In 2016 Antony and I did 5 different Angloville programmes (and a Diverbo Englischhausen which I will blog about separately). All the programmes were really enjoyable and a great chance to meet locals. We can highly recommend doing these programmes if you are a native English speaker travelling in Europe!
Participating in an Angloville programme usually means spending 5 nights in a resort or hotel in the countryside, where, as native English speakers, you receive all meals and accommodation for free. In return you have to speak English with the locals who pay quite a bit to attend the programme.
The days are quite structured with one to one chats with a different English student every hour, sometimes broken up with a group activity. During the one to one chats you can talk about whatever takes your fancy or discuss the questions given out for that session. You can stay inside, go outdoors, walk and talk, whatever suits you. Some programmes like our first one are short weekend business programmes and others, like our second, were ‘tandem house’ programmes meaning there were two English students to one native speaker, rather than 1-1.
All meals provide further opportunities to talk English and in the evenings there is an entertainment hour, where we ran quizzes and games. You have about 1.5-2 hours off straight after lunch but the rest of the day you are busy communicating with someone. So it’s not really for the introvert! It’s really tiring actually talking all the time- especially for those doing it in a language that isn’t their native tongue, but even for us native speakers too. I was exhausted at the end of the night’s programme and headed for bed, but many of the other volunteers and locals stayed up late drinking and socialising. Don’t know how they had the energy for that night after night!
Each programme we were assigned one student to mentor who we saw every day. At the end of the programme the student had to do a presentation, so our role as mentors was to help and guide them with that. Over the business weekend my mentee was Magdalena. She opted to talk about a work project. In our first session together she told me all about her job and in particular about the project to promote Warsaw as a business and innovation hub. I found it really interesting. Our next meeting I expected to help her develop her presentation but she had done it by herself already! And she wanted to use our sessions just to practise talking English- so that we did. Her English was very good and we enjoyed each other’s company.
The week that followed the business weekend was a tandem house programme so I had two students to mentor. They decided to prepare and deliver a presentation together. The two of them had really strong personalities and different ideas of how things should work so the week certainly wasn’t without its challenges. In the end they came up with something that worked really well; a talk about one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They focused on the habit called ‘Begin with the end in mind’ and opened their presentation by asking everyone to close their eyes and imagine their own funeral, what would be said about them, what you wanted people to say about you and so on. It was rather thought provoking.
The last night of programmes usually involves something a bit special. In Poland it involved a bbq dinner outside and plenty of drinks. There was dancing and also some yoga!
For long term travellers, one of the great things about doing an Angloville programme, apart from getting to meet cool local people (that’s the best bit), is having a week where you don’t have to think and plan where you will go, what you will do, how you will get there, what you will eat, where you will stay etc. No thinking or planning required at all. You just turn up and your accommodation is sorted, your meals are at scheduled times and your daily programme is all laid out for you. So good!
We did 5 Angloville programmes at 4 locations. Here’s a highlight or two from the different programmes.
- Dwor Moscibrody, near Warsaw Poland.
Our first Angloville, about 1.5 hours from Warsaw in Poland, was at a lovely spot. We enjoyed walking in the green grounds near ponds etc during our 1-1 chats. Antony led morning yoga on the pier before breakfast which proved rather popular. It was a great way to start the days. Aside from the odd squeel of pigs from the onsite slaughter house/ butchery, and the abundance of meat (and not much else at breakfast!) this venue was pretty good. Lots more pics above from the Polish programme.
2. Hotel Nova Amerika Golf Resort, 1.5 hours from Prague, Czech Republic
The location for the Czech Angloville was nice – there was a golf course to walk around and a nearby forest with lovely autumn trees. The food was rather interesting however. Meals were plated and served and apart from one extremely salty meal I didn’t have much to complain about with the vegetarian meals. It was lucky I liked mushrooms as these were the main component of almost all of the dishes! The others however found the portion sizes too small and the food not up to their standard. The size of the desserts were again something of much discussion- very tiny mini cupcakes one night. Literally one bite worth!
My mentee Erika was a Doctor and a lovely lady. I’ve kept in touch with one of the other participants, Vlasta, a psychologist, speaking English regularly with her over skype. Antony’s mentee Petra was a sexologist and there was a participant who was a guitar teacher and very obsessed with all things Irish. His level of English complete with real Irish accent was impressive! You meet all sorts of people at Angloville!
During our free time after lunch one day Erika invited me and Vicky (from London) to join her, Petra and another Czech paricipant for a walk in an interesting area not too far from the resort. It was nice to do a bit of sightseeing and get a lovely walk in with some interesting women. Totally random walking in a forested area discovering some cool old sculptures carved in the rock… they were amazing!
3. Fenyoharaszt kastelyszallo, 1 hour from Budapest, Hungary
The day before all Angloville programmes a free tour of the city is offered to the English speaking volunteers. We took advantage of these free tours (except in Prague) – as they were a chance to meet the other volunteers and the coordinators of the programme as well as learn more about the city.
The Budapest tour was really very cold but we had a guide who had great knowledge and I enjoyed listening to her explain things. The tour covered the main sights, gave us a good overview of the different parts of the city (especially as pointed out from the top of the tower) and also included a visit to a fancy chocolate place and a cool bookstore.
