ABCi volunteer program - CLOSED

This program is no longer offered. View more programs from ABCi.

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About

The ABCi initiative was absorbed by the English Teacher Training College in 2015. At that time, the existing ABCi volunteer programs were discontinued and the college began offering incoming students internationally recognized TEFL certifications in conjunction with Trinity College London and Cambridge University.

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Reviews

76%
based on 34 reviews
  • Impact 7.8
  • Support 7.6
  • Fun 7.9
  • Value 7.9
  • Safety 8.4
Showing 1 - 15 of 34
Danny
10/10

A real gem of an experience

Apologies for the informality of this review but sometimes I think it is best to just hear it how it is.
This review isn't the average, it is aimed towards the 18-20 year olds that don't have a degree and are trying to find themselves.
I was in Austria around this time last year and everything changed from there. I still always talk about it!
Not only that but it gave me a direction..at only the age of 18. Sometimes it takes someone like Mr Stone to tell you to your face that 'you are a natural teacher' to make you think maybe I could do a bit more of this TEFL stuff.

SO WHAT WAS IT LIKE AT ABCI?
It is no walk in the park, especially if you are on the younger side. It is very demanding, long hours and there is a lot of learning involved on the course. You may get into the habbit of comparing yourself to the others, maybe they have a degree in linguistics, German or are just hyper intelligent. My advice to you is just concentrate on yourself, Rome wasn't built in a day and nor is a good teacher.
Something you will learn is you are constantly learning and so are those others in your group, what you will likely find is they will help you one on one if you ask them so don't be afraid.
For example I could never get the parts of speech down I actually failed the test, I was actually the only one. Everyone helped me every night to prepare for the retake and sure enough I passed. Even Ben Stone who could be regarded as the busiest man in the world, Skype called me to go over some of the things that could be on the test for over 40 minutes! Support like this really shows the caring dedication of ABCI and why people 18-20 can also be right for ABCI life.

IS IT FOR EVERYONE
ABCI is hard work you have some very early mornings, long car rides with your flatmates falling asleep on you and you have to feel the pressure of having your lessons assessed. The first week is non stop! Just remember I know you have never been to uni before so you are not used to staying up late and getting a deadline in early the next day. Do the smart thing a work hard first and play hard second, I get its all new and it will be your first time away from home with no rules but be sensible! If you take this into account you will be able to get up the next morning no trouble making life so much easier.
You will also get quite homesick but everyone is friendly and they are there for you, dont forget the senior teachers are people too. If that doesn't work you could always just bring your home to the classroom. For example, I always told classes no matter the age that the classroom was Manchester it helps you get the 'only English' point across and actually helps fight home sickness. I did it all the time at ABCI. I even think it started to annoy some of my group but it definitely helped!

SO WHY ABCI?
You will not find a more character building course any where in the world. Gmundens mountains, Sanct Poltons whisky bar and Graz' Christmas lights are breathtaking
It is a very good deal because you are very highly subsidised and even though they can't pay for you flight there and back, it is because it just isn't practical only once you have done a CertTESOL and got your certificate from ABCi do you have the experience for companies that would be willing to fly you out somewhere to even look at you. Also the people at ABCi will grow you as a person and a teacher. They gradually get you to grow a thick skin and show you how to give constructive criticism. For example, in my very first assessed lesson I actually said to the students 'come in, come in everyone for a..erm....plenary..' much to Ben Stones amusement.
Although, by far the best thing about ABCi is they contiue to check on us even after leaving, asking if there is anything they can do to help. This I think sets ABCi apart from the rest!
I would and have recommended ABCI to people of all ages but I think those of you like myself at 18 who think they know everything, but are not ready for University definitely should try your hand at TEFL teaching you might like it.
If you have any other questions about ABCi I would be glad to answer them.

How can this program be improved?
Just keep going as you are.
Keep responding to reviews and take in to consideration the feed back.

Yes, I recommend
Toby
9/10

Appreciate the course for what it is and it is worth its weight in gold.

I came to ABCI and Austria off the back of finishing an English Literature degree. I was unsure of what I wanted to do and found the chance of moving to a new country for a short while and learning a new skill to be a fascinating prospect. Teaching, was not something that had interested me before or something that I thought I would ever consider. Throughout the course (January 2016) myself and other trainees were put under immense stress both through teaching and completing various assignments that were required for your certification. It was intense to the extreme, at times it seemed no matter how much time you put in to your assignments and lesson planning that it would not be enough. However, through the help of your fellow trainees and staff members you will find that the college has an atmosphere much like a well meaning, although at times; dysfunctional family. Each individual whether trainee or member of staff were always on hand to help with any problem whether small or large. While this doesn't always mean that things run as smoothly as planned (there will be highs and lows to your experience, as in any new place) it is an experience that I would thoroughly recommend providing you are prepared for one of the busiest workloads I have ever experienced.

