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Abbey Road Alumni Essays

Heidi Y., Ohio: Aix-en-Provence Program
Abbey Road Programs Heidi Y. "Not only did I vastly improve my French and make a few life-long friends, but I learned to stop. An act that would be considered so elementary, so simple, and yet, it’s practically foreign to the American people. We’re fast-paced, we move constantly, and it seems that if you stop to take a breath, even for a moment, you’ll be lost. Of course, it’s effortless to stop and enjoy the moment when you’re sitting on the edge of a gorgeous fountain. As soon as I stepped onto the charter bus blasting French techno music, I knew this was going to be an experience I’d never forget…"

Looking out the window at the countryside full of sunflowers and lavender, it’s easy to drift away. To slow down, as so many of the French people are known for. Not only did I vastly improve my French and make a few life-long friends, but I learned to stop. An act that would be considered so elementary, so simple, and yet, it’s practically foreign to the American people. We’re fast-paced, we move constantly, and it seems that if you stop to take a breath, even for a moment, you’ll be lost. Of course, it’s effortless to stop and enjoy the moment when you’re sitting on the edge of a gorgeous fountain eating Callison (a specialty in Aix) or laying down in the garden of a striking old mansion watching the stars, or even browsing through the Marche aux Puces on Saturday morning talking with the locals. But here, sitting in front of my computer at home, or laying down in front of the TV after a few hours of tireless homework, it’s a little harder to stop. To slow down. To savor. Savor like we used to savor the pain au chocolate in the morning, or how it was almost impossible to take a bite of a homemade crepe without closing your eyes and letting out a blissful "mmm". My trip to Aix has helped me in so many ways. From the first time I walked into French class this year and everyone’s jaw dropped as I had an effortless conversation with the teacher. Or being able to stop and look at the beautiful champs au lavande and pinpoint just the right artful moment to take a snapshot of, one of the many skills I learned in my digital photography class, taught by a wonderful local photographer. And, if it’s not these things that I took away from the entire experience, it’s the memories. Of going to cafés late in the day with friends, sitting, laughing, enjoying everything around us, of playing soccer in the park with a few children from the area, of walking into a crowded restaurant and screaming with everyone as we watched the World Cup, or even waking up every morning to the sound of an Opera singer belting it out across the apartment complex (of course, I look back more fondly on that now). If not for anything else, that’s what makes it all worth it. The little moments. The moments where you slow down. The moments that become unforgettable.

Angie L., New York: Aix-en-Provence Program
Abbey Road Programs Angie L. "The month I spent in Aix-en-Provence with Abbey Road is certainly one I will never forget. It was my first time living in a foreign country for an extended amount of time and I think the experience was definitely fortified by the fact that I was not with family, but living with friends – having peers for roommates and being able to explore the city and surrounding areas with them. Obviously, one of my major aims in choosing the program was to upkeep or even improve my French speaking skills over the summer…"

This was certainly achieved: living among locals and having to communicate with them personally in order to complete such errands as grocery shopping or eating dinner or withdrawing money was an introduction to all the colloquial expressions and uses of grammar that cannot be learned from a textbook. However, in retrospect, improvement in speaking French was not really the reward I appreciate most from Aix. The most valuable thing that I walked away with was, I think, a new appreciation and understanding of French culture: being a student and not a tourist in the country made a huge difference in my ability to see all the things that make the country special and beautiful. I met many kind natives who would help my classmates and I when we struggled to speak at the beginning of the program. I also saw a lot of local traditions that were very eye opening. I think beyond all else that is the most important thing to take away from an experience like this, because it is the most unique opportunity offered through living in the country semi-independently. Following this summer, I find I am a lot more willing to try new things. Doing something different in one’s own country suddenly feels a lot less intimidating when you’ve spent a month doing something new every day in a totally foreign country. I love having more courage to branch out and experiment with whatever it may be: a new hobby, a new food, etc. I was glad to come home at the end of July, but I really hope I can return to France soon and immerse myself again in all the aspects of the country that I love. These are the three rewards that my time in Aix gave me that I find most significant and that I can appreciate above all and I know they will stay with me for a very long time.

