Gap Year in Poland – George’s tale

Posted on the 19th July 2018

Gap Year in Poland!

What made you take a gap year in the first place?

I decided to take a gap year because in year 13 I was unsure exactly what I wanted to study at University. I didn’t want to choose something that I would later regret, so I decided that I would have a break for a year. I also really did not feel like doing more study after 13 years at school, and I wanted to see a bit of the world and have some real life experience before continuing my studies. I knew that this meant I’d be a year behind all my fellow classmates, but I decided it would be worth it, and I was certainly right.

English Tutor in Poland

Why Poland?

I decided to choose Poland because I wanted to go to a country where English wasn’t their first language, and also a country that has great travel opportunities. Poland seemed to be a good choice, and I’m very happy I chose it.

Can you describe your placement in detail?

For my first placement I lived in a town called Żywiec, which has about 30,000 people, so not very big. In the middle of the town is a square and shops. There is a big lake, and mountains, and it gets very cold in the winter! (the coldest temperature I had was -22°). In the summer of also gets hot, up to 32° or so. My placement was in the academic high school of Żywiec, Kopernik. This was a very nice school, primarily because of the extremely nice and hospitable staff and students! The level of English at this school is probably the highest in Żywiec, so it was really easy to talk to the students and make good friends.

What are some examples of the duties you performed there?

At Kopernik I usually had 4 – 5 classes a day, depending on if the teachers needed me, and for these classes I would mostly take them myself, maybe with the teacher sitting in the back. For about half of the lessons I would have a prepared class on something in English. The great thing about teaching English as a second language is that you can teach any subject, just as long as everyone is speaking English! The other half of my lessons I would help students practice for their speaking exams at the end of the year. This involved me sitting outside the classroom with a student individually and testing them on their talking ability.

For my placement, this high school decided to try taking me to other schools regularly, which is not common in most placements. Every Tuesday I would go a school for disabled children, which was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. On Thursdays I would go to a primary school in the South of Poland near Slovakia, about a 30 minute drive from Żywiec. This was also a really great experience and I know that the speaking abilities of many of the kids there has vastly improved since I arrived.

Can you describe your accommodation? Your host family?

During my first placement I had two host families. Both of these families were lovely and I had some very unforgettable times with them. For me I think living with a host family is really great, especially when it comes to learning the language. Both families were the families of students from the school, so the students could speak English, but the majority of the time the whole family was  speaking in Polish. This made it really easy for me to learn Polish, because I could just listen to my host families talking and slowly learn words or phrases that they said often or that sounded interesting to me. Staying with a host family is just a great time. I was taken on trips to the mountains, and to the local beer brewery, and I learnt lots about Polish culture and traditions, especially on holidays such as Easter.

How did you cope with the big differences between Poland and home?

For me the differences between home and Poland were usually positive. Poland is much cheaper than New Zealand, they definitely know how to cook great food, and Europe in general is just older and more developed and has greater infrastructure and public transport than in New Zealand. The only differences that were difficult to cope with were, of course, missing my family and friends, missing my dog, and not living beside the sea. The language of course was the biggest difference, but I learnt to overcome this with a mixture of Google translate and the limited Polish that I learnt.

What do you think has been your favourite moment/ best thing that happened to you whilst there?

It’s very hard to say what my favourite moment of my time in Żywiec was, as so many awesome things happened! But one highlight was certainly when some of my students persuaded me to come down to the lake for ‘an interview’ and it turned out to be a surprise birthday party for me!

Can you give examples of any personal development you may have gained during your time there (don’t be humble now!)

This is definitely the hardest question, I don’t know if I can think of any examples of personal development that I have gained during my time in my placement! I suppose something really important for doing a year like this is adaption, and I think I have definitely developed that over this time. Also independency and problem solving are very important, and I think I have developed these too. But I think one thing that I have developed most is confidence. My ability to talk to people, or to think of things to talk about, has definitely improved I think.

What are your future plans, and how do you think your volunteering experience might help?

Before coming to Poland I did not know what I wanted to study at University and how I wanted to continue my life after high school. But after three months in Poland, I had decided exactly what I wanted to study at University. I think the biggest factor that helped me decide was going to the disabled school every Tuesday. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and it made me want to study psychology.

Finally, why should others consider taking a gap year in Poland with Lattitude?

I think there are many reasons why others should consider taking a gap year in Poland with Lattitude. I think if you are unsure of what you want to study at University, or what you want to do after high school, then taking some time off to think about exactly what you want to do is a very good idea. It’s not good to rush into something that will end up later regretting. And even if you do know what you want you want to do after high school, it’s still a great idea You can get some real life experience, meet new people, and travel some of the world.

Overall it was the best year of my life, and I can’t wait to come back and visit my friends in Żywiec!


Discover more about our Polish programme here!

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