Austria as a country is beautiful, while not every weekend will be free for you to roam around, you will find yourself with a little time at least to explore, meet new people and enjoy what Austria has to offer. Through ABCI and my experience in Austria I decided that teaching was in fact a career path that I wanted to explore, and now only a short while after completing the course I find myself about to go into my first paid teaching job in Poland, this can only be down to the support and encouragement I found at ABCI.

Although you may read discouraging reviews for ABCI (English training college of Austria) I would advise you to take them with a pinch of salt. Of course there are areas of improvement for the college but at the same time there are also many fantastic aspects to the college and your own experience that you will not find anywhere else.

How can this program be improved?
Organisation,
Facilities.
Yes, I recommend
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Sinead
9/10

Teach abroad and get a TEFL qualification in return

ABCi is a fantastic charity which works with schools across Austria to provide interactive English workshops to pupils. The organisation is run by Frank and Ben who are very passionate about their mission and delivering high quality English education. It's great because you teach English and travel around Austria, meeting other teachers along the way and get your food, accommodation and a TEFL qualification in return!

The work is most definitely not for the faint hearted. The days can be long and you must be dedicated to becoming an excellent EFL teacher. There is a big emphasis on training and improving and practicing your craft, as well as some (very) early mornings.

If that does't perturb you, then ABCi is the volunteer programme for you. You will have great fun with the children, delivering their excellent programme of activities. I am now a teacher and frequently employ many of the active based learning techniques that I delivered through my work as an ABCi teacher.

This is a unique, challenging, fun opportunity in a beautiful setting. You will make friends for life and better your professional life. What is not to love?!

How can this program be improved?
n/a
Yes, I recommend
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Grace
8/10

Intense but so worth it.

There are a lot of mixed reviews of ABCi but my experience was very positive.

I have never worked so hard in my life: I spent 4 months waking up between 4.30 and 5.30am to work at schools that could be up to a 1 hour and 45 minute drive, teach for 6 hours, then return to do 2-3 hour training sessions. As well as teaching I had to study and do assignments as I was completing the CERT-TESOL (which is a very good certificate to have in the ESL world) so I didn't have much free time throughout my time spent in Austria. But, with the time I did get off, I had the chance to visit different places in Austria as well as Hungary and Germany a couple of times!

This course is not a holiday. It is hard work but rewarding work. I taught students aged 6-19 in 18 weeks of teaching and I also gave one-on-one adult lessons. The adult lessons were pretty unorganised which was unfortunate but it was good experience nonetheless.

Although this course is a lot of hard work, the support I was given from my senior teachers was incredible. They would give me all the support I needed, answer any silly question I had and most importantly, made the long days fun. This course relies on the support you all give each other (between trainees, senior teachers and staff). As it is so intense, it really is so important to be a positive and optimistic person. In all honesty, I don't think my group of trainees would have completed the course successfully if it wasn't for the support and encouragement we gave each other. Although you are completing this course to become a qualified ESL teacher yourself, you have to be a team player. Working together and sharing ideas is what is needed to be successful.

Living situation- It is like living in first year halls/dorms all over again. Lack of privacy, shared rooms (up to 4/5 people in a room) and shared bathrooms. Although the accommodation doesn't give you any privacy, it is actually really nice. They are modern and there are large kitchens/ living rooms to chill out in. ABCi provides basic food (pasta, pasta sauce, rice, etc) which is a big help. The most important thing is to be flexible. Sometimes you would be relocated to a different town/city with very little notice. Although this can be very frustrating, you just have to take the positives from it- it's a new place, different schools, working with a new senior teacher who will give you more tips, etc.

During my time with ABCi, there was a lot of stress but also a lot of laughter. I would definitely recommend this course if you are looking to become and ESL teacher as it gives you so much experience in such a short amount of time and getting this training in such a beautiful country with lovely students is obviously such a great bonus. You just have to be ready to work and to be committed for the whole time you are there.