Sarah P., New York: Aix-en-Provence Program
Abbey Road Programs Sarah P. "My experience in Aix-en-Provence with Abbey Road was amazing! Before leaving I had two goals--improve my French and try new things. Now my French skills (oral, reading and writing) have skyrocketed and I’m more confident in putting these to use. Along with the improvement in French, I’ve expanded my horizons on other levels. For example, while abroad I tried new food like savory crepes, cheese and many more, as well as new activities like cliff jumping and even laundry…"

And now I also have experience living with a roommate, managing money, and spending my time well (things I will use in college and later in life). I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived at the airport, but I had high hopes. I anticipated making amazing friends, speaking a whole lot of French, traveling to new and exciting places and leaving with memories I will cherish forever. I can confidently say I did all those things.

To truly put my French to the test, my friends and I spoke only in French from nine to five with a break at lunch; that alone made me better. In addition, I spoke French with locals and to our group leaders. I practiced so much I believe I really improved my skills, which will help me as I begin French 4H. I was also able to travel to beautiful and interesting cities close to Aix like Avignon, Marseilles and Cassis. Going to these places really made me appreciate Provence and the Côte D’Azur as a whole, but probably the most special aspect was the people on the trip. The other teens that went with Abbey Road were just as determined to learn as me, not to mention they were the nicest and funniest people I’ve met! I just know I will stay in touch with them for a long time.

While abroad I actually felt like a local. After a short time I knew where everything was; if I needed food, clothes or I had to mail a letter, I knew exactly how to get there. In fact, my roommate and I went to the same bakery every morning and the owner got to know us. It really made us feel like regular Aixoise. I became a more open person while in Provence. Usually I don’t like trying new things, but there I rarely said “no” to a food, activity or idea, making my time in Aix more exciting and fun. I am so happy I chose to go to Aix-en-Provence with Abbey Road!

Ji Ye S., B.C. Canada: Aix-en-Provence Program
Abbey Road Programs Ji Ye S. "Before I left for France, I was nervous and worried. That feeling was the same as I arrived at the airport in France and was on the bus going to my room with new roommates. Those worries and bad feelings went right away as I came to meet so many new friends who just made my experience in France unforgettable. I will forever remember the summer in France. Me, who could barely speak French in the beginning of the program, could understand what the counselors were saying and could get around Aix pretty well…"

Through this program I learned countless amounts about France, the French language, relationships and myself. It was a whole different experience learning French not just in a classroom with handouts and vocabulary to memorize, but to actually communicate with people outside, whether it was ordering food, asking for directions and paying (good practice for numbers!). And we didn’t just learn about the language. Abbey Road made what would have been a classroom experience learning French, into a cultural immersion [experience] in a place that you could practice French everywhere! I've learned a bit about myself through friends from all over the States and the world. I've had the precious chance to communicate with them and make great connections. Learning with them and being immersed in another culture with them was just an amazing experience. We all went to France to learn French and experience France, and along the way we made friends with each other and together made the French experience even more unforgettable.

I feel like I've become a more open person, to culture and to people. I hope that this will stick with me for the rest of my life and help me throughout my life. I've also learned that I'm a pretty good egg maker and not a bad cook! I really enjoyed everything that happened in Aix and I will never forget the memories, the friends and of course the city of Aix-en-Provence. Thank you Abbey Road for the wonderful memories and friendships!

Maggie B., New Jersey: Barcelona Program
Abbey Road Programs Maggie B. "When people ask me what my trip with Abbey Road to Barcelona was like, I often struggle to find one or two phrases to sum up the whole experience. Words like amazing, unforgettable, and enriching come to mind, but to me they only seem to touch the surface of what my month abroad was like. For the first time I felt like I actually lived abroad, that I wasn’t just a tourist. I was able to fully immerse myself in Spanish culture and experience what the lifestyle in Barcelona is like, all while making lasting friends and vastly improving my Spanish…"

