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My experience with Abbey Road Programs in Florence – by Maddie K.
by Student, Maddie K. , Connecticut

For my minor class, Photography, my teacher was Pamela whom everyone liked to call Pam. Pam was funny, caring, and very helpful in teaching us all the mechanisms of our cameras. It was very interesting to learn what kind of features our cameras had, and how they could enhance any pictures we would take.

I also found her to be very informational when it came to what made a strong picture and what did not; her criticisms were never rude, only constructive. Overall, she was a joy to learn from and hang out with. Since I was taking Drawing as my major, I had two teachers: Lindsay and William.

Right from the start, they were very skilled in making everyone feel comfortable and confident. They were bright and cheerful, and always full of good humor. They had a really good attitude they were serious about their work. They taught us all the techniques we needed to know to make our masterpieces while still allowing us to maintain our own original style. Their lessons blended into one another and allowed us to understand the basics behind every picture, all the while helping to build up our art skills. I can honestly say that Lindsay and William are two of the best teachers I have ever had in all my years of making art.

The living environment in Italy was certainly an interesting experience. Though I had only one roommate, there were four girls in my apartment. Getting along with them and learning how to co-exist was certainly an experience. I feel that it was a good glimpse into how college life would be like, and a good way to learn how to deal with people who have ways and habits that you are not accustomed to. It was a good learning experience. Activities for class, both for the afternoon and night, were extremely fun.

I liked how there was always a choice of being active or allowing yourself time to relax before your next class, or for a restful night in. Because of the “free-time” option, I felt that there was always a good balance. I also liked how there were really fun activities to be done every day. One of my favorite activities was going to the pool. It was really great to go and swim on those really hot days after walking around the city for class, and it was a great time to hang out with friends from the trip.

I personally felt that the pool allowed us to not only cool off and socialize but see a glimpse of everyday Italian life as we swam with residential Italians. My other favorite activities were “Night Sketching” and “Night Photography”. Night sketching was really fun because we got to go out to the bridge and draw the Ponte Vecchio when it was all lit up. The reflections in the water and all the lights of the city were just really amazing to see. Night photography was really fun because we got to see Florence in a completely different way and catch it on film. It was fun taking pictures of the nightlife, the scenery in the dark, and all the little interesting shadows that popped up.

For both of these activities, the air was cool and comfortable so I was really able to enjoy the activities to the fullest. Over the entire course of the program, I always looked forward to the weekend trips. My favorite places were Lucca, Cinque Terre, the beach, and Pisa. Lucca was just really fun. I loved how we were able to explore the city and eat lunch with our friends during the free time before we had our activities; because it was the first weekend of the trip, it was a good time to socialize and make new friends, which is exactly what I did.

Climbing the tower with the trees on top was amazing since we got a great view of the city, and the bike ride around the wall afterward was just icing on the cake. Cinque Terre was fun because it was the first beach we went to and we had a lot of time to grab some delicious food and then play in the ocean and relax. I really liked seeing the coast of Italy and I got some amazing shots from the cliff we walked on to get to the city. I liked how there were so many lovelocks and how people even carved their names into the plants. Overall, the views were amazing, the food was great, and I got to hang out with my friends and relax on a beach.

The trip to the big beach was absolutely great since we got our own chairs and umbrellas, and the waves were absolutely amazing. My friends and I had a lot of fun taking pictures of ourselves in the water, and we even got some funny shots of us trying to catch a picture of us in midair. Pisa right after that was fun too. I was able to get the picture I had always wanted of holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and I even got a snapshot of me pushing it over.

It was one thing I was able to cross off my “bucket list” and it was really fun watching hundreds of people doing the same pose over and over again. Overall, I really loved the trip to Italy and I made some really good friends. I learned new art techniques that have made me a better artist, tried new foods and ways of living, and had many fun experiences that I will never forget. I feel that the trip was worth my while and I hope that I will get to do something like this again.

Everyone has different reasons for pursuing study abroad in Florence. Some come for art, others history, others culture and some just to live away from home. What were you looking for when you researched summer options?

 I was looking for something that incorporated hobbies that I love to do, especially something that included art. I was also looking to have a really good experience and delve into another culture. I wanted to go outside my comfort zone and get an idea of what college might be like. So my reasons were a mixture of wanting to have fun and trying to get ready for the next big step in my life.

The Florence program incorporated more of the activities I wanted to do and I have always wanted to go to Florence. In school, we learn how it’s the birthplace of the Renaissance and it’s filled with amazing art so for me, it sounded like the most interesting place to go to.