How can this program be improved?
More organisation, assignments spaced out better, more privacy in accommodation.
Yes, I recommend
Kristen
8/10

ABCi - It was a way to see Austria

I worked for ABCi back in 2013 when they had some paid staff (senior teachers) and volunteers. Volunteers were in Austria for 3 months and got teacher training, free lodging in some of the most beautiful places in Austria and wonderful experience teaching. I then moved back to the states for two years and when I returned to Austria at the end of 2015 I was surprised to see an advertisement for a job placement on the Austrian unemployment website. I applied for the job and was amazed at how much the organization had changed. It is no longer the two man show of Mr. Carle in the office and Mr. Stone in the field with other staff helping create the programming and being lead teachers in schools. They have established the English Teacher Training College of Austria where student teachers get scholarships for different certificates (CertTESOL, CELT-P, etc). If I had known this I wouldn't have paid over €2500 for a CELTA in the US. I will admit I miss the days of 1 lead teacher and 4 volunteers teaching at a school in the alps with the afternoons free to explore the lakes while living in Gasthäuser. Now Student Teachers pay their own way to Austria, but are provided with dorms (VERY much like the ones at your local state college... no frills here), travel to and from their teaching practice locations, subsidized teacher training, BASIC food (think staples: rice, pasta), and the support of all staff.
ABCi has gone from a somewhat hectic volunteer organization to a real professional college (although sometimes it is still hectic, especially the first week of a course).

Yes, I recommend
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Helen
8/10

Great starting place for a career in TEFL

I started with ABCi when it was still the initiative as a volunteer teacher, moved on to be a paid teacher and then worked as project coordinator for over a year. The time I spent with ABCi was invaluable and made me into the teacher I am today. The work was challenging, rewarding and exciting. The staff were committed to their vision of what English education should look like and the support we received was fantastic.

Teaching- For a first time teacher not having the stress of lesson planning and teaching a set program allows you time to practice and perfect different teaching techniques. You receive a good balance of theoretical input and practical application in the classroom. The work load does demand a lot of time and effort but it's worth it!

How can this program be improved?
ABCi progressed massively during the time I spent with them. However, it is important to remember it is still a developing organisation and as such occasionally has teething problems. There have been a lot of changes since I left but if you are flexible and keen to work hard for a great start in TEFL I’m sure you’ll find a visit to beautiful Austria with ABCi a rewarding experience.
Yes, I recommend
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Rob
7/10

Incredibly Stressful and Rewarding

I completed the winter (Jan- March 2016) program this year and it was incredibly stressful and exhausting as well as really enriching and rewarding... I loved it. And I learned a lot. But also, as a new and rapidly expanding program, the logistics of it were pretty chaotic. I think we logged over 225 teaching hours, which is outrageous for a beginner course, in towns all over Austria. That amount of teaching practice really forces you to build confidence and improve as a teacher.. especially in observed lessons, where I mostly got really thoughtful feedback. But it also is overwhelming when you have assignments due, lessons to plan and activities to memorize.

I haven't had the chance to search for a job with the cert TESOL I received through ABCi, but the certificate is accredited through London Trinity College and many of my friends from the program have been able to get jobs teaching all over the world... have a friends in the Galapagos, Germany, and Barcelona. The fact that I now have the opportunity to travel anywhere to teach makes it pretty worth it. You also receive the Tefl-yl certificate which is not internationally recognized but given through ABCi.

Austria's beautiful and an amazing country to travel.. though there was little time to do so during my course. Also as a US citizen I had some visa restrictions... US citizens can only be the Schengen are, most of Europe, for 90 days max in a 180 day period.

You learn a lot about active learning and classroom management through teaching games, drama, and songs. Its fun and pretty rewarding to have your class perform dramas in English at the end of each week. I feel really confident about lesson planning and running an activities. Though by evenings in the second month when we started studying for CertTESL, we were exhausted when the actual input sessions about English language, phonology, grammar etc. came up. It's possible and everyone in my course passed.. it just took a lot of will power and patience.

The support form my senior teachers was great when it came to actually teaching in schools.. but you spend a lot of time driving to and from schools. The printers and wifi and housing was always a bit sketchy.

Hard to give the program a positive or negative review. I learned a lot. Made some really good friends and got to see some incredible places. I'm really happy I did it. Just have to approach it with expectations of hard work, uncomfortable challenges and inevitable logistical nightmares.

How can this program be improved?
4 months rather than 3. Consistent welfare and housing.
Yes, I recommend
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Former
1/10

Steer clear

This is the worst company I have ever worked with!
They mascarade as a charity but it is to avoid taxes and the only person doing anything charitable is you (the senior teachers earn a higher annual salary). You will get up at 5 in your less than ideal accommodation, drive for 2 hours, turn up at a school with little or no information on what you will be doing that day and teach until 2, drive for another 2 hours and then attend pointless seminars.
On more than one occasion the school had no idea we were coming (a senior teacher let slip that if the school hasn't confirmed then a SALES tactic is to turn up anyway and the school will then feel obliged to hand over the daily salary they pay)
The company is a shambles, they have no respect for your time or the fact you are a volunteer. The administration is down right rude and obnoxious. I could write pages upon pages of examples of incompetency from the staff and company as a whole.
Just don't waste your time.

