As I have been getting increasingly excited for my time with Abbey Road Programs in St. Laurent Du Var, France, I have begun multiple steps of preparation to ensure that I will have the most fulfilling trip possible. One of the first things I did in anticipation of going to France was set up a Duolingo account. Since I am not and have never taken French at school and have been teaching myself and learning through my mom, with the help of a few adult night classes at the Alliance Francaise here in Austin, Texas, this has become a crucial step for me. I downloaded Duolingo as an app on my phone for free, but I more often visit the website on my laptop. This enabled me to learn French at a level I feel is fair and quite rapid. I have set my account up so that each day, through the app, I get a reminder that it is “time to study.”
Duolingo has proven very motivational and I can easily say I have gained well over half my knowledge from it in the few short weeks I have been practicing on it. I would highly recommend Duolingo to anyone, anywhere, who is in search of a free, simple, and beneficial way of learning, practicing, or maintaining a language. If you are not a beginner, a quick placement test upon downloading will set you up exactly where you need to be.
Since I am leaving for Europe well ahead of time to visit a friend in Austria then spend a week traveling in Provence with my mother before being dropped off in St. Laurent and meeting the rest of my group, I have nearly concluded my packing. All my recommendations for this would be to think practically about what you will be wearing in the summer there, factoring in weather, and checking the provided Abbey Road packing list! Realizing that the south of France is not altogether so foreign that if you run out of or forget something you really need one wouldn’t be able to find it with ease.
Last summer I purchased a professional camera for the first time. Throughout the past year, I have gotten adjusted to it and am now a huge proponent of cameras and pictures via the camera as well as/on top of the phone, which is most people’s go to. I am making sure to pack my camera, charger, memory card, and even tripod so that I will not only be able to capture high-quality images for my blog posts but also just enjoy documenting beautiful and fun images throughout my month living there.
Without a doubt, my most enjoyable preparation for St. Laurent Du Var has been everything surrounding my roommate, Bronte. Last week, I received an email from Abbey Road with my host family and roommate information. I read through the email and the first thing I did following was go to Instagram and search for Bronte, knowing that this would be the most straightforward and fastest way we could connect. Within minutes of finding her account and requesting to follow her, she had accepted my requests and followed me back. It took us only moments before we were messaging each other via Instagram and then exchanging other information, like out phone numbers.
Since “meeting” Bronte, we have realized how awesome this pairing is, how much we have in common, and how much we are looking forward to both the program in general and also spending a month with one another. Together we have discussed our host family and cool it is that we will share a one-year-old host family brother for a month as well as how our host family’s apartment is located very centrally, an approximately two-minute walk from the town center.
Just three days after connecting on social media, Bronte asked Facetime me. This ended up being tons of fun and a great way to feel like you know your roommate and are comfortable with them before you meet them in person. Then, as everything else around you is new and unknown, like your host family and the town you are in, there is a bonded feeling with your roommate already!
If I were to only make one recommendation to anyone attending an Abbey Road program abroad in the future, it would, no hesitation, be to reach out to your roommate when you receive the email. This has already impacted my journey, and the actual start is still weeks away. Now that I feel closer with Bronte and consider her my friend, it has made me feel far more comfortable with something that can otherwise be anxiety-inducing and calmed my worries about the possibility of not getting along well with the person whom I would have to live with for a month.
Lastly, everyone who works for Abbey Road is beyond kind and helpful. I have found that everyone I have communicated with has provided for me some piece of helpful information or advice. Fabien, for example, lives and works in France and does much of the European Public Relations. He Skype-chatted with me weeks ago when I was trying to determine whether the Abbey Road program, specifically the St. Laurent Du Var one, was the proper fit for me. It was upon this Skype call that I determined it was, in fact, my dream summer program, thanks to Fabien. On that Skype call, Fabien informed me I could reach back out to him and we could set up multiple Skype dates to practice conversational French with one another.
This offer is one hard to pass up. I think highlights the eagerness and participation of those who are working for and running Abbey Road. The clear dedication and commitment of everyone running this wonderful program is something I’m so eager and lucky to experience.