Tamara, Poland

Best decision to volunteer in Poland!

 

When people asked me “Why Poland?”, I had no clue what to admit, let alone how to respond to my eager students who posed the same serious question. The exciting prospect of snow, the everyday, delicious devouring of soup (Polish food is like no other, I guarantee you), a colourful language I could barely pronounce? There are so many aspects of such a beautiful culture, language, and country such as Poland.  But the real answer was that I wanted adventure; a singularly exciting, challenging experience like no other. And that is exactly what happened.

Volunteering as an English teacher in Poland was unlike anything I had ever attempted before, and the trip changed me in more ways than one. Meeting and sharing moments with unforgettable people, exploring yourself and independence, being able to play a positive, nurturing role in the lives of your students and most importantly, providing them with the confidence to express themselves and understand each other in a new language.

I learnt the necessary things of course….booking hostels and flights for a myriad of journeys I’d take with fellow volunteers around Europe or travelling on my own, washing clothes, managing money, lesson planning for school, coping with language barriers.  But I came back from my trip more myself than I could remember before; more confident, more open. Volunteering is not only an opportunity to experience other cultures, other lives, but to experience a new perspective of yourself.

From miscommunications of the everyday variety, to completely freezing over at the thought of having to kindly reply to the lovely old Polish lady seated across from you on a packed tram, or finding yourself stuck in a small Polish town lost and confused with only a mixed bag of learned and irrelevant phrases and “good day” to use. From greeting classes of shy students to watching them open up and ask questions and laugh and engage with any one of your endless wordy English games, Poland is a place I never wanted to leave and every single day I boasted some new experience.  Incredible food, culture, values, lifelong friends, interesting encounters and endless memories. The volunteers alongside me were an incredible mix of individuals I feel privileged to have met and worked and travelled with.

My family who offered me slippers and tea from the very moment I entered their lovely home, a complete stranger, were and still are a huge part of my life. I became a new daughter and sister at the same time as being able to openly share my thoughts and plans with them, making me feel at home despite living out of a suitcase and wandering across Europe. Their support and advice, guidance and care were endless and we have never lost contact. That is another amazing thing you can hope to expect with Lattitude.

Poland is my new second home now, truly. I can’t remember a happier, more vibrant time in my life to date than those countless experiences in Warsaw. The program is an immense delight. While tough days are inevitable, the students are fantastic, the people are the most hospitable you will probably ever meet, the sites breathtaking, and the language…enough said! So much fun to be had, promise you. All you have to do is embrace a truly life-changing trip. Happy trails!!

Submitted by: Tamara Fraser