Why did you choose this program?
I came across the ECC while searching for opportunities to work abroad, particularly in Italy (as I had been wanting to immerse myself in that culture for a while). Their program stood out to me from the other "teach abroad" programs because they offered a position that no other program did: being a camp director. Seeing as I speak Italian fluently and I have experience organizing events, I was very attracted to the possibility of being a camp director while also being in the country that I had been dreaming of visiting.
Needless to say, I was positively overwhelmed by the experience and I'm so glad I decided to accept and spend 2 months in Italy!
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
ECC has two leaders, Nate and Ashleigh, that really do help you out from the beginning by having an orientation week that helps you understand a bit how the camps are going to go. Obviously there are a lot of situations that can't be taught theoretically (there are so many variables that make teaching at every camp such a unique experience!), but orientation gives you a base to at least get you started.
Also, you aren't left on your own to hunt for somewhere to live. The week at orientation accommodation at a local hotel is provided and meals are provided too (except for one night where you can decide to explore Assisi and eat out). When you actually start working at camp, food and accommodation are also provided, but by the host families that ECC pairs you up with.
The only things that I had to organize were:
- Plane ticket to Italy and back home.
- Train ticket from Rome to Assisi.
- Train ticket from my last camp to the airport (and accommodation/food for the extra day I spent in Rome after my last camp).
- Health insurance.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
You really have to realize that you're going to Italy/Austria to work and not to travel. Yes, the latter will most likely happen, as you can make arrangements with your host families (and they probably have plans already to show you their country). However, the main goal is to go and work. You do have a 9-5 job after all!
However, this should so not stop you from applying because it is such a beautiful job. There are worse things that could happen to you than being overseas, eating delicious food and experiencing a new culture. It's such a dynamic environment that you'll probably not even see the days go by. First thing you know, you'll be crying at the train station, saying good-bye to your current host family and hopping on a train to go to your next one.
One other thing I wish I could have known is that it's ok to not know things. It's ok to feel like you're not prepared and there's no way you could do this. You're probably in the same boat as the tutors that are working with you. You'll see that you'll manage to figure something out in the first few days of the first camp and then you'll only keep getting better!
You're working with kids. They will appreciate anything you do and the mistakes that you think you're making, no one else is noticing them. Kids will literally be so happy only to get to know you. They don't need much to have an awesome day at camp. Be patient with yourself and the other tutors. You'll figure it out!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Camp goes from Monday to Friday for two consecutive weeks in one same town. During the week, the routine is pretty similar:
- In the morning, as soon as you get to camp you prepare whatever needs to be prepared for the day and you play with kids that arrive early.
- At the beginning of camp, we have a morning circle with songs and then we play some games before starting the day.
- Then we have two English lessons that are divided by a 20 min break for a snack
- Then there's lunch (this is a 1h break).
- The afternoon consists of two blocks of games where the kids are divided into teams (the team with more points at the end of the week normally gets a little something!) . These are separated by another break.
- By 5 pm, parents are normally already waiting so you just greet them at the door and say bye to the kids :)
- Then you have the whole afternoon to visit/spend time with your family/spend time with other tutors/etc. It's really free time for you to relax and enjoy yourself!
The last Friday is special because it's the final show! Parents get to see what their kids have done during the 2 weeks.
During the weekends you mostly spend your time with your family, visiting or going to family/friends gatherings. You also have some free time to roam around the town :)
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 traveling alone and not knowing how things worked abroad. I had never ever left the North-American continent, let alone traveled alone, so I was a bit scared as to what that would be like. Especially since my mom is a bit protective, so I've always been by her side and I had never traveled without her planning everything.
To overcome it, I honestly just jumped into it. It sounds strange to say, but I almost didn't even have time to think, as I got accepted into the program in May (less than a month before the start of camp). I really had to move it. Before I knew it, I had a ticket to Italy so there was no going back. I must say that having the language down diminished my stress a lot. Actually, that stress turned into excitement and I couldn't wait to actually interact with this culture that I had been learning about for years. It was a bit scary to find my way around the big Rome station, but I managed to get through it.
I was also scared to feel awkward being a guest in a house that had no clue who I was. I couldn't understand why someone would open their house to a total stranger, but I had such a beautiful experience with every single family... They are so open and happy to learn who you are and what you do. Again, language probably helped, but the level of hospitality in Italy is remarkable and I got attached so fast to every family. I still talk to them and we are figuring out plans to see each other again!
What was your favorite thing about working in this program?
I absolutely loved getting to interact with the host families. They really made a big difference and they made me feel at home. Even if I am not their biological child, they really treated me like one and they gave me emotional support like my family would.
I have beautiful memories of all of them. From going to family gatherings, meeting their friends, going out for a drink with them, going to festivals (and being strongly suggested to sing in front of everyone :') [I told them I sing opera and from that moment they had been wanting to hear me sing jaja]), going for gelato together every day... There are so so many priceless memories I made with all of them in a short span of 2 weeks per family.
We shared laughter, tears and beautiful moments that, to this day, still warm my heart.