Paula Willars - General Teaching Projects in Romania
I decided to go to Romania for a month to volunteer abroad to do something constructive and exciting with my last ever "summer holidays" before I had to enter the world of work, and one of my friends at university decided to do the same thing, so Projects Abroad organised for us to go on the same flight and be put with the same host family for our month teaching in Romania.
The family we stayed with were lovely; they spoke good English, looked out for us, and the food they gave us was amazing. The bedroom we shared was basic but it had everything we needed, and the window looked out onto one of the main streets, right around the corner from the fountain on the square where we all met up to go out each night.
Because it was the summer holidays, most of the time we were placed in a private orphanage, running an English club for anyone who wanted to boost their skills. For two hours they would have a structured lesson with a teacher, and we would assist, and then there would be two more hours of English games run just by the volunteers.
I'd bought with me magazines, pop-up books, cue cards, photos, and other things we could use to dream up games, and they never tired of them. Sometimes the teacher couldn't come, without warning, so then we'd have to think on our feet to plan a lesson - a "Teach yourself Romanian" book proved a very useful resource for that! The kids were energetic and boisterous and needed constant attention but if you're prepared to give them it they thrive and are great fun to be around. My friend taught them English songs on the piano, and I transcribed many song lyrics that they couldn't discern from their favourite English "melodies".
When they went back to school we spent a week as a classroom assistant in a school, where we had the opportunity to teach our own proper lessons when the teacher had toothache! Due to the communist era, the schools have numbers rather than names and look very alike inside and out - so much so that on my second day there I spent a full 15 minutes wandering around the school next door wondering where the staffroom had gone!
My experience of overseas voluntary work in Romania inspired me to take a gap year, and I really enjoyed teaching, so much so that I'm now doing a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language and hope to do it again in the future. My advice to anyone who wants to do a teaching project is that you definitely get out of it what you put in.