Since Henry was working over the summer, I (Jen) decided to sign up as a volunteer after I had completed my official TEFL certificate and chose to go to the Czech Republic as a native English speaker to give the Angloville experience a try – maybe I’d meet some new people and new friends?!
To clarify as a side note: I only did a week with Angloville after a family death. I felt supported throughout the program and they let me away earlier than planned under the circumstances but I did not receive my deposit back under their rules.
The premise of Angloville is simple, it’s an English immersion program that offers people experience in teaching and learning conversational English in beautiful countryside locations.
Sounds like the stuff of dreams right?
Well let’s dispel some myths and look at what it’s actually like to work on one of their courses.
All of the teachers are volunteers who get their accommodation and food covered for the week, they don’t have to be real life teachers but that would give you a more intrinsic motivation for doing a language program.
The participants are paying customers who are often children, families, business professionals or just somebody who wants to brush up on their English skills with native speakers.
There is a deposit, which we will cover further on in the review. This is a credible business model that does what it says on the tin – but don’t expect this to be a holiday or sightseeing trip, it’s long days and mentally demanding.
What they do offer is a city tour from each start location (in this case Prague) and a teacher’s meet and greet lunch but this extra day in the city you have to cover.
Is Angloville safe?
In short, yes. It’s not some massive scam and they do take precautions to ensure your safety.
The accommodation on their language volunteer programmes are nice hotels and I would even recommend the hotel I stayed in to everyday people looking for an escape from the city.
You are paired with another English teacher (or ‘mentor’ as it says on the lanyard) and you share a room with that person for the duration of the program. Men are with men and women with women.
If you come with a friend or partner you are often placed together – they asked me on my initial interview if I wanted to bring Henry but unfortunately it couldn’t happen this time!
There are strict rules when it comes to how you interact with the students. On junior programmes there is no drinking allowed even in social time, you can’t go into each other’s rooms and permission is needed before you leave the hotel.
You are also responsible for keeping an eye out for those children or teenagers and ensuring their well-being.
On adult programmes you can enjoy drinks together and even go to the pub if there’s one nearby and it does offer a bit more freedom but same rules apply in terms of visiting each other’s rooms and of course you look out for one another.
What skills do I need to be a volunteer at Angloville?
Almost anyone can do this, but you are more likely to want to volunteer if you are thinking about teaching as a career (English as a foreign language or regular teaching) or you are already a teacher.
You need to be over 18 to teach on the junior programs and over 25 to teach on the adult programmes.
There are practical and common sense necessities like a clean police record, you need to have at least completed high school and good communication skills.
Volunteers need to be motivated, enthusiastic, looking for a cultural exchange and want the chance to meet new people.
The biggest necessity is you HAVE to be a native English speaker with a passport from Canada, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom or Australia.
On my adult program it was clear that the participants pay a lot of money to have a week with native English speaking teachers and they might not even know they are being taught by volunteers – some of our group were surprised to hear that we didn’t get paid! (I will though note that this is made clear on their website).
You can do this without teaching experience as the whole model is built upon conversational English and the students are given materials that you cover in your one to one lessons.
If they don’t get all the teachers they need for the program they will draft people in quickly at the last minute too – to my best knowledge they still have to submit all of the documents it’s just rushed through.
What language skills do I need as a volunteer?
You have to be a native speaker of English to qualify as a volunteer and that’s pretty much it.
Whether you are based in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary or Romania the whole point of the program is that everyone has to speak English for the duration of their time there.
I live in Slovakia so could understand some Czech but apart from going to the pub and ordering drinks in our free time I didn’t use it with the participants.
The idea is that you reprogram the way people think and it’s fully immersive to give them time readjust and get in the flow of speaking a foreign language more fluently.
Angloville states that it follows the CEFR levelling system and that their students are A1 through C2 (if you teach English this might make sense). Though I was quite surprised that there were students with a lower level of English in attendance as conversational lessons are usually geared towards people with a higher level of English to hone those skills.
In this regard I found my actual teaching experience came in useful and wondered how non-teachers dealt with explaining certain things, which might not be helpful to the participant.
What is the application process?
