What I discovered was that learning to be independent wasn’t as hard as I had thought, at least, with all of the helpful program staff it wasn’t. It felt like learning how to ride a bicycle for the first time- you teeter off on your own, but there are always arms there to catch you if you fall. The Abbey Road staff gave us just enough independence to try and learn how to live on our own, how to budget money, and how to do our own laundry, but they were always there to help guide us as well. Things like grocery shopping on Mondays or having cooking groups on Wednesdays taught me skills that I took home with me, like preparing a healthy meal and budgeting. Abbey Road also improved my people skills. When living in apartments with 3 or 4 roommates, conflicts are inevitable. Throughout the program the staff was always there to sort out major issues, but they put a lot of emphasis on dealing with personality conflicts in an independent, mature positive way. It’s likely that I will have a lot of roommates in my life, and the Abbey Road staff taught me valuable communication and problem solving skills so that I can fix small issues and avoid conflicts with people in the future…”I am not the only one who became more independent and learned important life skills from my time spent in Florence with Abbey Road. Jenny Hirsch, a 23-year-old teacher and recent graduate, was a student with Abbey Road in Florence during the summer after her senior year. She returned this year to act as an Abbey Road Resident Advisor having graduated with a degree in Italian Studies. “Abbey Road changed my life. I’m so grateful I got the chance to go,” says Hirsch. “I had just turned 18 when I did the program, and I was heading off to college the week after I got home. Abbey Road was amazing preparation for that.” Hirsch explains that before participating on an Abbey Road program she was nervous about leaving home. “After going away and spending a month in Florence, I knew that I could live on my own in a city I wasn’t familiar with, and make friends and enjoy my classes, learning about new things.” For her, college became a much less scary concept because she had become more independent and confident about living on her own. Hirsch says that her experience with Abbey Road was so amazing, and made her so much more confident as a person, that she was inspired to return and give students that same experience. Katie Schwartz, a 16-year-old from Dallas, TX, and a 2010 program participant had similar feelings.“It was different at first,” Schwartz explains, “I had to collaborate with peers as opposed to following counselors all the time. There wasn’t always a mediator, and I learned how to handle life situations by myself. After a while my roommates and I learned what we expected of each other, and I became more confident in my people skills.” For Schwartz, learning how to budget was also a major skill she learned from Abbey Road. “I really learned the importance of keeping track of your spending and being careful with what I bought through our weekly apartment food stipends. I know what I go home I will be much more mature when it comes to things like that.” In conclusion, Abbey Road’s programs not only focuses on making sure students have an amazing summer, but also make sure they return home with valuable life skills. The Abbey Road program provides an opportunity to boost your own self-confidence by becoming more independent and a better problem solver. Perhaps the most valuable thing I learned from my summer abroad did not come from my formal classes rather, it was learning every day how to be an adult and live on my own. As college approaches fast, it is comforting to know that I will be able to meet new people and enjoy myself in a brand new environment. Abbey Road has really changed me for the better, and I know I am not alone in that!
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My Summer Abroad with Abbey Road Programs in Florence - by JD N.