From the first day on the trip I was enchanted by the amazing city that is Barcelona, and I did as much as I would to explore it. Right after we unpacked in our rooms, my roommate and I set out to explore the city and ended up in Las Ramblas, one of the most interesting areas in the city. That was our first, but most definitely not our last excursion out into the city. We made an effort to try and go out into the city every day. On top of our individual explorations we often went out as a group. In the city we went places like the Picasso Museum, Poble Espanyol (an outdoors museum), a Flamenco show, an amusement park called Tibidabo, the famous architect Gaudi’s buildings around the city and much more. In addition to all of this, we went on a weekly day trip to another town. We visited a winery, the Dali museum, a monastery, lots of beaches, as well as many other places. For me, these were some of the highlights of the trip because our group got to see other places than just Barcelona, because although it is a great city there are many other areas with lots to offer as well. All of this, as well as daily classes kept us very busy the whole time we were in Spain. When I decided to go to Spain, my main goal was to improve my Spanish. I can proudly say that I achieved this goal. I am much more sure of myself when I speak Spanish now. When I first arrived in Spain I found it difficult to have conversations in Spanish and I often stumbled. Through my daily Spanish classes and being forced to speak Spanish with anyone out of the group I have been able to learn a lot of Spanish as well as gain confidence. It makes me ecstatic to be able to look back on my time in Spain and know that I accomplished the one thing that I wanted most to do while I was there.

Making new friends and fully experiencing Spanish culture were also among my many goals when I set out on this adventure, however when I arrived in Spain they became far more important to me that they originally had been. When I met the rest of the group I knew immediately that I would make great friends on the trip. Everyone grew close very quickly and we all started to feel like one big family. This is when I realized how important it was to me to make friends on the trip, because I knew that there were people who I would keep in touch with after it was all over. Also, once I reached Spain I realized how interesting Spanish culture is. This made me want to experience it as much as I could. I was able to do this by dining at traditional restaurants, going to a bullfight, seeing the works of famous Spanish artists and more. None of this would have been possible without Abbey Road. I would never have been able to be a part of this amazing culture in the authentic way that I was if I hadn’t gone on this trip, nor would I have made the amazing friends that I did.

I left Barcelona, a better Spanish speaker and more culturally aware, and I brought with me the names and numbers of many new friends and memories that will last me a lifetime. Going to Barcelona was one of the best decisions that I ever made and I’m so glad that I got to experience this trip. Abbey Road was so much more than a few cliché words. There is no way to fully describe the experience, except for to say that I will remember it forever.

Alexis R., Tennessee: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Alexis R. "Going into the program, I thought of the class as something I would simply have to put up with in exchange for my time in Spain. But from the very first class, I was impressed by how fun and interactive it was. Our teacher Raquel spoke clearly about interesting topics and got us involved in the everyday life of Cadiz…It’s a lot easier waking up for school in the morning when you know you have that to look forward to. I would say that my time in Spain went by like a dream… "

Looking back, it feels fleeting - like it never happened. At first, I thought this was a little disturbing because, after all, it did happen. But eventually I came to terms with this because now I can always remember Spain as something beautiful. Almost from the start, I knew Abbey Road was a good choice. As early as the airport we saw several other group programs that were panicking and herding their kids, but Abbey Road kept us all together while allowing us enough freedom to explore on our own. Throughout the program, they continually gave us options on how to spend our time. Even though we were allowed to freely roam Old Cadiz, I never once felt unsafe; the city is perfect for foreigners trying to get a feel for Spanish life without the threat of theft or other annoyances. For the most part, we were treated as adults, and it was much appreciated. I enjoyed my Spanish language class much more than I thought I would. Going into the program, I thought of the class as something I would simply have to put up with in exchange for my time in Spain. But from the very first class, I was impressed by how fun and interactive it was. Our teacher Raquel spoke clearly about interesting topics and got us involved in the everyday life of Cadiz. Our daily trips to the market or La Caleta or other various parts of town were both educational and enjoyable. It’s a lot easier waking up for school in the morning when you know you have that to look forward to.

