UK | School Volunteer | Paula & Lili

Paula, an 18-year-old from Ecuador, and Lili, a 20-year-old from France, are volunteering at a boarding school in the English countryside for one year. We caught up with them a couple of months into their placement, and here’s their story.

Background and Motivation

Paula, who learned about New Ventures Worldwide (NVW) through a family friend, expressed her enthusiasm for the school placement opportunity, stating, “I want to be a teacher, so I am testing it out. Additionally, I saw this as a chance to practice English and make my gap year meaningful by contributing to my future.”

Previously studying psychology, Lili sought a break and discovered the NVW school placement through online research. She shared, “I want to be a teacher and saw this as an opportunity to travel, develop personal and professional skills, and truly experience life.”

Paula and Lili’s motivations reflect a shared passion for teaching, a desire for personal and professional growth, and a commitment to positively impacting the student’s learning and development.

Role and Responsibilities

Paula and Lili enjoy a variety of boarding house duties, such as waking the students in the morning and ensuring they have breakfast, helping during weekend trips, and enhancing student’s language skills in the classroom.

Paula expressed her enthusiasm for the varied excursions, saying, “We go on cool fun trips every Saturday, from exploring London to go-karting, visiting Cambridge, and attending a video game expo or the science museum. I also escort kids and assist in the language department, teaching Spanish classes and offering one-on-one lessons to help their language skills.”

Lili highlighted the enjoyable nature of her interactions with the kids, noting their humour and sassiness. “I find joy in helping the kids with their French studies and offering personalised support. The kids are hilarious,” says Lili.

Highlights and Growing Confidence

Paula conveyed her genuine love for the school, describing it as a great environment that is super supportive and helpful. She found joy in the opportunity to teach and share her bilingual skills. Paula enjoyed spending time with the children at the boarding house, highlighting memorable moments like a year 13 student introducing her to jellied eels and engaging in baking classes every two weeks. Paula cherishes the communal aspect of sharing food with the community. Paula says, “Some of the older students are teaching me how to play pool… I’m not very good, but it’s really fun!” Paula also shared how rewarding teaching Spanish has been, “There’s one 10-year-old who is so cute. She was initially shy but now gets excited to play Spanish games with me and is learning fast. It is beautiful to witness the transformation.” says Paula.

Lili also found her highlights in teaching the kids and the many opportunities the school provided for trips and cultural experiences. Lili notes, “I’m so grateful to be part of the school community. Everyone is so nice!” Lili found camaraderie with the French teacher and enjoyed the humour and open-mindedness of the students in a fun learning environment. Her favourite moments have been the weekend trips. “I have the best time helping the kids out every Saturday. The school takes us to places I never would have gone alone, and they’re amazing. I especially enjoyed Chinatown in London and paintballing. I’m looking forward to Winter Wonderland next!” says Lili. In the classroom, Lili found fulfilment in the student’s understanding of her teachings, especially when shy individuals began to ask questions. She shared amusing anecdotes, such as a kid denying their love for Fortnite and engaging in games about silly questions and jokes with the students.

Paula and Lili both expressed how they have grown in confidence because of the experience. Paula said, “It’s helped me come out of my shell and it feels brilliant! I’m living independently for the first time, am more comfortable communicating in English and I’ve gained great teaching skills.” Lili said, “I carry myself with more confidence. Now I know I can live in a completely different country, who know what else I can achieve.”

Overcoming Challenges

Paula and Lili both faced unique challenges when starting their roles, but with resilience and support, they successfully navigated the initial hurdles.

“At the start, it was hard, thrown straight into the deep end of school life, and you never 100% know what to expect,” says Paula. However, the entire team’s kindness and warm welcome made the transition smoother for her.

Lili found living and working in a new environment daunting at first, but soon settled in. Lili shares, “I was a little anxious in the beginning, but within the first month or so, I became comfortable, especially as I got to know the kids.” Lili mentions that the supportive and friendly nature of the staff played a significant role in easing her uncertainties.

Accommodation and Food

Paula and Lili share a flat, and Paula highlights the spaciousness of her private bedroom, which has a new carpet. The school provides three meals a day, along with snacks, and they have a shared kitchen in their flat, allowing them to cook their own meals if they want. Paula notes, “It’s nice to experience independence and sharing. We help each other out a lot.” Additionally, she receives £100 a week from the school, enabling her to explore the town for extra food and coffee.

Lili appreciates her private room and the availability of communal spaces with cinema screens, games, and pool tables, giving a sense of community within their living environment. “The school offers a diverse and well-balanced menu, including pasta bakes, pizza, curries, Mexican dishes, and a traditional Sunday roast,” says Lili. She notes the inclusion of both meat and vegetarian options, ensuring a healthy variety. She describes breakfast as cereals, toast, and fruit.

Experience with New Ventures Worldwide

Both Paula and Lili express high satisfaction with their experiences with New Ventures Worldwide (NVW), highlighting the transparency, communication, and ongoing support.

Paula commends NVW for transparent pricing and clear descriptions, saying, “The transparent pricing is great; very clear role descriptions, so I knew exactly what I was signing up for. They answered every question, maintained quick communication, helped with the visa process, and ultimately matched me with a great placement. The support is always here, and I know they’re there to help if I have any issues.”

Lili underlines the role of the program manager in her positive experience, describing the communication as excellent and very reassuring. She feels fully supported, stating, “The program manager was really present, and I felt fully supported throughout. NVW was amazing at arranging everything and getting me here. Now that I’m on the placement, the school is my main support, but I know NVW is there if I need anything.”

Conclusion and Advice for Others

Paula reflects on her experience, expressing, “Volunteering has taught me that I enjoy being independent and that I can navigate things at my own pace. It has solidified my desire to continue teaching and helping people. I’ve realised that learning English has a purpose, and if I want to live in another country, I can.” Her advice to other volunteers is to be flexible and open-minded, acknowledging that things may differ from expectations. Paula emphasises the importance of having support from friends and family when adapting to a new environment.

Lili, too, shares the transformative impact of Volunteering, noting, “I’ve discovered more about myself, gained independence, and increased my confidence. I now know I can be comfortable in another country, fully living and inspired to continue teaching.” Her advice to other volunteers is encouraging: “Don’t be afraid to try. While it can be challenging, numerous positive outcomes are waiting to be discovered.”