The initial application process was speedy and not too stressful for me. I filled in an application and it was that night I got phone call from my recruiter for a phone interview. She liked what she heard and signed me up.
The recruiter I got managed to find weeks where I could do them all in a row from thesame city and she was quick in sending all the information along.
There are documents to send in within a space of three weeks from acceptance which includes a police disclosure, passport, reference and confirmation of travel to the start city.
This time frame does seem a little short especially if you have to apply for a police disclosure so it’s something we would recommend sorting before you apply.
You also need to pay for your transport to the start city where you get picked up from and this needs to be evidenced within three weeks which was an extra cost I wasn’t expecting – my program was still months away!
The best advice is to not only have deposit money ready but also have enough to buy a train/plane/bus ticket and a reference and police disclosure on hand.
Once this is all confirmed you either do the online TEFL course if that was the option you chose OR wait for your arrival package email the week before your program.
How much does Angloville cost?
Like anything that says it’s free there is of course hidden costs – nothing is ever truly free or it wouldn’t be a viable business model!
The deposit is something they tell you about straight away so you should be aware that this is the very first thing to be paid after your interview. You get two/three days to pay itto confirm your spot.
The cost is €69 and you get back €59 after completing the programmes – so you do pay €10 for administrative costs.
If you opt to do the TEFL course you pay the same amount but you pay €15 in administrative costs which can only be claimed after completing three weeks and an online course.
Please factor in your travel!!!
This can be a way to budget travel across Europe but coming out to do a program will cost you money and remember it’s not a free holiday.
Accommodation is another cost to account for as to do the free city tour and lunch the previous day you will need at least a one night stay in your start city and perhaps accommodation afterwards if you plan to stick around.
Altogether for one week I spent €69 on a deposit, €38 on transport, €50 on accommodation (before and after) and I spent a little bit on myself at the venue and two days in Prague on sightseeing, food and ice cream (obvs).
Before I got here I saved about €350 after paying the deposit to cover the three weeks including accommodation but you could do it on a stricter budget.
Take into consideration doing multiple weeks in different countries because you have to cover all of those travel costs.
Also, take cash to the venue too, there will often be no cash machine in the middle of nowhere or in small villages! (This seems obvious but I forgot to take cash with me…)
Does Angloville offer teacher training?
With Angloville you can do a 120 hour Premier TEFL course and this can be done before you go if you have the time or after but you can’t claim back your deposit until it is done.
The online course is actually very well structured. It’s not a CELTA but it is a qualification recognised around the world and combining it with three weeks’ worth of teaching actually makes this a fantastic way for a native speaker to gain a TEFL.
You do mini-exams after each module and one big exam at the end. There is also Angloville’s own training programme to do on the lead up to your time with them.
The certificate you can print out online as a PDF and with each program you teach on you get a participant’s certificate too.
Please be aware that in order to get the teaching qualification and all of those lovely references you have to do three weeks with Angloville.
In my special circumstance they understood my situation and the coordinator on my program did everything to ensure I was taken care of and I was allowed away early – remember it’s only voluntary and if you’re not in a good place mentally let someone know.
What does a week with Angloville look like?
Arriving a day early will ensure you can do the city tour, but don’t do what I did and buy a train ticket and arrive too late to do the tour!
It will most likely start in the morning and then there’s a lunch with your fellow teachers.
The Angloville schedule can be quite gruelling if you’re not mentally prepared.
On arrival day the routine is normally getting picked up by coach, driving to the venue, icebreakers and your first one to one’s.
Throughout the week you start your day with breakfast, spend about 10 hours on the go in full teacher mode and go to sleep!
My schedule was as follows:
9 – 10 AM – Breakfast
10 – 10:50 AM – Mentor Meeting
11 – 11:50 AM – One on One
12 – 12:50 PM – One on One or Practical/Role-Play
13:00 – 13:50 PM – Group Activity
14:00 – 15:00 PM – Lunch
15:00 – 16:30 PM – Free Time
16:30 – 17:20 PM – Practical Lesson
17:30 – 18:20 PM – One on One
18:30 – 19:20 PM – One on One (or Two on Two)
19:30 – 20:30 PM – Dinner
20:30 – 21:30 PM – Entertainment Hour
What do you actually have to do as a teacher?