My home stay family was wonderful. They were the cutest couple and the mother was so talkative, so it was easy to pick up Spanish from her. They were welcoming, trusting, and respectful of our boundaries. They would show us around town and introduced us to their family and friends, all of whom were just as open as our family. If anything was disappointing about my home-stay experience, it would be that I didn’t get more time with them.

But by far, the best thing about Spain was the people. From the staff to the Spaniards to the friends I made, everyone was unforgettable. The staff, especially the assistants, were so down to earth and fun on an individual level. They would give us tips on everything from where to get the best food to where to find the best local hangouts. The Spaniards themselves were often very understanding of our sometimes lacking Spanish. Despite communication barriers, most people were receptive to our questions and tried to help us understand Andalusian culture. My favorite people were all my friends on the trip. It’s amazing how you can know someone for two weeks and be so close. By the end of the trip, everyone had become a sort of family away from home. The hardest part about leaving Spain was most definitely leaving the people.

Even though I’m back to everyday life again, I can still look back fondly on my Spanish dream. When I got home, someone asked me if I would do the trip again. I said “yes” without hesitation.

Spencer F., New York: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Spencer F. "[During my month in Cadiz,] I stayed with a Spanish family, which might have been one of the most cultural experiences of my life. Our Señora was hospitable, welcoming and made sure that we not only tried every type of Spanish food under the Andalusian sun, but also made enough to feed all of Cadiz. Each morning, we would wake up and go to our morning Spanish class. This summer, I spent four weeks in Cadiz, Spain with Abbey Road. Cadiz is a small but extremely cultural city located in the south of Spain on the beach…"

When I got to JFK, I was greeted by staff members that were nothing but excited to get on the plane and go to Spain! I knew that I was in the right hands. I stayed with a Spanish family, which might have been one of the most cultural experiences of my life. Our Señora was hospitable, welcoming and made sure that we not only tried every type of Spanish food under the Andalusian sun, but also made enough to feed all of Cadiz. Each morning, we would wake up and go to our morning Spanish class, where we learned how to speak proper grammatical Spanish as well as conversational and colloquial Spanish. During the afternoon, we had time on our own to hit up the beach, (which was a two minute walk from our house), eat lunch with our families and then maybe enjoy a coffee and croissant in a Spanish café with a group of friends. On the days that we didn’t have our electives (where I learned how to take and edit pictures,) we would spend our late afternoons doing a local activity with the group, like going to the top of the church tower to see a great panoramic view of Cadiz, or learning how to cook like a Spaniard in an authentic Spanish restaurant. Whatever the activities were, we always had the option of signing up for a variety of options each morning, so that if one option does not interest you, the other one most likely will. At night after eating enough delicious Spanish food with our family, we had a decent amount of time on our own where we would go improve our Spanish listening skills by going to the movies, eating ice cream in a square with friends or going to a local tea house where you can sit in a lounge like environment drinking an assortment of local and imported teas.

This summer with Abbey Road was like no other. I met friends that I still continue to talk to and visit, I experienced a different culture in first person, I tasted delicious foods I had never even heard of and the best thing was that unfortunately no one else can experience, I witnessed Spain winning the world cup on live screens and watched as every single Spaniard celebrated their victory for weeks after. I was even on local Spanish television, three times! This summer was an amazing experience that I will never forget and I have Abbey Road to thank for that!

Amanda K., New Jersey: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Amanda K. "This summer I was fortunate enough to attend Abbey Road’s Spanish Immersion and Homestay program in Cadiz, Spain. When I told my friends and family that I was going to a foreign country with sixty kids that I did not know and that I was going to live with a family that did not even speak the same language as me, they just stared at me in confusion and awe. As I started to tell people about my future adventure out loud it did seem a little intimidating. However, once I walked into the JFK terminal and saw the welcoming group of Abbey Road students and chaperons my fears dissipated…"