No, I don't recommend
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Kirstie
8/10

Review from current trainee on 2015 intake

I am a current volunteer on the ABCi intermediate programme. I have been asked before I leave to write a review of my experience and thoughts about this programme. Austria is a beautiful country to work in and we have seen a lot of the country driving to and from schools. One of the biggest pros of ABCi is that the students really respond to active learning, which is this company’s focus. I have worked with a wide range of different students and this approach seems to work well with almost any type of student. It was particularly beneficial to students with learning difficulties and disabilities as they found the songs very beneficial, with parents asking if they could sing them at home with their child to keep them learning English.
During my time at ABCi I have worked with many different types of children throughout Austria and have had over 320 hours’ worth of teaching experience. To my knowledge this offers the most teaching hours I have heard of for a TEFL and TKT certification programme, as you are expected to teach full time after just a week and a half from starting the course. This has been a primarily learn-by-doing experience with the academic part of the course being taught and assessed after working hours. This has been difficult as this means that during the beginning of the course we could be working at school from 7/8 in the morning to 1 / 2 in the afternoon, then do training sessions til 4, drive back to our accommodation by 6pm and then spend a few hours preparing lessons for the rest of the week and researching and writing assignments.
There are some financial costs to taking this course. Flights are not paid for, and you are expected to show proof of a round trip travel within a short period of time after accepting the position. For me, this meant borrowing money on very short notice. If you do not have the opportunity to pay for flights right away this could be an issue. It has also cost a lot in living expenses, particularly as I have had the Vienna location twice. It is lovely to live here but the living costs are more expensive than elsewhere in Austria. I would not recommend coming to this course with less than 1200€ at least. ABCi provide store cupboard essentials such as pasta, rice, sauce and bread etc. but do not offer any fresh fruit or vegetables. As fresh produce is quite expensive in Austria a food budget is needed. If you have special dietary needs this may be quite difficult with the store cupboard food and in Austria in general. Store cupboards contain meat sauces even if the people living there would prefer a vegetarian sauce, and most of the essentials contain gluten with the exception of rice.
I believe that my time here has been a generally positive one, and I have made some friends who I will stay in contact with for sure. It has also been a good taster experience of EFL teaching without a long term contract. This experience allowed me to trial teaching with no commitment and I believe this was helpful.

How can this program be improved?
- contract in English
- more time before coming to save money for flights and living costs
- more transparency about expectations in the beginning part of the course
Yes, I recommend
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Brittany
1/10

Avoid Like the Plague

ABCi claimed to reimburse travel for its volunteer teacher trainees. However, having left 2 months ago, I still have not received a penny from them. Unfortunately, there is no written obligation from ABCi in their contract with trainees to pay travel reimbursements. However, since this was a core element in their job advertisement on The Guardian and TEFL Jobs websites, this is a clear case of false advertising.

Having complained to ABCi about this on numerous occasions, they now no longer respond to emails. Previous responses have been unprofessional and claimed former volunteers are no longer registered with ABCi. I am also deeply suspicious of reviews left on online forums. For example, the review, written by a person called 'Millie', appears to contradict the claims made against ABCi regarding travel reimbursements. Whilst Millie may be a former student from a different placement who did recieve her travel reimbursement, there was nobody of that name on the April - August 2015 intake.

The trainee contract is written in German and ABCi refuses to provide a written translation into English. I was instead assured during the interview stage of the application process that it would be verbally translated upon my arrival in Austria. This service was never provided, in spite of requests being made several times. However, after using Google Translate, I am deeply concerned about the organisation's insurance policy (or, more accurately the lack of it) with regards to its volunteers, who are not recoginsed as official employees or associates during their three-month voluntary placements. This is particularly worrying given that teaching takes place in an Active Learning environment, where children are running around inside classrooms, and with sporting activities and lessons making up a crucial component of the project weeks. Although trainees undertook a day of training with the Red Cross (as they are obliged to under Austrian Law), we never received formal training on how to safely teach sports or deal with any injuries that may occur. Given the lack of clear insurance policy and procedure, this is clearly unsafe for both trainees and the young students they teach in Austria.

