Summer programs abroad for high school students - Abbey Road Programs
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My Study Abroad experience with Abbey Road Programs in Florence - by Mackenzie O.


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Abbey Road was the best program because I loved the idea of having one stationary home. My friends and I became such locals, that every day after Italian we went to the same tiny shop in Il Mercato Central and got our mozzarella, pomodori and pesto Panini. On our last day of Italian, we went to our Panini lady and she knew exactly what we wanted without us asking! Another benefit is that Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, so the weekends are spent visiting other towns like Siena, Lucca and my personal favorite Cinque Terre.I took Italian as my major class and art history as my minor. The art history instructor Daniele (who was also my cooking leader, best cooking group ever) is truly an amazing instructor. Florence is home to some of the most amazing pieces of art like Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria Academia and Brunelleschi’s Duomo (which you will literally pass 4 times a day), it is the quintessential place to study art history. 

Abbey Road has this unique aspect to their programs in that they give you independence, but still make you feel safe and secure. Abbey Road provides a pre-college experience through living with unfamiliar people, doing your laundry and taking out the trash. One of my favorite aspects of the program, was the fact that when you wanted to meet up with a friend to go to Brandy Melville or just go get some gelato, they are just across the hall, like a dorm room. I also really liked the tri-weekly cooking groups because it gave everyone time to bond, learn a new skill and my cooking group even ate together on a balcony with a view of the Duomo! 

My main advice to any future Abbey Roaders would be to sign up for every single activity you get the chance to. The days are long and can become tiring, so take a nap during the afternoon and then save your energy to go to Neri or Perché No (the best gelato place) at night. Also, take advantage of the suggestion box because it provides amazing opportunities like going to the Ballet! My summer in Florence taught me about art history, how to prepare for college and most of all, how to live like a Florence native!

Have you participated in study abroad programs or camps before in previous summers? 
 Yes. I have been on two summer abroad trips before. The first was going into sophomore year I went to Spain for four weeks on a language immersion program through [program name removed]. I have been taking Spanish since the seventh grade and am currently taking AP Spanish. The trip consisted of a 2-week stay in a town taking classes and then a week alone in a Spanish home stay. The summer going into my junior year I went to Israel on a four week Jewish confirmation trip. It was more of a religious trip. 

 Why did you choose to go with Abbey Road Florence this summer? 
 I was looking for a program in a country where I didn’t speak the language and that was stationed mainly in one location. I came across the Abbey Road website and I thought it looked interesting. Then, I was on facebook and I saw my cousin’s pictures from when she was in Italy and she went on the Abbey Road Florence program. When I asked her about it she told me that it was an amazing experience! 

 How was it to travel on a summer program without knowing anyone beforehand? On my Spain trip I went without knowing anybody and on my Israel trip I went with friends. I believe the best way to do teen travel is to do to it alone because you do not rely on a friend and that way you become much more inclusive to meeting new people. 
 Was there anything that was unexpected or surprised you about the program? 
 Everything the program said would happen actually happened! Also, all of the counselors were great. There wasn’t one favorite or one that nobody liked. They were all very welcoming even if they weren’t my cooking group leader or academic teacher. They always made me feel safe. One aspect I really liked about the program that neither one of the other programs I had been on had before was the suggestion box. Students could put ideas in for activities. One of the activities we ended up doing was a trip to the ballet, which I put in the suggestion box. My Abbey Road trip to Florence has been my favorite of summer excursions because of the people, location and organization of the program. I liked Spain as a country the best because I study Spanish and was able to greatly improve on my language skills. On this trip though, I gained a lot of knowledge about the Italian culture. By the end of the trip, you are transformed from a tourist to a citizen of Firenze. 

 Describe the apartment residence. What did you enjoy about living with other students? What about the location?
 My apartment was great and I liked that the roommate situation because it was a very pre-college experience. I loved the dorm like atmosphere because it taught all of us to be more responsible in taking care of a home because you share with your roommates the responsibilities of taking out the trash, doing the laundry and going grocery shopping. Also, being able to knock on my good friend’s door across the hall at any time and asking if she wants to go out was very easy and accessible. My roommate was very nice and every night we would stay up late talking, but we didn’t really hang out outside the apartment. My other two roommates in our apartment were really nice as well. The location of the apartment was great. Everything was a 10 minute walk away and one of the advantages of Florence is you never get lost because you walk straight on Via San Gallo to get anywhere. 

 In what way did the dorm-like atmosphere you mentioned directly help prepare you for college?
 I thought the dorm life situation was very realistic. You are living with people you don’t know and you have to be more of an adult. My personal area can be messy, but I like to keep the common areas clean. Whether it’s grocery shopping or calling the first shower, by interacting with roommates you learn how to communicate effectively. 

 The program provides daily optional activities along with free time. Because free time is an opportunity to explore the city within the safety guidelines, it provides the opportunity to gain independence. How did you feel about Abbey Road’s approach to free time? I thought there was a great balance of free time [and activities]. I thought the amount of free time was good and was about what we were told we would have. I used my free time to walk around and explore. I would go and get a gelato, go to Brandy Melville or take a nap. Overall, I thought the free time was the perfect amount. I liked that we had the option of free time in or out as a nighttime activity and of course I always went out because why stay inside when you only have four weeks in Florence? 

 What advice would you give to a future Abbey Road Student?
 Take art history because Daniele is awesome! Take out the recycling before it stacks up too high. Take advantage of all the activities and use the suggestion box. Also, rent a cell phone. I was one of the few that did not have a cell phone and I think it was a mistake. I used calling cards to call back home, which worked well, but next time I would get a phone. A lot of the students had rented the Italian cell phones and they could get a hold of one another very easily. It would have been nice to have one so that I could text and call my friends. 

 You participated on the optional travel extension to Rome and the end of the program. What did you enjoy about that added experience in Italy?
 One of the benefits of going on the extension trip to Rome was that at the end of the Florence trip, you are not ready to leave because Florence feels like home. On the Rome extension, the group trickles down and everybody is really close and you still have a wonderful time but, at the end you feel you are ready to go home back to the US. In this way Rome slowly transitions you out of the trip.

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