All of the other kids were extremely welcoming and they were all so interesting. I quickly forgot about my nervous parents standing behind me waiting for me to say goodbye; luckily the Abbey Road staff was extremely comforting to my anxious parents. Once we headed for the plane I knew I was about to have one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.As soon as my exhausted traveler’s feet touched the ground of Cadiz, I fell in love. I say this like this is a rare occurrence, but it’s not; everyone falls in love with Cadiz! Who doesn’t want to live in such a historic, quaint, cultural town on the beautiful coast of Spain? Our next challenge or shall I say little fear was our homestay family. While my roommate and I waited anxiously amongst all of the other kids to receive our homestay family we were convinced that this would play a pivotal factor in our time here and, determine whether it would be a good or bad experience, so we were hoping for a welcoming family. As the trip went on we found out that every family was extremely welcoming and loving because it’s Cadiz and everyone here is extremely hospitable; it sure was not New York anymore! Once my roommate and I gave besos (kisses which is their customary greeting in Spain) to our homestay family we knew that we were at home. My experience with my homestay family was like no other. I absolutely fell in love with them! It was my second home away from home! There were two kids around our age in the family and they welcomed us with open arms. They showed us around Cadiz and gave us a taste of their teen life in this majestic city. The parents were extremely interesting and acted like our real mother and father. We had in depth conversations about the government, religion, culture, and even pop news with them. As a whole we also had conversations where we were all laughing so hard that we could not breathe. I always found this to be unbelievable because even though my roommate and I were not fluent in their language we were able to communicate with them and fully understand them. My fluency level in Spanish rose greatly because of the conversations with my homestay family; they were the ultimate teachers. Since I’ve been home I Skype with them at least once a week and my roommate and I are planning on visiting next summer!

Not only did I have a great experience with the homestay aspects of the trip, I had an amazing experience with the Abbey Road group as well! I made such unbelievable friends on this trip and I talk to them everyday since I have been home. There were so many interesting and intuitive kids on the program that even talking for hours would never become boring. I loved meeting kids from all over the United States and learning about their lives in comparison to mine. Not only were the kids great, the staff was as well! They always kept a super close eye on us to make sure we were safe, but at the same time they gave us the right amount of freedom to let us show our independence as young adults. I always felt safe and comfortable. The staff didn’t just provide us with information and safety; we also had fun with them! I had great conversations with some of the staff members that I enjoyed a lot and I will never forget. Also, when we went on our excursions to other cities such as Conil and Arcos de la Frontera, we had fun with them on the beach, eating churros and gelato, and shopping.

Additionally, in the classroom they were great teachers! I loved my Spanish class and my elective class (digital photography). The teachers were extremely helpful and I learned so much! I especially loved the learning environment. Instead of sitting in a hot stuffy classroom for hours, our teachers would have us experience Cadiz by having us go around La Plaza de Catedral and ask local Spaniards questions about their country or have us utilize our novel store vocabulary by buying a magazine in a local shop. Abbey Road also provided us with a myriad of fun activities everyday whether it be free time to walk around Playa Victoria, see a movie in Spanish, have some Chai tea at the local teteria (Arab tea house), or have the chance to experience a panoramic view of Cadiz from the top of the Cathedral. No matter what, there was always something for us to do! There was never a dull moment. Even if Abbey Road had scheduled beach time and you did not want to bake in the sun for hours, you had the chance to go to a local café with some Abbey Road staff members and have culture and conversation in the native language.

Abbey Road did a great job with making sure that we were all fully immersed in the Spanish culture and language that fills the breath-taking city of Cadiz. There were always fun cultural activities set up for us, but there was also a fair amount of free time to go to the beach with our friends or grab a gelato on those hot Cadiz days! Abbey Road made me feel extremely comfortable in this foreign city and I could not have asked for better staff, friends, or a homestay. I absolutely loved everyone that I met on my trip and I wouldn’t trade my amazing experience in Cadiz for the world!

