APASS: Main Page — FAQ: 1. Main questions / 2. Emailed questions / 3. Some advice for camp leaders

APASS FAQ 1: Main questions

What does an APASS camp involve?

Three weeks of teaching with the week afterwards given over to a paid tour of Poland. A typical teaching day involves breakfast, three hours of teaching in the morning (usually split into two parts with a break), followed by lunch and afternoon activities (which may include sport, art, games, IT, cooking, etc.) The English staff are expected to organise and run the morning lessons and afernoon activities. There are often evening activities and weekend trips, run by the Polish staff, in which participation is also welcomed.

Who can apply? Do I need/get any training?

Reasonable fluency in English, with college education (any subjects) or higher. There's no official training — some advice about lesson topics and travelling is offered in the introductory pack, but largely it's a case of being enthusiastic, open to trying new things and thinking on your feet. Parents with teenage children are welcome, but there aren't facilities for younger children. Applicants who aren't EU citizens should contact APASS. Either way you'll need a valid passport or visa for traveling purposes, and should pick up and fill in an E111/EHIC form from the Post Office, which entitles you to health care in Europe. [Update: You can apply online at this government site.]

Can I apply to be placed with a friend?

Yes, if each person notes this on their application and they're sent off at the same time. Having someone you know reasonably well isn't a bad idea if you're doing something like this for the first time.

What does a placement cost?

About £130. This subdivides roughly into £35 for a year membership of APASS and £95 return travel by coach departing from London. The membership is effectively refunded in "pocket money" at the end of a placement, so you just pay travel. Everyone needs to arrange travel insurance — available for about £20 online, for example Direct Travel — and National Express run cheap regular coaches to and from London. "Fun fare" can be had for £10 or less by booking ahead of time, based on an initial/final location in a city. On placement, accommodation and food is provided, with the same for a week tour of Poland after the camp. I think things are handled slightly differently for the family-style placements, which I've not personally done. It's also possible to do double placements, with part or all of a group going on to a second camp after their first tour.

How does the application procedure work?

Send off for the introductory pack (see the PDF of their flyer.) You'll receive their general info pack including an application form. Decide what type(s) of placement you'd like to put yourself forward for, including dates you'd be available. If you're applying as a group, put down the same dates and note the preference for being placed as a group in your covering letter. Students should indicate correct dates for use of home and uni addresses, listing mobile, home and university numbers and most importantly an email address accessible outside of uni (this is the easiest way for a team leader to get in touch with you.) Send this back with your membership fee after the date specified. You should then receive an acceptance letter, and be asked to send off your coach travel deposit and several SAEs for internal use.

Placements are organised by the Polish ministry over the following months. Generally, you can expect to receive details around a month before departure — if you haven't heard anything by about three weeks before the date you put down on the application, it's worth ringing as Royal Mail isn't always reliable. Contact your team leader and introduce yourself, and they'll fill you in on the rest.

Important notes: write your name and address on the back of any cheques. Make sure there's sufficient postage on the envelope sent back containing the SAEs requested, as they can be heavier than is obvious. APASS in the UK is run by one or two individuals, and the office is open primarily for the period required to organise camps and process applications and requests for information — typically their offices close between August and October, and again between the start of January to mid-March, although post seems to be checked periodically in order to send out information packs.

What should I take with me?

You'll be lugging around stuff for a month so use a suitcase with wheels — or better, a wheeled flight case. You'll also have room for a backpack inside the coach itself. If you can get a phrasebook ahead of time to learn a bit of the language, I'd recommend doing so — there are lots on Amazon — and you can pick up a cheap pocket dictionary whilst you're out there, which will be useful for lessons.