The contract contains no statistics whatsoever in such important elements as the number of working hours required of volunteers, dates and amounts of reimbursement money to be paid, or classroom sizes teachers can expect to teach. Nor does it specify any obligations on the part of the organisation to provide safe and secure accommodation for its volunteers. In fact, it does not even stipulate the nature of labor which was to be expected of us. This had implications for the volunteers on my placement as we were expected to assemble furniture for ABCi's offices after a full day of teaching in late July, even though the welcome pack clearly states that volunteers could expect to have their afternoons free after the intensive CERTesol component of the course, which had ended two months before. To be clear, this was not a voluntary option and were not provided with a way to opt-out. We were instead told one morning that after school that day we would be driven to the new office to build furniture. The furniture building took two hours longer than expected. We were then housed in the old office, and expected to sleep 10 of us in 9 beds (which had been constructed by the volunteer office interns), and provided with only one shower, which was broken, and two kitchen hobs with no oven or grill. There was also a shortage of bedding meaning I didn't have a pillow or bed sheets for several nights. This was an ongoing problem, since on our day of arrival it was clear that the apartment had not been cleaned (there were dirty razors in the bathroom, uncleaned floors and old food left in the kitchen). Again, I did not have a pillow or duvet cover. This is highly demonstrable of the way in which ABCi routinely disregarded the welfare of its volunteers.

Response from ABCi

We are genuinely sorry that you did not enjoy your time with us here in Austria, but all of our staff work really hard to ensure that all our trainees have a rewarding experience here in Austria: the combination of a TEFL teacher training course, teaching training placement in state schools and travel throughout the alpine region that ABCi offers as part of our trainee teaching placements is truly unique – I think you’ll find that there is nothing else quite like it in Europe. To be honest, most people DO in fact take advantage of these opportunities and gain both the theoretical knowledge and practical experience required to advance their careers as young ESL teachers in a beautiful setting. The "ABCi" (The student-centered initiative to to bring together English native speakers and Austrian children at all the secondary schools in Austria by 2020) has also gone through some big changes recently, namely being absorbed by the English Teacher Training College. The combination of college staff to provide teacher training and the practical teaching experience in Austrian schools means that no one leaves our course without knowing how to teach. In any event, we really do hope that you'll apply again - we take valid feedback very seriously here at the college and are quick to implement suggestions.

Please remember, the English Teacher Training College and its associated Bilingual Classroom Initiative (ABCi) is a not-for-profit Austrian College with a dual mission: Firstly, as a college, to provide a practical education in teacher training for trainees from the English-speaking world based solely on the candidate's academic merit. Secondly, as a charity outreach, to promote language learning, cultural exchange and foster understanding between English-speaking countries and Austria by bringing hundreds of teachers from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia into Austrian classrooms to reach every child with a free English project by the year 2020.

For your intake of trainee, reimbursements for travel to and from Austria were a part of the programme. Trainees were told that the reimbursement time is typically between 8 to 12 weeks, however no exact time frame can be given due to the different steps involved in this, some of which involve outside parties. The organisation is working to get the reimbursements paid to the trainees of ABCi as soon as possible and we thank them for their patience and understanding as this process takes place.

The trainee contract, which has been written by both ABCi and our legal advisers, is now written in both English and German. The contract is a legal document without which trainees would not be allowed in Austrian schools as they would not then be covered by the organisation's insurance.

It is made clear to trainees that this is not an employment contract, as they are on a course. Therefore there are no labor hours involved. Similar to a University degree, attendance is expected and, if a session is not attended, absences are noticed.

There is now a full time Welfare Officer at ABCi to deal with all concerns. When a lack of bedding was highlighted to the organisation by trainees, new bedding was purchased the next day and given to them. ABCi has professional cleaners, this is an external company which ABCi has been working closely with to ensure that they are meeting high standards. They clean the flats once a week. Trainees are responsible, however, to make sure that communal areas remain clean and tidy.

No, I don't recommend
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Millie
9/10

A great introduction to teaching

I took part in the course when the organisation was ABCi, and personally I had a great time. It was the first time I had been abroad for more than a holiday and I was quite nervous, but to be able to do this with a group of like-minded people was great. We all started at the same time, so immediately I didn't feel alone.

I remember talking to my group of trainees towards the end of the placement about what the best thing about the whole experience was- and we decided it was the amount of time we spent laughing.

You have to be pretty flexible and adaptable, because there can be last minute logistical changes. But the more relaxed and open-minded you are about it, the more you'll get out of the experience.

I'd recommend this course for anyone who wants to travel around Austria and gain lots of teaching experience. I did an online TEFL course before I came out here and learnt so much more by actually being in a classroom and teaching in different schools in Austria than I did at my computer.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing it would be getting the flight reimbursement back slightly quicker, although I understand they no longer reimburse travel. You get it back eventually though, so it wasn't really a problem.
Yes, I recommend
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A
5/10

more accountability needed

- volunteers from the last intake (april to august) are still waiting on the flight reimbursements that they were promised. while this reimbursement may not be a part of the new program, it was a part of the previous program and those volunteers are entitled to this reimbursement.

