AIESEC Series Interview: Alexiane Rolland, Portugal

By January 19, 2018 No Comments

By Amandine Hess

“This project will go beyond all you could have imagined before”. Follow one of our fellow Sciences Pistes as she tells us about her volunteering experience with AIESEC! This week, Alexiane Rolland answers some questions about her time teaching English to children at a summer-camp in Portugal.


Where did you spend your AIESEC volunteering?

I spent my AIESEC volunteering experience in Portugal, and more specifically in a small village called “Couto de Esteves” within the Aveiro district.


Can you describe the project you worked on?

The project was called “English in Action”, and occurs every year during the summer holidays. It was a project developed by a small organization called “Mundus Language School”. The organization provides firms with linguistic services such as translation and is specialized in English teaching for children. Mundus Language School is a member of IERA (Incubadora de Empresas da Região de Aveiro, “Incubator of firms in the region of Aveiro”), an organization gathering different portuguese firms that adhere to the Vougapark mission. In general, the school advocates for improved economic development of the municipality, together with the support of creativity and local entrepreneurship.

During the summer time, Mundus Language School organizes a four week long summer camp in the region of Sever do Vouga (Aveiro district), to allow children from seven to seventeen years old to practice English through pedagogical activities and games.

Concretely, what did you do?

I was a counsellor.  My role in this project was to develop activities in the framework of an educational process aimed at encouraging children to speak English and thus, develop their linguistic skills.

We would start the day with morning stretches, followed by art activities and memory games revolving around English language practice. The afternoon was a succession of listening, writing and reading activities where children learned how to express themselves in English. However, the aim of the camp was to teach in a more interactive ways than traditional academic methods, meaning through games and interactions with counsellors instead of tests and grades that tends to discourage children with shortcomings. Every Tuesday, we would do a trip. We went to Coimbra, to a spa village and we also did camping.


Bacalhau (cod fish), a Portuguese traditional dish//Alexiane Rolland


Did you prepare your project in advance or did you improvise/ learn on the field?

Before the four weeks of summer camp, the six other counselors and I had an entire week to prepare the activities that we were willing to do with the kids, and also to get familiar with the area and of course with each other. We actually spent the entire first week hiking and planning. However, once the summer camp started, we discovered that it was hard to stick to the plan, so we also had to improvise a lot. Yet, it was not so hard to find new activities each day, since I already have had some experience with children thanks to an internship that I had previously done in a British nursery.

Who were you working with?

I was working with six other counsellors, and each one of them had a different nationality, which was very enriching. We were all between 18 and 23 years old.

Tigran was the youngest, he is from Armenia and was the photographer of the group. Ana was 21 and from Mexico, always ready to have fun and very caring about the little kids. Scott was 22 and from the US, he loved hiking and was always down to do sports. Arun was 23 and from India, but studying environmental engineering in Sweden. He was literally the brain of the team, always sharing new ideas. Jade was 19 and from Thaïland, she was very easy-going with the kids who loved her. I will always remember her Thai dance, which was really funny to do! Finally, Jervoise or “J”, was 19 as well and from Canada. She was the funniest, and her fear of bugs will always be remembered!


Photo: Alexiane Rolland


What are the main difficulties you faced?

The main difficulties were mostly: (1) Coping with the kids’ age-difference. It was not always easy to find a good compromise between what the teenagers wanted, and what could please the young ones as well. When we were running out of ideas, we would just divide them into two groups and plan different activities such as drawing and nature discovery with the youngest and sports with the teens. And (2) Reaching agreements with other counselors. It was often difficult to reach a consensus since we wanted to agree unanimously before taking decisions about activities, where to go during the weekends etc, and each one of us had different aspirations.


Photo: Alexiane Rolland


What did this experience teach you?

This experience taught me a lot. First, I learned that communication is crucial for the achievement of a common project. Also, being responsible and well-organised is important, since the kids were under our responsibility and we had several safety rules to respect this was a key skill I learned. In addition, it was very enriching to be in direct contact with several foreign cultures at the same time; we were in a Portuguese village, speaking English, with people from 7 different nationalities! I feel like I became more open-minded, and more confident with my leadership skills. Indeed, this project was a truly empowering experience, since we were given a lot of liberty concerning the planning.

What did you enjoy the most? The least?

What I enjoyed the most was discovering Portuguese Culture. Because we were hosted by Mundus Language School’s director, we had the opportunity to share with her several Portuguese specialties. In addition, the contact with Portuguese children was very enriching, since they shared with us their hobbies and also the tradition of the region with the blueberry festival in Sever do Vouga.

I actually do not know what I enjoyed the least, since it was such a wonderful experience… But I guess the weather was a bit disappointing, as I was expecting sun and heat. Of course, we had some very hot days but also some weeks where the temperature did not exceed 12 degrees… For someone who packed only shorts, I had to buy a pair of jeans in Aveiro!


Photo: Alexiane Rolland


Did you have some free time as well?

Yes, I was free during weekends. With other counselors, we decided to travel together. I spent two weekends in Aveiro, a nearby city full of history and very typical of Portugal. I also visited Porto, where I went to the beach (it was hot this day!) and spent hours wandering in the city and taking pictures.


Porto//Alexiane Rolland

Photo: Alexiane Rolland

Aveiro//Alexiane Rolland

Do you have any advice on how to make the most of this experience?

Don’t plan it too much, and don’t overthink it, because even if you do, your project will never match your plan. It will on the contrary, go beyond all you could have imagined before. You’ll probably face a situation you weren’t expecting, but this experience will actually make you stronger.

Don’t be shy, be confident, because if you have been chosen to complete an opportunity, you deserve it.

Finally, remember that if this experience is about self-development and the achievement of an important project, it is above all about making long-lasting relationships and having fun! So if you’re still hesitating to apply, don’t worry and go ahead, because this will be the time of your life.


Where will AIESEC take you? The choice is yours! Go check AIESEC’s website to find the project and the place that fits best your interests! The next departure might be yours.



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