Mentor Meeting – You get one or two students to mentor throughout the week and you monitor their progress plus help them with anything they’re finding difficult. On adult programmes the participants have to do a presentation on the second last day so this time is used to work on that.
One to One’s – These are sessions with one teacher and one participant. They normally have conversation topics but there’s no harm in using your own ideas too.
Two on Two’s – Exactly the same premise but you team up with another teacher and participant.
Practical Lessons – There be several of these and on adult programmes expect telephone conversation classes and things like negotiations or role playing. There will be material available for these lessons.
Group Activities – Everyone gets together and you do something fun! It could be games, watching comedy sketches, role playing – anything as long as its teams of people working together.
Meal times – Think of meal times as another chance to mingle and speak to students in English and make sure they don’t slip into their own language. You get three meals a day.
Entertainment Hour – The volunteers lead these sessions with activities you prepare at home or in your own time – we had a quiz night, comedy night and other games! If you have a unique skill share it. We also had morning yoga sessions before breakfast!
Tip: By the Wednesday everyone will be flagging a little as they are long days to be fully switched on and speaking in a foreign language so take naps when you can to stay extra motivated.
The final night and leaving day
I can only speak for what happens on the adult programmes, it will differ from program to program.
The final afternoon is reserved for participants to do their presentations, then its dinner and free time to socialise.
On the final day you do a final last one to one session, give feedback and there’s a certificate ceremony.
In junior programmes it will be similar but instead of presentations the kids do a talent show on the second last day.
We left at 3PM back to Prague on the final day and that was great as everyone gets a little exhausted by the end!
Do they deal well with personal issues or bullying?
In life not everyone will get on with everyone. I heard from other teachers they had roommates they didn’t get on with but in the instances I heard they were moved rooms and it was dealt with discreetly.
Another complaint from fellow women was on other adult programmes being propositioned by men on the course or feeling that men were actively there to flirt. I didn’t find that at all on our course – everyone was fantastic and I truly never felt uncomfortable.
What I did find was that the coordinator is there to be your champion and do what they can to manage uncomfortable situations or sensitive issues that might arise.
If there is an issue like for example I had a very distressing thing happen to me they worked fast to make sure I was OK.
Perhaps it’s the luck of who you have as a coordinator but I have nothing but praise for mine.
For participants (students) they have a coordinator who speaks their own language so I felt that any complaints or issues were dealt with by the local coordinator quickly, although nothing terrible really happened in my week there.
Is it possible to do the program with dietary needs or requirements?
Lots of my co-teachers had various dietary requirements which were catered for but sometimes they didn’t have the best alternative food options. Again this will differ from place to place, but you can do this if your vegetarian or vegan or coeliac etc.
Volunteering with disabilities
On the course I did there were volunteers with walking aids and mobility issues. If you tell them during the application process they will take it into account and cater for your needs.
I do believe some venues are not great for wheelchairs but that doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer in another hotel, but it does of course limit your choice.
Pros and Cons
Deposit not given back
This is something quite personal. I was told if I made the decision to leave I could get the deposit back but have since been told that is not what is happening. I went on the program bearing this bad news from home but didn’t tell my coordinator until later in the week when I got another call from home to say there had been another death.
When you push something down it comes back to bite you and I also suffer from anxiety which I wrote candidly about in a previous article.
I woke up the day after my program in a city I didn’t know and I couldn’t move after a severe panic attack and knew I’d pushed myself too far.
My coordinator was brilliant and fully understanding. Unfortunately the company have a strict rule about deposits. I knew that would probably happen and I had to either accept that or push myself when what I needed was a safe space and home.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s quitting or giving up but sometimes I need to learn to look after myself and the long hours and enthusiasm you need on junior programmes were going to be too much for me in my state.
You can see from the schedule that these are long days and they don’t make any secret of that. You need to be prepared for that because by day three it gets tiring.
There is always an hour and a half of free time after lunch so you can quickly eat and go for a nap in your room, I did at least for a few days.
If there’s a lot of mentors (teachers) you might find that you get a few lessons off in the week but there’s no time to really sightsee – maybe go for a long walk though.
