University is a draining experience. At the end of my second year I was feeling anxious about my future and worn out from my classes. In order to recharge my "scholastic battery" I decided that I needed a change in my life! So I signed up for an international Co-op and through family connections managed to find a job in Poland. My uncle worked at a summer camp as a film instructor, and through him I received a position as a camp counsellor for July and as an English Instructor for August. This would be a perfect opportunity for me to improve my Polish and learn more about my Polish heritage.
For the first month I was to work at the camp near Radków, a small town in the south of Poland near the Czech border. Arriving at the summer camp I was informed, much to my horror that I was to be the camp counsellor in charge of the photography group, which consisted solely of young girls (i.e., 12-15). My worries quickly disappeared when I met the two photography instructors who reassured me that I would never have to be alone with the group, one of them would always be with me.
My duties included waking up my cabin every morning and leading a physical activity group (i.e., stretching) which they detested, escorting them to and from the dining hall for their meals, taking them to their various activities during the day and generally inquiring and "trouble shooting" to make sure that they were having a good time at the summer camp. The activities involved canoe trips, hikes through the mountains, photography lessons and rock climbing. I quickly became fond of this group of girls as they took it upon themselves to teach me about an assortment of Polish celebrities and Polish slangs. Sadly, I could only stay at Radków for a month, and before long I was on my way to my next position.
My duties at the Baltic summer camp were completely different than at Radków. Being an English teacher I only had to teach two 150 minute classes per day, and did not have to look after a group of campers. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because I had no real experience teaching. These fears quickly dissipated as I met the other English teachers and they helped me prepare my first lesson plans. Being a "native" English speaker my students mostly wished to speak with me, so I would create oral games and activities. For one lesson I showed them videos of the Calgary stampede and explained the rules of bull and bronco riding. This was the first time many of them saw a rodeo, and I was happy to be able to show them this part of Canadian culture.
I made a many great friends while working at the summer camps! During my free time at the Baltic camp I would go to the beach and explore the local city with my roommate. We quickly became good friends and he even invited me to his wedding, which I had to regretfully decline since I would be back in Vancouver. One night, the other English teachers and I had a camp fire on the beach, something that I had never done before. I bonded with the instructor of the sports group, as he was an avid American Football fan. Together we set up flag Football matches during the breaks for the campers.
At the Radków camp I became good friends with the head photography and the art instructors. For fun we would do photo sessions when the campers were asleep, and I learned a great deal about photography. The sports instructors would play a game of volley ball every night, with the losing team having to swim in the cold lake. My volley ball skills quickly improved, but nowhere near the level of my friends. They would light heartedly tease me that my lack of volley ball skills was due to me being half Canadian.
Through my Co-op experience I feel a lot closer to my polish heritage. It allowed me to improve my polish, gain international contacts and learn a great deal about myself. I strongly recommend an international Co-op as one of those "must have" University experiences.