Kayaking, conversation sessions and running around Krakow: my experience Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Poland with Gotoco
Teaching English at a Polish Summer Camp: First Impressions
As I powered through the first stages of the TESOL on a stable Wi-Fi connection, well-fed, caffeinated and rested at Birmingham airport on 6 August 2022, I didn’t quite know what was about to hit me.
To me, Gotoco, Angloville and TESOL were all unknown, guarded entities contained within Apple Notes pages of worry and attached by blobs of guilt to mental sticky notes of how much dissertation reading I ought to be doing alongside each. My propensity to check all travel details at an average of twice a minute left my flight remarkably smooth, with chaos only re-ascending to the throne once the small challenge of getting from Poznan airport to our hostel emerged.
Luckily, new friend and fellow Gotocoer Matt- fresh out of Guyana with his entire luggage in a bag smaller than one I’d take to the library for an afternoon- and old friend Nina, whom I’d dragged out on this whole TEFL adventure, were on hand to help. Unluckily, our brief 40-minute journey became a 3-hour jaunt across Poznan. Strength did not come in numbers, and the incompetence extended beyond me, crucially resting on a fatal inability to correctly interpret Google Maps.
Introductions and beers with the rest of the team came next. I was enthused to learn that the group who I’d be spending the next month with were all lovely and one was even a fellow northerner! We went high-brow and low-brow on the drinking locations, from Żabka beers on the streets (and briefly in the hostel until we were informed it was quiet hour, AKA the night) to an artificially-constructed beach and playground bar complex which wouldn’t have been out of place in Cheshire. Dylan bought us vodka shots with Tabasco and raspberry syrup. By the end of the evening I knew Georgia’s family history, Anya’s flatmate dynamics and had been given comprehensive rankings of all the clubs in Bristol. Overdue kip in the sweaty hostel followed.
We emerged, scarcely fresher, at a scary hour the next morning, a condition unaided by the long shower queue. I’d have to accept the odorous life earlier in the trip than anticipated. Edging closer and closer to exposing my woeful inadequacy as a functional traveller as I struggled to close my wheeled suitcase and failed to order a Bolt, the trio of me, Nina and Matt once again proved fatal as we decided to saunter to the toilet 10 minutes before the Angloville bus departed from Poznan bus station. Confusion ensued as we encountered a sign with an icon which we presumed to represent men with an arrow pointing upwards and one for women with an arrow pointing downwards. As Nina and I searched for this mythical female toilet in the nonexistent basement, it dawned on us that the sign was in fact a lift complete with pictorial guidance on what a lift can do, presumably combined with some poor-tasted comment on the patriarchal order. Matt’s unsuccessful attempt to scale the barrier to the toilets conveyed to us that these were ticketed toilets, a fact which Nina attempted to address by buying a train ticket. Quite the purchase. Unfortunately for her, you in fact needed a toilet ticket. Unfortunately for us, the WhatsApp chat was getting increasingly aggravated about our absence, so we decided to run back to the bus, bladders still fun. A great first impression.
Dasha’s calm presence on the bus seat next to me eased my concerns about Angloville and left me with a few questions. What exactly was this ‘Assassins’ thing she was talking about? What would the repetitive food she described to me actually consist of? What were the exact details of the supposed link between the hotel we were due to spend three weeks at and Hitler? A few hours and many scenic views of colourful Polish houses later, some of my questions would be answered.
Hope is a history student at Oxford University. She joined us for our Poland summer camp this summer (2022). She showed a passion for teaching and Eastern European history and is clearly a talent writer.