August Update and My Summer Highlights

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It’s been over a month since my last blog post and so much has happened. I see my ‘Year Abroad countdown’ and it now says it is only ‘4 days’ and not ‘1 month!’

I have had the privilege of touring two beautiful countries this summer: Poland for 3 weeks and Israel over 10 days. I would like to share here a few highlights of this incredible, whirlwind summer of living out of my suitcase.

1. Angloville, Poland :

I worked as an English Participant for one week on an ‘Angloville Junior programme’, essentially an English summer immersion programme for Polish teenagers, 11-18. 20-26 July (Chojnik Hotel in Karkonoskie Mountains).

It was an incredible experience for so many reasons; if you are interested in teaching English, experiencing Polish culture and meeting people from all over the world then it is definately worth applying. I found the programme advertised on my university job vacancies website and Angloville provide full-board accommodation, transportation to and from the venue and activities during the week. All you need to do is speak speak speak as much English as is physically possible without losing your voice (although that did happen to one participant!) in order to help the Polish participants benefit from the experience.

Over the course of the programme you get to know everyone well. What I really enjoyed was just how much the Polish participants grew in confidence and English-speaking ability over such a short period of time. It felt wonderful to have contributed to this, but even more so because they were aware of their improvements themselves and knew they had achieved something incredible.

I am considering going into teaching after I graduate. So, taking part in volunteering programmes such as this as well as my Outreach Work at university has affirmed that this is definately something I enjoy and should perhaps persue further down the line.

2. Kraków, Poland

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Krakow Rynek

This was the most beautiful city in Poland that I visited but also the most touristy. I would recommend Wroclaw for somewhere just as beautiful, smaller and less of a tourist-trap.

Wroclaw

Wroclaw Rynek

Unlike Warsaw, Krakow’s ‘Rynek’ or market square is completely original and has stayed intact despite WWII; many of the buildings date back to the 13th century. As the ground level has risen since then due to lots of road resurfacing over the centuries, the original buildings have become cosy basement bars and restaurants.  I stayed a week in this city and I am so glad I did. Many people I met only visited for 2 or 3 days and could only do the ‘major’ sites. Spending 7 days there, I can comfortably say I got do to everything I wanted without rushing things.

The highlight for me was the ‘Miners’ Route‘ of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a 20-minute train ride from Kraków and about 30p on a student ticket! We had to dress up in miners’ clothing and explore parts of the mine that were not open on the Tourist Route, complete with helmet and headlamp. It was a 3 hour tour, about £7 and there were only 3 of us in the English group! We were able to ask lots of questions and be actively involved in the experience. We even took home a free souvenir of salt rock that we chiseled away ourselves and received a certificate of participation (who wouldn’t want that?!)

I also visited Auschwitz-Birkenhau, one of the main reasons for wanting to visit Kraków, which was a very harrowing experience but still very important. There are many museums, cathedrals, Free Walking Tours, Orchestral Concerts, great restaurants and bars in the heart of the Rynek at very very reasonably priced and the Planty park which is beautiful to walk in.

If you visit Kraków, don’t just go to Auschwitz and the Salt Mines, there is so much to see and do in this beautiful and historic city.

3. Birthright Israel – Taglit

Masada at sunrise

Okay, so what do I say about Birthright? I don’t think any adjective in the English dictionary can express such an incredible experience. I only returned from Israel yesterday but I am feeling serious post-Birthright blues, planning my next Israel adventure and I cannot part from wearing my group t-shirt just yet. But I don’t think I can manage to look at another pot of hummus, bag of falafel or a bagel again anytime soon.

If you are eligible to take part, DO IT. I cannot stress this enough and I can honestly say that this is one of the best things I have ever done. I went on a UJIA Israel Experience, Movement for Reform Judaism trip with 30 other young people aged 20-26 from the UK and Israel. I must say, what makes any experience amazing is due to the great people you share it with. I was so lucky to be able to share this gift of a lifetime with genuinely nice people.

We were able to have fun on nights out in Jerusalem, floating in the Dead Sea, messing about on a water hike and kayaking, but then on a different note we were not afraid to speak our minds and share our inner thoughts or fears and burst into tears at Yad Vashem or during a tense group discussion. I am feeling truly thankful for such an incredible Israel experience and I have come back with a better understanding of my identity, my connection with Israel and have made good friends I hope to stay in contact with for many years to come. MRJBus551 ❤

The Dead Sea (the salts sting so much!)

The Dead Sea (the salts sting so much!)

View of Old Jerusalem

View of Old Jerusalem

Summer 2014, wow, you have been amazing. And now, I need to pack my suitcase again, as I am moving to France on Tuesday to start my Year Abroad!

What amazing things did you get up to this summer?

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