Meredith D., Massachusetts: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Meredith D. "When I left for Cádiz, Spain, my goal was simple: I wanted nothing more than to become an oozy sponge of Spanish knowledge. I longed to absorb Spanish, practice Spanish, and return with Spanish spilling from my pores. When I set my objective, I had forgotten that when you stay somewhere for a month, you really start to live there…"

Thanks to the Abbey Road staff and my homestay family, I came back to my American family not as a demure sponge, dictionary, or thesaurus, but as a more independent, intelligent, and interesting explorer, friend, roommate, daughter, swimmer, student, sister, and person. The Abbey Road staff members were a central part of my experience in Cádiz. Each of the staff members was unique and brought something special to the group, so as a whole the staff was dynamic and diverse. I probably came to know Staci, the program director, the most. She exemplified the staff’s great balance between being understanding, sweet, and fun, yet strict enough to keep us safe. I was surprised overall by how flexible the Abbey Road staff was and by how much they listened to us. They were constantly looking for feedback and traveling around with the suggestions box to find out what we were looking for in our trip, and once they knew, they strove to accommodate us. The teachers of my morning and afternoon classes showed me a ton about the Spanish language as well as the Spanish culture. Both classes were different from normal classes at school because they were experiential. We spent about half the class time in a room at the school, and then we left to explore Cádiz and apply what we had learned. Our teachers instructed us ask the people of Cádiz questions ranging from what they liked to eat to what they thought of tourists. If we had merely sat in a classroom for three hours a day memorizing vocabulary and doing grammar exercises, I do not think I would have learned nearly as much.

Most nights and weekday afternoons we had group activities. We always had choices when we signed up, from baking desserts with Aitor to sports on the beach with James, to literature workshops with Gema. The variety of activities, workshops, and optional classes was incredible. Every Saturday we took a bus to a different town close to Cádiz. My personal favorites were Ronda and Los Toruños. In Ronda there were stunning views, trails for descending, and even a waterfall. And at Los Toruños we relaxed at the beach, went on a bike tour, and kayaked.

But even more than the staff, classes, and excursions, my personal favorite part of my trip to Spain was my homestay family. We ate together every day, went to the beach together, and watched Encantada (Enchanted) as a family. For me there was a special kind of security in knowing that every day when I came home from my morning class Carmen, my host mother, would wave her green fan and comment on how hot it was all the time in Cádiz. She and Chano, my host father, would make a delicious lunch and Juanjo, my host brother, would complain about having to share his laptop with his two annoying sisters whom he loved anyway.

There are a lot of things I miss about Cádiz. I miss the bells of the old cathedral that ring at 15-minute intervals, having ice cream pretty much every day (sometimes twice), and trudging up four flights of stairs to get home. I miss obsessing over where the keys that my roommate and I shared were, and I miss the custom of giving people air kisses when you meet them and when you say goodbye. But I know that I will visit and experience these things again someday. And when I do, I will think of Abbey Road and its fantastic staff, dinner stipends, and enforced curfews. I am more than grateful for my once in a lifetime experience in Cádiz with Abbey Road.

Karina M., Florida: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Karina M. "This summer was incredibly unforgettable thanks to my trip to Cadiz, Spain with Abbey Road Programs. With the constant encouragement from the Abbey Road staff members, this trip offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about different cultures and to strengthen my language skills. The program directors, Jose and Staci, went out of their way to ensure that every traveler had the most comfortable stay in Cadiz as possible…"

They always sought the opinions of the students to be sure that we had received the chance to attend any cultural events that we had hoped to witness during the program. My host family was very warm and immediately treated my roommate and I as if we were their children. Excursions really topped of the experience because those day trips that we ventured on during weekends allowed us to see cities near Cadiz, and the short trips gave us a better understanding of the region that the Abbey Road staff had taught us about during weekday classes. The staff members that embarked on the journey through Cadiz with us were extremely responsible yet friendly and talkative! [Our Program Directors,] Staci and Jose were always sure to explain what each day had in store for us at the daily morning meetings. They also encouraged us to submit suggestions to the staff so we could make the most of our time in Cadiz. Whenever there were local cultural events, the staff told us where they would take place and gave us the freedom to decide if we wanted to take advantage of the cultural experiences that Spain offered. Class was great. Our teachers taught us about the history of the places that we visited and gave us the chance to converse with locals, in Spanish of course. I think that was one of the most effective and valuable parts of the system in which Abbey Road improved our Spanish proficiency.

