I decided at the start of my last year of high school that I wanted to take a gap year before starting University. A friend of mine suggested that I use my gap year to volunteer overseas and it sounded like a great thing to do. Volunteering allowed me to travel to a new country, experience a new culture, and also made me feel like I was using my year off wisely. The idea of doing something helpful for others also really appealed to me. I wanted to go somewhere that was different to home, somewhere with history, a new language to learn, and a new culture to immerse myself in. Poland checked off all of those points, which was a major seller for me. Another reason I chose Poland was that it is in Europe which means that holiday and travel options are limitless. There’s always something new to see.
At the moment I am placed in a convent school in a small city called Jaroslaw. The name of the school is Convent School of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. The school is for children from year one to year eleven all of which have varying levels of English. The school has a nice vibe, the kids are always happy to see me and love to say hello. The teachers, and nuns, at the school are also very friendly and helpful, they are always keen to practice their own English as well.
At the school I am expected to attend English classes with the other volunteer here, and assist the teachers. Sometimes we will plan out lessons and take the classes ourselves, for example recently we had to plan a lesson for a primary school class that was based on food so we came up with some games and found some songs to do with food that we then taught to the class. We also have conversation classes at the end of the day with students who want to practice their English, we also have classes with some of the nuns and teachers. Conversation classes are a bit more chill than ordinary classes, usually we play English based games with the students so that they can enjoy practicing a different language.
My host family is lovely, they have twin 13 year old girls and three cats. It has been really easy for me to become comfortable here, my host family is very accommodating and treat me like a member of the family. We have gone on a few short trips to other cities while I have been here which have been very fun. Their levels of English are varied from a few sentences to a full grasp of the language but there have still been a few miscommunications!
I’m handling the experience well. I wasn’t expecting to but I am loving the Polish culture. Getting past the accents is probably the hardest part, as well as the language barriers. I would say that on a whole living in Poland is different to home but after the initial shock of being in a new country it’s not difficult at all to get accustomed.
Volunteering has definitely made me less shy about teaching in front of large crowds. A year ago the talking in front of and taking an entire class by myself would have terrified me but now it is something I can do easily and even enjoy. I’ve also had to take a lot more responsibility when it comes to travel, accommodation, feeding myself, and handling money which are all massively important to becoming an adult.
Taking a gap year with Lattitude has given me a break from school and studying to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I would recommend taking a gap year for anyone who is uncertain about what they want to do after high school.