My experience in the Abbey Road Florence program this past summer was INCREDIBLE. I found Abbey Road on google and decided on a whim to go with this program. They were VERY accommodating to me, because I had a complicated summer schedule with existing plans and they worked right around them. For the month long program in Florence, I attended 11 days of it (due to existing other plans in the middle of the month of July). My 11 days there were AMAZING, but I will forever regret not staying the whole month. Here is a breakdown of each element in my experience:
THE STAFF: We had 4 staff members accompany us for this trip. Each one of them were extremely knowledgable about Italy and it's lifestyle. They were so helpful in getting us acquainted with Italy, without making us feel like tourists. They really wanted us to feel like locals and we did! I bonded with the staff very quickly. They were all smart, dedicated and truly caring for each on e of us. I still keep in touch with one of the staff members, because we made such a close bond.
THE RESIDENCE: We stayed in an apartment complex outside the main square of the city. It was the perfect distance to walk anywhere we needed to go. It was a very nice building, true Italian style. It was very safe with two locks to get into the building as well as locks on each individual apartment. The apartments themselves were well equipped with everything we needed (food, toiletries, water, linens, towels, etc.(. It was really rewarding to be able to live apartment style, because it gave a glimpse of what it will be like to live on our own. We were responsible for grocery shopping, taking out the trash, cleaning, etc.
THE PEOPLE: There were 20 other students on my program from all over the US. I went not knowing anyone who was going, a lot of the people came with one friend or relative, but there was a good amount who came alone. It took about a day for all of us to start to bond. I instantly became close with my roommate and apartment mates. The staff helped to break the ice with all of us and we all got along really well. One of the reasons I was so upset to leave early was because I was leaving people who I really loved and made a bond with.
THE EXPERIENCE: The entire experience was priceless. The classes were fun and entertaining, but the best part was exploring. We were given a lot of free time to explore, shop, eat and just experience Italy in our own way. This was one of my favorite things about the program. It was very structured, but at the same time it gave us all an opportunity to experience Italy in a personalized way. Each weekend we traveled to different cities outside of Florence. The weekend trips were some of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It was so awesome to see other cities in Italy and experience more than just Florence. Florence quickly became our home and within just a fe days, we knew our way around the whole city and we were speaking Italian to the locals. I also never felt unsafe, which is a big deal to me. We always traveled in pairs, if not bigger groups.
All in all, I had the most fantastic summer of my entire life. I would repeat it every year if I could. Italy inspired me and I wish to go back very soon. This program is truly amazing and I can't recommend it enough. There were a lot of people who had never traveled even outside of their state, let alone the country, and they had the most amazing introduction the the foreign world around them.