Alumni Spotlight: Sahil Kumar

A student who has currently come off his Gap Year and has returned to education, starting his BA in English Literature and History.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program as it was something that felt quite close to me; I have parents who aren't fluent in English, I come from a very low socio-economic background where social mobility factors hinder the progression of parents and children to excel. By completing this program, I was able to give back to keen, attentive and eager individuals. I took the constraints which surround me in my own life and channeled that in helping kids as young as 11 excel in their spoken English ranging from confidence to improving their vocabulary.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My program organizers were quite helpful; they adhered to any issues I had with timing deadlines and any uncertainties. They were always happy to help and reassure me that all was going to be okay.

The programme was completely free in terms of accommodation, breakfast, lunch, and dinner all provided. I had to pay solely for my flight, which wasn't an issue. Traveling from A to B by coach or train was all taken care of and at the expense of the providers.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be ready to learn stuff about yourself alongside teach other kids. What you take for granted is another person's treasure. Allow yourself to have no limits or boundaries; the more free and open you are, the easier the rapports will get built and the trust and confidence will form.

Try your best to make it a two-way street and effort: communicate in ways through body language, facial expressions, written expression, not just verbal. Allow yourself to adapt and experiment with their mother tongue so you can fully experience what they are experiencing; learning from a native speaker to a foreign speaker.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The average day consists of waking up at 9 for breakfast until 10 am. You can go out for a walk, stay in your room, stay downstairs and interact as you please.

You'll have an hour of speaking to 1-2 participants for an hour, transitioning in a circle. You'll get to ask them anything and engage in conversation, allowing them to retaliate to your questions in English. Then you would have an hour with your specific mentor, helping them make a presentation and talk about something they would like to pitch.

Once this is done, you'll have an hour for lunch and then an hour and a half of "Free time" to do all leisure activities, games, naps, anything. You would then repeat two more sessions of the 1-1 or 1-2 paired speaking sessions before having dinner, ending the night on games for an hour. This includes card games, playing tag, assassins, werewolves, the cow game.

Then bedtime at 10 PM, ready to repeat again the next day!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was travelling alone for a week specifically to teach kids so young. I do not hold any teaching qualifications, so to have kids waiting on you to be professional and personal, to help them embark on a journey to learn and improve their language, was a big commitment.

My fear was that I wouldn't successfully help them. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. I had very positive feedback, I saw the mentees pass with flying colours...

Seeing their smiles, engagement, their resilience and their entire reception made the entire programme and worth it.

What is the best way of building rapports?

Start with common ground - it's always hard to start a conversation with a complete stranger, someone who speaks little to no English, or someone who is very reserved. Smile, brace yourself and allow yourself to show an interest in whatever they disclose.

Whether you're a dog lover and they a cat lover - love the felines! Ask them their age, their favourite thing or characteristic - whether they'd like more! Once you've established that common ground, they are a lot more willing to talk to you confidently and they lower their guard.

I would 100% recommend Angloville to any volunteers or Gap Year students out there.