Besides simply conversing with the locals, Abbey Road travelers got a chance to totally immerse themselves in a different culture through evening activities conducted by the staff members. My favorite activities were a bullfight in San Fernando and a flamenco performance at a restaurant called La Cava. These activities awed my friends and I, and they brought us to respect traditions of different countries. On other nights, the staff offered more casual evening activities that allowed for the Abbey Road kids to bond with each other, such as playing soccer on a nearby beach or dining at delicious restaurants with the Abbey Road group which exposed us to traditional Spanish meals, besides the ones we had tried at our homestays.

Our host families were carefully selected and made us feel at home even though we were far from our friends and families. Staying with a Spanish family was an amazing experience because it truly improved my Spanish as I communicated with my host parents, and it gave me a chance to understand Spanish customs. My roommate and I ate the majority of our meals with our host mom which was nice because we could share the events of our day with our host mother, as we would to an actual parent, and we could ask our host mom for advice about how to take advantage of our time in Cadiz and what we could do at the towns we went on excursions to visit.

Excursions were educational, and they kept our stay new and interesting by letting us discover cities in Spain aside from Cadiz. One of my favorite day trips was a visit to Los Torunos, a national park in which we all relaxed at the beach, kayaked, and biked. Another really wonderful excursion took us to Gibraltar, an English territory with many shops and little restaurants. At Gibraltar, we hiked up the world famous rock and even got to interact with the monkeys. My trip to Cadiz through the Abbey Road program was unbelievable. By living with a host family while being taught by knowledgeable instructors, I was able to become a more confident Spanish speaker. Highlights of my trip included evening activities and excursions with the whole group. Abbey Road opened my eyes to Spanish culture and led me to obtain a better understanding about traditions and language that I could not have received through sitting in a classroom in America.

Olivia N., California: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Olivia N. "Coming home was definitely hard. My time in Cádiz was incredible and when the program was over, I was shocked by how quickly [time] had flown by. Traveling to Spain with Abbey Road was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life and upon completion of the program, I found myself a more independent and mature person than I had been a few weeks before. One of the best aspects of the Abbey Road Cádiz program is that it is a homestay. My Spanish improved so much from the homestay and talking with the members of my host family…"

If my family knew English, they did not reveal that and my roommate and I only spoke Spanish with them. This forced us to push the boundaries of our Spanish and my listening and speaking skills improved immensely because of the conversations and interactions with my host family. I enjoyed living in an authentic Spanish home and seeing the similarities and differences between my home in the United States and my host family’s home in Cádiz. We really got to know our family well and it was sad to say good-bye to them at the end of our trip. They cooked and ate meals with us, talked with us about our days, and opened up themselves and their home to us. The homestay experience not only improved my Spanish, specifically my conversational skills, but also provided another great opportunity to learn about the Spanish culture and people. Cádiz was the absolute perfect place to have this program. It is relatively small, so it is easy to find your way around and feel right at home, but the city is also quite interesting and offers a multitude of things to do. I felt comfortable in Cádiz very quickly and could find my way around easily. Furthermore, it is absolutely gorgeous and situated right on the water, offering many beautiful beaches.

It’s amazing that we were able to go to school in such an idyllic city, but the classes were engaging and the teachers made use of the wonderful city around us. Each day, in addition to normal classroom exercises, our teachers sent us out in Cádiz for various cultural and language activities. I really liked this because the city is an amazing resource and it was both helpful and fun to go out into the city for classroom exercises. I would recommend Abbey Road’s program in Cádiz to anyone who is learning Spanish and interested in going abroad. One of the best parts of the program is the great balance between free time and planned activities or excursions. There were many great planned program activities- including excursions to the cities Ronda and Gibraltar- but, for students who preferred to explore the city on their own, there were many opportunities for free time. Having several options was great and allowed students to do what they wanted to do and make decisions for themselves. In summary, my experience in Spain this summer was overwhelmingly positive and I am so happy that I decided to travel and stay in Cádiz.

