EVS story from Wales - Magdalena Pyrgiel

Dear all,

we would like to share a story of our volunteer Magdalena Pyrgiel which is in her EVS adventure in Wales. We very appreciate how precisely and touchingly she described her project, life and country and hope you`ll enjoy her story!

Thank you Magda and wishing you all the best during and after your EVS!


Greetings from Merthyr!

I have been here for eight months already, which means my EVS experience is coming (quickly) to an end. From January onwards four months just flew by and I wonder what’s in store for the next three!

As schools in the United Kingdom are very strict about  taking photographs of children, not to mention publishing children’s images on web sites, I decided not to take a single picture of even the classroom itself.  Instead I can describe what my project is about and give you a general overview of my stay here.

A day out in Wales – across endless pastures!

Being a part of the EAL Team in Merthyr, South Wales

I am a part of the EAL Team (English as an Additional Language) in Merthyr Tydfil, which means I volunteer in several schools across Merthyr supporting the Ethnic minority children who do not speak English as a first language. I assist them in English language acquisition, supporting them in developing their skills in understanding, reading, speaking and writing in English, along with  helping them settle in well in the class. Occasionally I can be asked  to assist a teacher during parent’s meeting providing English ↔ Polish translation. I have usually around seven/eight schools to visit per week – it varies throughout a school year. I work mostly with Reception and Year 1 pupils. Yet my timetable changes practically every term. Though it is almost the end of a school year (it ends in the middle of July in Wales) my list of pupils for one of the schools I support has changed completely recently. As a result, this term I will be able to gain more experience working also with some older children! I certainly cannot complain about monotony of the work I am doing, can I?

When it comes to my project I’m glad I can participate in variety of trainings for teachers and staff who work with EAL learners – this year EAL Training Programme is very diverse. We have also monthly team meeting, when, among other things in agenda, we discuss our teaching outcomes and share ideas on how to use the resources in more creative and engaging way. Besides, likewise others from our EAL Team, once in a month I have also a supervision (one to one) session with my supervisor. Taking all of this into account – I really do feel like a part of the EAL teamJ

What really makes my EVS weight in gold...
The view from my window – enjoying some 
pleasant lounging in my room.

What really defines one’s EVS experience is not project itself, but the way you spend your spare time, places you visit and people you meet. At least for meJ

First and foremost, I live with a host family here in Merthyr and, to be honest, for me personally this makes my EVS so precious and worth its weight in gold! But that’s for another story, over strong coffee. And tapioca cheese bread. Make sure you have plenty of time and are not rushing anywhere!

What’s more, thanks to my host family, I didn’t need to give up any of my music passions, and not only this – I could have even started working on developing new skills! What’s more, thanks to people I met here, I also started playing new instrument – ukulele or ‘uke’ if you prefer.  

Although I am the only volunteer in Merthyr, whereas most of the volunteers live in Cardiff, I don’t feel excluded from the group. We see each other at least once in a month on our Common Day and together with our coordinator from UNA Exchange, first Leila, now Michi, we enjoy a wallet-friendly  day out together!

Celebrating cultural diversity with other
volunteers – Ukrainian Christmas in Cardiff.
In my free time, I plan some local trips down the Valleys and further ahead towards stunning  Wales beaches and endless meadows . Take a look at some of my pictures I’ve attached to this postJ and to the previous one written by Angélica Camargo Flórez. Sometimes though, nothing more than just pleasant lounging at home is the only thing you dream of when the whole week seems to do nothing less than rumbling and buzzing in your head! And when at last you start feeling quite exhausted  by the abundance of foreign languages around you, by straining your brain to think clearly in English despite late-night hours and an overwhelming need to speak Polish (about everything or sometimes nothing really) fills you from the top of your head to the tip of your toes –there is someone who is always here to meet and talk. I wish all EVS volunteers to meet such a wholehearted, welcoming and wise mentor as I had a chance to meet. I know it’s so rare to have a mentor who speaks one’s mother tongue. I am so lucky to work with such a mentor and in such a team! 

Closing remarks on weather in Wales
On our way to Pen y Fan – foggy day.

One of the most unpredictable things in Wales is… the weather. It’s always better to expect heavy rainfalls, cold wind and relatively high humidity. Rapid weather changes are also common, especially in the Valleys. I prepared myself for the worst possible scenario as I learnt that last year in Merthyr had been absolutely frantic –  when having appeared in early November rain hadn’t stopped until… February. It’s not a joke! Ask AngelikaJ Surprisingly, this year, we had plenty of dry days not only in autumn, but also in winter, with just few but passing flurries of rain. At least this is how I remember it… Maybe because I was prepared for the worst… How lucky I am then that the weather was so kind to me – I could  have enjoyed day -to-day walking to and from schools, and taking bus only occasionally!

Two advices from me:

  1. Prepare yourself for the worst… and you will bless every single ray of the sun.
  2. Don’t rely on weather forecast that much – in four out of five cases it’s wrong! Do not lose hope for the day without a rain and go exploring Wales. Because it is undeniably worth it.

Spring has already come to Merthyr and summer is just around the corner, so – as sad as it may sound – this is my last chance to explore more of mountainous Wales before my project comes to an end!

Ta-ra for now!

Cardiff, September 2016 – Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected  and the biggest global celebration of Roald Dahl's birthday! The author best known for his books for children: Matilda; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; The BFG.
Castle meadows – a day out in Abergavenny (Y Fenni), the market town which sleeps between seven hills.
Rhossili Bay – exploring Gower.