- to dismiss a former volunteer's comments, with the argument that (1) the particular program has been discontinued and (2) the content is now considered out of date, is misleading. again, the last intake was april - august of 2015, hardly out of date.

- a significant number of the reviews on this and other sites have been written by current or former employees (many who did participate in the program, but were hired afterwards) and not volunteers. if this isn't a conflict of interest, then I don't know what is.

Response from ABCi

The "ABCi" (The student-centered initiative to to bring together English native speakers and Austrian children at all the secondary schools in Austria by 2020) has also gone through some big changes recently, namely being absorbed by the English Teacher Training College. The combination of college staff to provide teacher training and the practical teaching experience in Austrian schools means that no one leaves our course without knowing how to teach. In any event, we really do hope that you'll apply again - we take valid feedback very seriously here at the college and are quick to implement suggestions.

Please remember, the English Teacher Training College and its associated Bilingual Classroom Initiative (ABCi) is a not-for-profit Austrian College with a dual mission: Firstly, as a college, to provide a practical education in teacher training for trainees from the English-speaking world based solely on the candidate's academic merit. Secondly, as a charity outreach, to promote language learning, cultural exchange and foster understanding between English-speaking countries and Austria by bringing hundreds of teachers from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia into Austrian classrooms to reach every child with a free English project by the year 2020.

ABCi is indeed registered as a nonprofit organization with the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior and fulfills all the legal and financial requirements required to achieve the status of a "gemeinnütziger verein" in Austrian law. This is publicly available information. You can quickly and easily confirm this information for yourself by checking at the ministry in Vienna or inputting our NPO registration number (249983245) in the federal "Zentrales Vereins Register" at following government website:

As a not-for-profit organization, transparency is very important to us, so the college has no problem sharing the above information with you. Please feel free to contact the campus in Vorchdorf if you have any more questions on our structure or administration.

The organisation is currently working to process the reimbursements for the previous group of trainees. Trainees are told that this process typically takes between 8 and 12 weeks, but this can fall outside of this time frame due to numerous steps being involved in this process.

We take feedback very seriously, and have numerous channels through which trainees can give us feedback, including exit interviews, complaints forms and suggestions boxes. All current feedback is processed in compliance to our feedback procedure, however as a young organisation our courses and organisation does evolve rapidly so content can become out of date fairly quickly.

We welcome feedback from all participants of our courses, regardless of whether they are currently employed with us or are no longer part of the organisation.

No, I don't recommend
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Harry
3/10

Know What You're Getting Into

Above all else, I feel the interns and trainees are being taken advantage of. I shall focus primarily on the former so as to be able to speak from personal experience. The interns' wage is unacceptable. I find it all the more despicable that we 'volunteer' 20 hours so as to ensure there is no need to pay a living wage for your workforce. When we factor in the cost of travel to and from the office (something not mentioned during the interviewing stage), it becomes extremely difficult to afford basic necessities like food. Furthermore, we were advised during the interview process to bring around 300 Euros to cover the first month of expenses. I will go onto highlight further levels of poor communication from the side of the organisation later. Regarding the previous point, it isn't explained that we wouldn't receive a proper month's wage until the middle of October. If it is difficult to make (not even) 300 Euros last 4 weeks, six weeks is near impossible. I can't help but feel as many corners are cut as possible by the organisation. Knowing that interns and trainees are in a vulnerable position, the organisation from a position of power does things like only allocate 3 keys to 5 interns, not provide a freezer for the trainee accommodation in Brunnenweg, etc. While I can accept room sharing as occurs in the interns' accommodation, I'm astounded on two counts. First, that a trainee may share his room with 3 other people, and second that up to 400 Euros is taken from the interns' wage for the pleasure of being housed in a different town to the office. Again, this wasn't told during the interviewing process. If given proper notice, I would have personally preferred receiving my wage in full and have the opportunity to source more appropriate accommodation for the duration of my stay. Regardless of whether or not I would have been successful, I feel it's my right to make the decision. Moreover, the fact that the interns' have such a sizeable amount of their wage taken because of our accommodation makes the threat of random trainees being dumped in our flat with no more than 48 hours' notice and no consideration is all the more galling. I emailed HR twice regarding this matter for clarification on whether or not rumours were true. These were ignored.