Polish currency is the Zloty, which you'll need to order from a bank or Post Office ahead of time. I'd suggest converting between a hundred and a hundred and fifty pounds, with a bank card as a backup, along with getting ten/twenty Euros for the trip out and back. APASS suggest quite a lot less than this in Zloty, whereas I personally prefer to take cash and change back any leftover. £20-40 and a bank card would be an alternative, depending on how likely you are to shop, how safe you feel carrying cash, etc. You're not required to buy stuff apart from food on the coaches there and back, but you'll probably want to do some shopping during camp and on the tour afterwards.

...in the way of clothes?

There'll probably be a washing machine on camp, and you can get powder from a kiosk or supermarket, just don't bank on it — so at least a week of casual stuff that's easy to hand wash if necessary, a couple of pairs of trousers, something to swim in, canvas shoes or trainers, at least two warm jumpers, and something waterproof that you can scrunch down small. The weather can be variable, plus the tour will involve mountains.

...in the way of teaching materials?

Pack things that you can use with a range of age groups. Start collecting menus and leaflets (amusement parks, historical sites) before you go, which can form the basis of lessons. Wordsearches are good for vocabulary and seem to be enjoyed even by older teenagers. Particularly if you're leading or deputying a camp, try to build up a folder of things that can be photocopied and shared with other teachers.

Put together a couple of mix CDs of slower songs with printed lyrics. Similarly, VHS tapes can be compiled and left with the Polish staff for them to use as teaching resources. It's possible you might have access to a DVD player, so people may like to take one or two films (especially ones with Polish subtitles suitable for all ages. eg, Blues Brothers.) Travel games, dice and cards may be useful as afternoon activities. Talk to the people you're going with if possible, so everyone doesn't take a cricket bat or the same films.

...in sundry items?

A personal CD player, for maximum flexibility one that plays MP3s as well as CDs. If you take a power adapter and a small pair of powered speakers, this can also be useful for lessons. Plug adaptors (three-to-two-pin) can be found in pound shops. I'd also suggest a plug board for convenience. One or two tubes of travel wash, plus a short length of clothes line for rigging up drying arrangements. A pad of lined paper, some biros, glue, colouring pencils, scissors, etc. A camera, with spare memory cards or film. Personally I'd add a kettle, tin mug and large box of Lapsang Souchong teabags. Vitamin C tablets and a basic first aid kit may be useful, again particularly if you're leading. Alarm clock.

What is Poland like?

Not radically different to the UK or Ireland. Some aspects of food and lifestyles tend to be healthier, though smoking is common and traditional foods can be quite high in fat. People are keen to show a strong cultural identity whilst welcoming other cultures, and Poles as a nation pride themselves on hospitality.

What's food generally like on a camp?

Better and more varied in a café, to be honest. Breakfast and the evening meal tend to follow the same format, a buffet of ham, cheese, tomatoes, eggs, jam, spicy ketchup, and seedy bread. Tea is flavoured with honey rather than sugar or milk, or warm fruit compote may be served. The main meal of the day is in the middle, typically consisting of meat (chicken is popular) with mashed potato topped with dill and vegetables (such as grated carrot in a mayo dressing, or red cabbage.) Fridays tend to be fish of some kind, by tradition. The main meal usually also involves a starter of soup/broth and bread.

If you find yourself getting bored, I'd suggest getting a bottle of chili sauce from a local supermarket. If you're vegetarian, the suggestion to find or take sauces to liven things up a bit goes double... there may also be cooking facilities on site, using which you could organise with other veg members of your group to buy and cook pasta as an alternative every so often. Plus there'll be local eateries if you fancy a change.

What would you recommend trying?

If you're out and about (or the camp is trying to impress) as well as American-style fast food there are traditional foods to try. Pierogi are fried dough parcels filled with cheese, vegetables or meat. Most restaurants will offer a decent ghoulash (beef stew), often served with garlic bread. The national drink of Poland is vodka, and a well-known brand is Zubrovska (flavoured with bison grass, which gives it a cinnamon tang, and it goes very well with apple juice.) If you don't have severe allergies, just try stuff. Discovery is one of the best things about being in another country!