When it comes to the entertainment hour after dinner you can skip it if you’re feeling like your days been too long already but it is a great time to bond with people.
Students with very little English and expectations
This might seem like an odd con when you’re talking about volunteering on a language program but let me explain.
If I am teaching a ten year old and the parent asked me to do just conversational classes with that student I would say no. At this point she needs to learn through structured lessons, games, songs and other techniques but holding a conversation for an hour would not be helpful to her.
This is why the junior programmes are so much more demanding – they are geared towards English through games and activities etc which is great.
You just need to be prepared for a range of levels on adult programmes. I was expecting something completely different and there were a couple of students with very little English.
It does become infinitely more difficult for you as a mentor because you are having to grade your language to different levels and when it’s someone at pre-intermediate level it becomes harder to keep a conversational class going.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that people have a low level of spoken English I’m saying you need to know how to help those people and if you’re not a teacher I actually think this is a lot of pressure on volunteers.
Meeting incredible people and making friends
Doing one week or multiple weeks will guarantee you meet lots of people from varied backgrounds and make a friend or two and even business contacts!
I think I was destined to do the week I was on because it brought so many genuinely inspiring people into my life and now I have friends in Canada, South Africa, Germany and Czech Republic.
One of the participants told me I brought sunshine into the room, which has got to be the sweetest thing.
I was also mentor to an incredible team and their presentation made me laugh and fill up with joy after we spent a week working together on it. I also now count them as friends!
When I continue traveling I know there will be people I bonded with in a week here that I will see again and keep in touch with.
To know you’ve impacted on people’s lives in a positive way and they leave feeling more confident is rewarding and it’s a great to give up your time to help others.
For anyone thinking about becoming a regular teacher or an English as a second language teacher this is a great place to start.
It gets you completely out of your comfort zone in a room full of strangers and forces you to interact with people, get to know them and learn the basic techniques of teaching.
This isn’t you at the front of the class with a whiteboard but it is learning and you are imparting that knowledge.
Really just for building confidence in yourself, public speaking to some extent, for example if you run an entertainment hour and conversational skills this is a fantastic way to do it.
Lastly this is a bit of a superficial bonus but you do get to go to some beautiful countryside locations and you can check the hotels in their roster on their website.
In your free time you can also pay for hotel services like a swimming pool, spa or horse riding.
I chose to go on some woodland walks and explore the neighbouring village with some fellow teachers.
Prague was always on my list to visit so that being the start city really appealed to me too and I’m grateful I got to explore it for a couple of days!
The overall Angloville experience
There are a lot of volunteer programmes out there nowadays that I’m deeply uneasy about in terms of how much are you actually doing to help someone, but this is one I feel is very give and take.
By giving your knowledge and educating people who want to learn the language to further careers, university prospects or to open up a world of travel to them, what’s so bad about that?
Teaching is a skilled job and it’s true that this could be a lot of work for a volunteer but you are getting accommodation in nice hotels, three big meals a day and transfers to the start city and they are very clear it’s not a holiday.
I treated it like any other job, gave a lot of energy to the job I was there to do and took it very seriously and got a lot out of it in terms of contacts and friends.
If you are doing this for multiple weeks you’ve either come a long way from home or you are doing a TEFL and in either case this was something you are prepared for or indeed need in order to get enough teaching experience in support of your TEFL.
It’s a savvy business model, in fact there are other companies that use the same premise operating in Spain, Germany and Italy such as Diverbo and Speak In Italy.
Objectively without bringing my personal circumstance into it I think you get what they tell you the experience is and it’s not packaged in a way that made me think ‘oh I’m being exploited or overworked’, but I do think some people might find it a little harder than they expected.
Yes as with everything it’s not perfect and people will have complaints but it the overall positivity I took away from the experience itself is overwhelming.
If you are looking for a budget way to travel Europe and meet the locals this is an excellent cultural exchange if you’re prepared to work for it.
Most importantly it was also FUN and incredibly enlightening to meet so many new and amazing people and make those connections.
If this has inspired you to look into volunteering with Angloville then take a look at their website.
If you have completed a program with Angloville or another company let us know your experience below! Any questions on volunteering will happily be answered too. x