In my time I've found this organisation disturbingly disorganised. In the first week, the interns were very much an afterthought, left alone for hours on end with no work or guidance. We all became quite familiar with the coffee machine and the interior design of the kitchen. Why all of us had to pay extortionate amounts of money for a hotel just so we could sit through a trainee teacher lecture is beyond me. Why not save your hardworking new staff a hotel bill by housing them one extra night or else pushing timing back a few hours and negating team building. Why team build when the majority will move on across the country, not to be seen again for several weeks? Further examples of disorganisation can be found regarding the use of the virtual classroom. I believe I'm correct in saying trainees are supposed to be handling it during regular hours. If that is wrong, it seems strange that interns would be taken away from their regular duties. Regardless, both times that I've been asked to handle virtual classroom duties (on both occasions told at 1400, with no consideration for what work I may be doing) I was given no advice regarding where I could go. What results is a desperate rush around Vorchdorf looking for a free computer where I won't disturb other staff. This isn't to mention having to borrow appropriate kit to utilise a microphone and hear sound. Further highlights of disorganisation include, during the first project week the interns were sent out on, the girls (staying in a different town to me) arriving at their accommodation to find nobody in the guest house and no key. When they were eventually let into their house, the senior teacher and I faced the same problem at our accommodation. To date, I have done 1 project week, 1 project day and assisted another intern on the final day of her project week. None of the interns have received training regarding proper ABCi practices. We have viewed a senior teacher take 1 period of our classes individually during the first project week. I have personally had the least amount of teaching when it comes to the interns. That one of the other interns is set to do 5 consecutive weeks of teaching in the first 6 weeks of work is absolutely astounding. None of us came here to be teachers. We all have varying levels of experience anyway and chose to come here to work in an office. I would suggest for the next intake, that interns arrive a week earlier than trainees to help in preparation for their arrival. It may just help the logistical nightmare that this organisation seems to face every day (if the completely unreliable, ever-changing calendar is anything to go by). Finally, the interns haven't been allocated our due holidays in September.

Below I shall outline examples of poor communication from this organisation:

We were told by different parties that the introduction of a wage was because of a change in the law or out of the goodness of this organisation's heart. I don't think it's too cynical to assume the former over the latter.

In week 3, interns hadn't been allocated time to open a bank account. Communication regarding this amounted to surprise and acknowledgement that something should happen regarding this.
Office training was allocated 2 hours. This consisted of a second identical tour of the office and a 5 minute guide on how to use the printer.

Interns are invited to a team building lunch that is mandatory (how else would we get home after the project day if our senior staff member that drove us is going). We are then told, at the end of the meal, that we have to pay. Why weren't we warned beforehand? To assume causes unnecessary stress.

The contract we signed is in German. Why is there not an English copy? It is pure luck that 2 of the interns speak German. Regardless of whether or not it would be official, an English transcript seems appropriate.

Finally, there has been no opportunity for professional development. The first aid course consisted of a four hour lecture with minimal practical activities. The teacher training (lectures) is not relevant for me personally or professionally (we aren't supposed to be teaching regularly and don’t receive any formal qualification). The intern office work is menial and doesn't allow for any learning of the inner-workings of a nonprofit. I had personally hoped to be able to spend at least some time shadowing the Director of Fundraising and to sit in on some meetings. While I have expressed this wish, my work has consisted of moving information from one spreadsheet to another.

Response from ABCi

This review was left by one of our office interns, who left the programme after 3 weeks of being here. We take feedback received seriously, and therefore will take the time to respond to each of the points mentioned here.

It is quite rare for office internships to be paid, particularly within the non-profit sector, and as an organisation we made the decision to pay our interns so that we could give them added responsibility and let them have an input in many staff-level decisions. This is also exceptional for an internship placement.

As far as accommodation goes, again we made the decision to house them and this is a benefit to them because we don't want interns to worry or busy themselves with searching for accommodation when they begin their internship. The alpine area in which we are situated has high rental prices and Austrian rental contracts are very rarely for less than 3 years. Trainees and interns do share rooms with other trainees, and this is made clear at several points in the admissions and recruitment processes. Due to logistics, accommodation changes can happen at short notice, and we try to provide information on this as soon as we have it.

The interns are given a substantial amount of time in the first week to help them familiarise themselves with the teaching programme, so they do not have to spend their evenings doing this. We have, however, taken this feedback on board and intensified the first week of the internship programme, so that interns begin their regular duties earlier. The interns in our current programme did experience a lot of teaching at first. This was due to a lot of projects taking place at the beginning of the school year and also schools wanting extra classes at our projects to allow refugee children to take part. The amount of teaching that this intern's group experienced was an exceptional situation and going forward we have structured our project coordination so that interns will only have to teach in the event of illness or a sudden increase in project numbers, which rarely happens.

