We asked two of our coordinators about their experiences as a volunteers and coordinators at Angloville. Here they explore and reflect on their time at Angloville and how they approached or made a difference to their programmes.
Kathryn from Scotland Coordinated multiple Junior programmes this Summer all over Poland.
Sebastian from the UK coordinates many of our programmes both Adult and Junior in Budapest, Hungary.
Q1. What is the best/most rewarding part of volunteering/ coordinating Angloville?
Kathryn: As a volunteer, the most rewarding part is seeing the progress of the participants from the first to the last day. My favourite part of the programme is having a mentee. I love watching them stand up in front of the entire group on presentation day and displaying their English skills.
The most rewarding part of being a coordinator is seeing everyone having a good time. It’s great to see everything run smoothly and see people enjoying all the activities. I also love to see the whole group bonding (natives and juniors). It is especially rewarding at the end of the week when the juniors have lost that fear of speaking English, and somehow we have created a fun and relaxed atmosphere to improve their English.
Sebastian: The best part of coordinating programs at Angloville is seeing the real development that people make. A lot language learners come to us concerned or worried somehow and it’s amazing to see them settle in a realise their own ability. The bonds people form are pretty special too, I know that even for myself there are people I’ve met doing Angloville programs who I will no doubt remain in touch with for a long time to come.
Q2. What made you want to become a coordinator?
Kathryn: I had volunteered on many programmes, and I had enjoyed my Angloville experience greatly up to that point. I wanted to challenge myself to see if i could coordinate a programme. I knew that being a coordinator would still allow me to interact with the whole group throughout each day, so I would still be involved.
Sebastian: Actually my desire to become a coordinator was more born out of necessity than lust. I was reluctant at first but I learned to love the role and in part feathered a cap I didn’t know needed feathering.
Q3. As a coordinator, what do you feel was the biggest impact you made on an individual or group?
Kathryn: It’s hard to say, I just try to be positive and friendly even when I’m feeling a little stressed. I would hope that the natives and juniors were happy with my ideas and interaction with them, as I’m just there to make sure everything runs well and people have a good time. On my first programme this summer, we had several problems throughout the week I.e. lack of natives, and I felt like the natives might not be enjoying their time. To my surprise , during one meeting with them, they spontaneously gave me a round of applause and thanked me for the work I was doing. This made me feel like even in a programme with problems, I could still have a positive impact.
Sebastian: I don’t know about biggest impact, we could look at this from a positive or a negative perspective I suppose. Actually I just can’t answer this question. People told me they really enjoyed having me around but how that impacts on the group as a whole I don’t know. Although there was this one time where I had to take a guy to the hospital because he was super sick, I had a big impact that day but the story is best told in person.
Q4. Do you have a favourite Angloville memory? can you explain it?
Kathryn: Too many! To choose one, I’d say it was during a talent show we ran one night this summer during a junior programme. A small group of juniors asked to go last in the show, and they surprised us all with a hilarious improvised dance/sing along performance which had the entire group (including coordinators) up singing and dancing for 20 minutes. I guess you had to be there, but it was hilarious and so fun. The best part for me was this small group was composed of the youngest and the oldest participants. It was great to see the older ones take the young ones under their wing.
Sebastian: I have lots of good memories, though it’s hard to pick a favourite. Aw, I don’t know, we had one of the Hungarians take one of the Anglos to go and find homemade alcohol one day, they came back and told me this amazing story about how they tried to find some everywhere and then found this guy who could show them somewhere they could buy some from. They followed him on his bike, in their car at about 5 miles an hour. I picture the scene and always laugh. I really like that memory.
Q5. Do you have any advice for future volunteers or coordinators?
Kathryn: For volunteers, my best advice is just approach the programme (s) with a positive attitude. It takes a lot of energy to be a native speaker, but it’s totally worth the effort. Something I always say during the introduction for the natives is “you may not realise it now, but in some way you can make a huge difference in these young people’s lives.”
For coordinators, I would say that you just have to be willing to be open to everyone’s ideas, and to have a huge amount of energy and a positive attitude. Don’t dismiss ideas or say you can’t make something happen, because with help of the other coordinators, you can make things happen.
I would also say to coordinators that they’ll feel exhausted at the end of every day, but its totally rewarding. Also, don’t be afraid to ask people for help – don’t try and do too much, because you’re one of a team of coordinators.
Sebastian: Advice for future volunteers as follows: There really is no rule book for any of this (figuratively speaking of course) and so I have extrapolated that you must add something of yourself to the role. I feel like being compassionate is important. A lot of people enter into the program not with the intention of making themselves vulnerable but inherently encounter a situation of vulnerability. It’s important within this context therefore to provide an environment that puts people at ease, often I find myself being completely ridiculous but it’s only in the hope that if I can be the biggest fool in the room nobody else will have to worry about looking stupid. Something else that really stuck with me was that a woman who went on to become a student of mine commented to me one day that my meager attempts to keep the tea/coffee station tidy put her at ease. She said that it showed I cared about people, and I do.