This is not the first time that we have volunteered for English immersion camp. But believe us, the experience we had in Germany was very different than the experience we had in Spain. Both were wonderful but showcased very different cultures.
The program was created by a group called Pueblo Ingles. They bring together 20-25 paying students, and an equal number of native English-speaking volunteers. The goal is total immersion in English, in a comfortable and fun environment.
In the first paragraph, we called this a camp; what we did not specify was whether is was a summer camp or a boot camp, as it has elements of both. You do meet amazing people, and make friends like summer camp; but the program is structured and the days are long. The week is exhausting but so worth doing!
We first met the other volunteers and the students as we boarded luxury tour a bus for the four plus hour ride from sweltering Madrid to the much more temperate climate of the mountains in La Alberca. The program coordinator Cristina, an American transplant who now lives in Spain, guided us onto the bus and let us know what to expect for the day.
Each volunteer (or anglo, as they call us) was encouraged to sit next to a student. This concept was carried out throughout the week. In halting, but passable English, the nervous students introduced themselves and we initiated what was to be the first of many hours of English conversation.
Each day started around 9:00am with a buffet breakfast where tables sat four (always had two Anglos and two students). Immediately after breakfast there we activities aimed at boosting the student’s vocabulary and general comfort with English.
Daily activities were led by our master of ceremonies Sam (from Wales) and included:
- One-on-one sessions where a student was matched with an Anglo and encourage to spend an hour talking about whatever came to mind.
- Telephone and video calls.
- Group discussions from a suggested list of topics
- Theater presentations, where a small group of students could create and present humorous skits
- Presentations from both students and anglos. George did a demonstration about how to make the perfect margarita, it was very popular with the group.
- Dancing, sign along sessions and other creative activities.
Lunch and dinner were three course meals, the food was good and plentiful, and served by English speaking waiters. Lunch at 3:00pm followed by free time (a nap) until 5:00pm then back from more activities until dinner at 9:00pm. The days typically ended with us dragging back to our cabins (private rooms with an ensuite bathroom and shared common areas) around midnight and falling quickly asleep.
By the end of the week, we were all tired, but happy. The students had all made significant progress with English. There were a lot of folks asleep on the bus ride back to Madrid. The goodbyes were emotional and heartfelt, I know we made friends that we will keep for life!
If you are a native English speaker, regardless of your accent, and you are looking for a unique travel opportunity, this is it! There are programs for teens, young adults (18-23) and adults (30-80). To learn more about this amazing program, visit Pueblo Ingles at this link.
and there’s always ham….