As part of the initial week at ABCi, our trainees and interns take part in a special team building event. Team building is a very important part of arriving at ABCi, and feedback from it has always been positive. The participants get to experience something new in Austria, and is not only important for getting to know everyone there, but is also structured in a way that it helps to strengthen the individual teaching teams.

As an Austrian organisation, all of our legal documentation has to be in German for it to be legal. The contracts are signed whilst a member of staff who speaks both German and English is in the office.

Professional development is an integral part of the internship placement, and our supervisors meet once per week in order to make sure that interns receive special projects which will help them learn new skills. The welfare of our trainees and interns is also of high importance to us, so there is a designated Welfare Officer to oversee all issues and concerns.
We are a registered non-profit organisation with a specific aim of reaching children in rural areas. Most children in these areas have never met a native speaker of English before, and have not been to an English speaking country. Not only do we promote English language, but also the culture from English speaking countries. We specifically focus on rural schools which don't have access to native speakers and for whom an English project with our trainees marks an unforgettable experience with a culture they have only read about or seen on TV. These rural schools and children often lack the financial resources to fly to England or the USA so, acting as a charity organisation, we bring these far away countries to them for free.
Our sponsors recognise this need for bilingual exchange and support the work we do. At the moment we are working with many refugee children. As a non-profit organisation, any money which is received through memberships goes directly back into allowing us to provide free project days for all schools in Austria and quality teacher training for our trainees who teach these projects.

In terms of the duties and responsibilities of an intern in the fundraising and marketing department, the job description matches that of most, ordinary fundraising/marketing internships. This includes things like: researching new companies and foundations to contact for support, maintaining the existing database of donors and supporters, helping in writing minor proposals and reports to donors, researching new fundraising markets, posting about ABCi events on our blog and Facebook, providing information to local media outlets about our charity work/events, etc

We have also structured our internship program such that interns do administrative tasks (like the ones mentioned above) for half of their time and then provide interns with the tools and training to pursue their own projects or initiatives and/or accompany members of staff to events where they can witness, first hand, the work of their department. For this intern, this consisted of training on a high resolution camera followed by several trips to schools to take pictures of our projects for marketing purposes. Another project, initiated by the intern, involved researching a special topic relevant to our field of work and then posting it on our blog after getting feedback from a senior member of staff. Finally, the Development Office had planned to bring this intern to several fundraising meetings to witness, first-hand, how this job is done in Austria, but the intern left two weeks before his placement in the Development Office was finished.

No, I don't recommend
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Maria
10/10

A very rewarding and valuable experience

As someone with 6 months experience teaching in China I was very keen to finally experience teaching in Europe - and when I saw the advertisement for ABCi I thought that this would be a great route for me to go down. ABCi offered me a Trinity Cert TESOL qualification in return for my time - so I got an internationally recognised language teaching qualification for free AND 3 months teaching experience in Austria on top of that - a great addition to my CV. Another great advantage was the variety of experience: a different school each week provided me with the opportunity to teach students from 5/6 years old up to students in their early twenties; and the opportunity to experience small rural schools, huge urban schools and everything between. I could also spend my weekends and down time experiencing many different cities in Austria - from Gmunden, Salzburg, Graz to Vienna. But for me the most valuable part of this experience was volunteering for an NPO. Visiting schools for just one day to provide them with free and fun English lessons and seeing how grateful they were for my time and efforts was incredibly rewarding and important to me. Thank you ABCi for giving me this fantastic opportunity!

Yes, I recommend
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Teresa
9/10

A great experience!

I have recently taken part in the office internship with ABCi. I worked in the office and helped to ensure that the teachers of ABCi had everything that they needed. I worked in HR, Project Logistics and Fundraising and Marketing. It was interesting to be able to see how the administration of a not-for-profit organisation works. Although a lot of my tasks weren't all too challenging, I enjoyed the more creative tasks like creating a newsletter. One of my favourite parts was gaining experience teaching in the classroom. The ABCi program is great fun to teach and it was amazing to witness the students finding ways to communicate to me and to each other in English, coming up with creative plays and playing the games and singing the songs with huge grins on their faces. I have enjoyed my time in Austria immensely, all the staff were very friendly and it was great working together with other people, who are all passionate about teaching and working towards the same goal.

How can this program be improved?
More notice about logistical changes.
Yes, I recommend

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The ABCi initiative was absorbed by the English Teacher Training College in 2015. At that time, the existing ABCi volunteer programs were discontinued and the college began offering incoming students internationally recognized TEFL certifications in...