The Hungarian Angloville was in early November 2016 and was very autumnal- with lots of colourful leaves on the ground and grey, gloomy skies. All the programmes were great but this was probably our favourite Angloville experience… a combination of a nice venue, good food and fantastic people. One of the coordinators was really bubbly and enthusiastic and her sense of fun really set a good tone for the week together. We got to know the other native speakers here more than in other programmes. The food was buffet style for all meals with plenty of vegetables and vegetarian options. No problem here of small quantities as you could just keep going back for more!
Although because of the weather we spent most of our time indoors, there were nice grounds with a pond and small forested area as well as an area with pigs, deer, sheep and goats… So when it was fine it was a nice place to wander around (though not that large).
We slept in a building with an Australian couple – sharing the bathroom but we had our own bedrooms. These were serviced daily. Most of our time was spent over in the main building which had break out rooms, various entertainment options in the basement and the restaurant and dining area. It was a great venue. My mentee Monika also had a very nice room in this building so we had our mentoring sessions there.
I really enjoyed getting to know the other native speakers, all of whom were really interesting people. We were quite a diverse bunch… from Australia, NZ, Scotland, England, the US and Canada, and included an opera singer, cycling chef, yoga teacher, two young writers, a wrestler, Scottish tour guide, soccer coach, administrator and a globe trotting graphic designer.
Donald Trump was elected president during this week and I won’t forget having breakfast with an American who had tears in her eyes after waking up to this news…. and others who were so, so disappointed with the outcome.
4. Satul Prunilor Complex, 2 hours from Bucharest, Romania
Our Angloville venue in Romania was quite unique. Horse and carts piled full of wood trotted past the BMWs in the car park and goats cross the road leading up to the complex. You can see in the picture above; the building on the left was where we ate and had our main activities and the white houses further up the hill were the houses we slept in. These were really lovely. We had our own room and bathroom and shared a kitchen and tv lounge area downstairs with two others. It was nice to have this space for our 1-1 chats or mentor sessions as well as to relax in at night. The Romanian participants celebrated most nights with drinks and hanging out. I only joined in for the last night.
This Angloville was terrific – it had a slightly more laid back approach than the others which worked really well. It was the smallest programme with just 7 local participants, 6 English speakers and the 2 coordinators. Two of the English speakers we knew from the Budapest programme so that was cool seeing them again.
We did more fun activities here as part of the programme – for example a scavenger photo hunt of our team with animals, re-creating art etc… this involved a great time walking to the nearby village and creating various poses for the photos. It was a good break from just 1-1s. Some of the evening entertainment activities were really good and unique too – like Gregory’s word game and some sort of action icebreaker. I led the group in a game of Scattergories one night which I did in the other Anglovilles too. One night we had a bonfire as well.
The venue was great and the staff very nice. They made all the food on site and I was impressed with how good cabbage can taste and by how many different ways it was served up!! Romanians like their cabbage 🙂 The desserts were pretty good too. We ate in the main building where we had our group activities… it had a lovely view over the nearby village and hills.
One of the highlights of the Angloville programme in Romania was getting to know my mentee Bogdan. What an inspirational guy! Former professional water polo player, now successful businessman, his story about getting cancer as a young Dad and turning his life and health around- becoming vegan, prioritising family etc. was fascinating. His dedication to success and belief that you can do anything, both in terms of your health and in business, was very cool.
Another lovely local participant, Dragos, invited us to visit his family after the progamme. Although we hadn’t planned on going to his city we decided to take up the offer and visit him about a week later. It was such a nice experience- being welcomed into a family. His wife and two teenage girls spoke great English and were so very kind to us (more on that in a separate blog post).
There were many other interesting people at this and other Anglovilles… but this blog post is already too long to mention more!
So in summary- Angloville is a great programme! You get to meet fascinating people, have conversations about all kinds of things, do random activities, stay in nice places and eat great local food. Unless you want to buy drinks at the bar, you don’t need to spend a cent the whole week. Over the course of the programme you see participants growing in skill and confidence with their English which is very rewarding.
If you think this might be something you could do, here are a couple of tips…
- Angloville gives you the opportunity to get a real insight into the culture and the people of a country so do an Angloville programme at the beginning of travels in a country, rather than the end. We talked about film, politics, culture, history, business etc. and these conversations provided a lot of context to what we later saw or experienced.
- Don’t plan too much when it comes to travel after Angloville. It’s great to have the flexibility in your plans to follow the locals’ advice about where to go, how best to get there and what to see in places. Many participants wanted to ensure we had a fantastic time in their country. We got great tips on restaurants, museums etc. Many angloville volunteers were offered transport and places to stay by the local participants. We enjoyed this possibility, as mentioned above, staying with a family in Romania for a few days.
- Because it is rather exhausting- engaging and talking all day for 5 straight days- don’t do back to back Angloville programmes. You need to be fresh and enthusiastic to meet new people and give them your best, so a break between programmes is highly recommended.
- Couples get a room together but if you are doing it alone you will be placed with another English volunteer of the same gender. That person could be great or they could be weird and snore loudly! I’d grab a friend and sign up together. People of all ages can and do volunteer for Angloville… have a look at their calendar and give it a go!