 You have never been abroad or done sleep-away camp before. How was it to travel without knowing anyone beforehand? What were the other students like? Did you have any hesitations?

I think some of my major fears were normal ones like would I get along with my roommate, would I get along with the teachers? [On departure day] when I got to the airport, I started talking with other students and realized that we had a lot in common and I started to feel more comfortable. Then as time goes on you feel like you have known them for a really long time and it feels like you have made a few best friends in a just few days. I made a few really good friends on the trip and we still talk.

We even have a few inside jokes from the trip. The [other students] were all pretty peppy and upbeat. Most of the students really did want to improve their skills. Everyone wanted to hang out with other people and go into town and explore the world. I think that everyone there wanted to be independent and learn how to be more independent and take care of himself or herself.

 Florence is a pre-college program where you live in a historic apartment in the heart of the city. How was the living situation in your opinion? Did the program meet its pre-college expectations?

I liked the location of the apartments. They were in a really good area I felt safe there, but also it was in the heart of Florence so I only had to walk a few blocks to get to the Duomo or to get to the market. There was this little cafe on the corner and every morning we would go in and get a croissant and the guy would be so nice to you. The apartments I thought were really nice and very spacious. In my apartment, we had a big kitchen and two rooms and we had a balcony; that was really great because we would take our cooking group up there and eat dinner.

I thought it was very manageable for four girls who didn’t know each other to live and get along in for a month. I definitely think [the program] helped me in getting the vibe of college in the way of having a roommate and living with people who at first you don’t know and making your way in your own apartment and having that responsibility. I also think it helped because in college I’m told that you only have a few classes each day and then there’s a lot of free time to do your work and we had that kind of schedule.

We would have a class for a few hours and then have free time and I think that the staff gave us a lot of responsibility and independence so that we could act like young adults trying to make our way in the world. We had limits on the city, but they didn’t say that after class we had to stay in the building so I thought that was good. I thought the staff really helped us be more independent in that way.

 You took Drawing as your morning major class. Can you describe the class and the instructors?

I loved my drawing teachers. I thought William and Lindsay were so amazing and talented. What was different from my classes here was that each lesson they did blend in with the next one. You were able to see what they were teaching you to go into your pieces. For example, one day we would draw without looking at the paper and that gave us a sense of distance and shape.

The next day would focus on gestural and the day after that would incorporate both of those so you could get a whole picture of both. They taught the class in a way that each piece that they gave you to do eventually helped you to create one full piece, which was really cool.

 Do you consider yourself a serious artist?

 I do. I don’t know if it’s going to be a life career, but I do take it seriously and I definitely have a passion for it.

 Did you develop any new artistic techniques?

I did. My drawing style is mostly Japanese cartoons. Just being on the program, it’s kind of amazing, I’ve been able to draw more realistic stuff. In just one month, I was able to really get an eye for shading and an eye for shape. It’s amazing how proficient I became at drawing realistic stuff. I pretty much gained an entirely new artistic genre that I could delve into.

Would you recommend the class to other serious art students? What about beginners?

I would recommend it to serious artists, but I would also recommend it to people who maybe just want to do something fun or learn a new art style because the classes challenge you, but they really help even a beginner gain experience and their own style. I could not draw realistic stuff when I got there and I came back pretty good at it. I would definitely recommend it to high levels, but also to beginners. People were able to do the criteria needed for assignments, but they were able to do it in their own style, which made it so that everyone advanced at the same pace. They were able to do their own thing, but still, incorporate what we were learning in that day’s lesson.

Was there anything about the trip that surprised you or that was unexpected?

Yes, but in a good way. For drawing, I thought we were going to be in an art studio, but instead, we would walk around the city and literally sit on the street and draw. I thought that was a lot more interesting than if we had just been sitting in an art studio because not only did we get to explore the city, but also I felt like we got to interact more with the culture and the people of Florence.

People would come up to us and tell us that we were amazing artists and that was fun and surprising in a good way too. The people of Florence were so nice, that surprised me too. Whenever I have gone overseas in the past the people have been nice, but they weren’t as great as the people in Italy. They would come up to you and smile and talk and I just thought that was really cool.

 What advice would you give to a future Abbey Road student going on the program?

I would say its okay to be nervous and to be a bit scared because it is a big thing and for some people, it can be a completely different experience, but they should embrace it. It’s a way to see a different side of life and to make new memories and have new experiences that you may never be able to do again. It’s a once in a lifetime thing and you really want to take that opportunity. Just be yourself and have fun with it. I feel like I’d probably say it’s a way for them to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives