar interests for presentations and so the conversations can be more interesting than asking the same tired questions over and over again.

We do surveys at the end of each programme about the venue and about Angloville and I would like to see more transparency and follow up with what changes and improvements Angloville are making. Like when changes are made, share how many people made these suggestions and what has been done to make it better.

The biggest change I would like to see made, and I think this is the most important one, is more feedback for the volunteers. In the programme, we fill out evaluation forms for the participants and the staff and the participants fill out forms about us.

The participants get our feedback forms about them, but we don’t get to know what they said about us and Angloville make it hard to find out how we did and what we can improve on. Like you have to contact their corporate office. I also found that most of the co-ordinators (except for the one on the London programme) did not give us feedback and I rarely saw them walking around and observing and giving any tips. At any work experience or internship, you should be getting feedback and not getting feedback for most of the programme made me feel like the work experience was less valuable.

When filling out surveys about the staff or programmes, the staff shouldn’t be in the room in order to not bias the results, just like in a university course evaluation. More space for comments should be included in the forms.

Would I do it again?

I’m interested in the programmes in Malta, Dublin (because it’s close to me), and Romania. I would be interested in doing a programme again if I was going with people I knew. I feel a bit old compared to most of the volunteers and if I were to do this programme again, I’d want to volunteer with the adult programme instead because I would be in a more similar place in life with the volunteers and even some of the younger (mid 20s to early 30s) participants in the adult programmes.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, if you have an interest in getting your TEFL certificate and you don’t mind doing a lot of work/talking in exchange for accommodation. If you are an introvert or have Aspergers, you might feel a bit overstimulated, but it can help you break out of your comfort zone.

Overall, it’s a good way to meet other people and subsidise your travels. It can be a good gap year or summer break option.

Shout out to my good friend and Topaz level Patron, Patrick and my friend Matt.

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