Emily R., Arizona: Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Emily R. "Looking back on all that happened within four short weeks in what is sure to be the most magical city on Earth, I can say wholeheartedly that it was the best experience of my life. The only complaint I have, if I can even call it that, is that four weeks was not nearly long enough. After falling in love with the people, the food, the culture, and the city, I was not prepared to say goodbye, but at least that will give me an excuse to return in the near future. A big part of what made my experience so enjoyable was the Abbey Road staff…"

They kept a good balance between being fun people to hang out with and being authority figures. They related to each of the students in the group while making sure we were all safe and doing what we were meant to be doing. The staff also did a nice job making sure we got the most out of our Spanish classes. The teachers were all exceptionally knowledgeable and willing to help, and they structured their classes so that our learning experience was enhanced through both a traditional classroom setting as well as opportunities to venture outside to practice our Spanish with the locals. For instance, we would be given a list of idiomatic expressions in Spanish and then go out in the street and ask the locals to explain the meanings to us. Or we would learn about the design of a traditional cathedral and then walk 50 feet outside to take a tour of an actual cathedral. Having so many resources at our disposal in Cadiz certainly made my learning experience one-of-a-kind and very memorable.

Abbey Road provided us with plenty of afternoon and evening activities to allow us to bond as a group and take advantage of everything Cadiz has to offer. Each Sunday as a group went to the beach to relax, hang out, and just enjoy the day. There was also the option of going to the beach at night to play fútbol and listen to some of the staff and students play the guitar. Students could also go to the movies, free open-air concerts, and Spanish workshops, just to name a few of the many activities we were offered. My personal favorite was the Tetería Árabe (tetería meaning “tea room”), which was unlike any other place I’ve ever been. Not only did it have the most amazing tea and outstanding crepes, but also the atmosphere of the place was so calming and comforting. It was a great place to relax at night with some friends and enjoy a nice pot of Pakistani tea. Every Saturday morning the group boarded a bus to go on a weekend excursion. The places we went were usually no more than an hour away and always well worth the bus ride over. We visited Conil and Arcos de la Frontera, which were both white cities, Ronda, a beautiful city in the hills, Gibraltar, which was a breath of fresh air for us English-speakers, and Los Toruños, a national park with a beach, a bike path, and a river for kayaking. Our weekend excursions were a nice way to get a taste of other surrounding Spanish towns and to spend time as a group.

One of the most important things to me when I was considering summer study abroad programs was that I would be living with a homestay family. I believed that a homestay program would be the most rewarding option as far as my Spanish conversational skills go. What I was not necessarily expecting, however, was to form such a strong bond with complete strangers over the course of a month. I still obviously practiced and learned a lot of Spanish, but much more importantly I made lasting connections, and that is what made my time spent in Spain so incredibly special. While I may over time forget some of the Spanish I learned, I will never forget the people I met and the time we spent together in a place that, in four short weeks, became my home.

Bianca L., New York: Green Ticket Scholarship recipient, Cadiz Homestay Program
Abbey Road Programs Bianca L. "After a month in Cadiz, you do not want to leave. Every Sunday you go to the beach with your friends and staff members. The Spanish tortilla is your favorite bocadillo. Cadiz has become so easy to navigate; you are now giving directions to tourists. Every time you call home, Spanish just sounds more and more natural. My family, cultural traditions, and the location of this program made this trip memorable and rewarding. Everyday I made an effort to learn more about my host family. Señora Angeles and Pepe made their home very welcoming…"

At home, I always felt at ease. My family was very religious. Pepe told me, “El Domingo tienen que verse guapa para la procession.” Señora Angeles was walking in the procession with a mantilla. I freshened up, after an excursion to Los Torruños and left for the procession with Pepe. Streets filled up with faithful spectators. All the Gaditanos, people from Cadiz, were in awe, gazing at the virgin. I saw señora Angeles brimming in pride. Pepe waved at her and she did the unthinkable, señora Angeles walked out of the line! She gave me a hug and told her friends, “Mira esta es mi hija,” “look, this is my daughter.” In that instant, I knew I was part of their family. Like religion, bullfights are an important part of Spanish culture. The idea of killing a bull seemed inhumane and silly. When we went, families were fanning themselves shouting for their favorite torero. A loud baseball stadium is the only thing I can compare the atmosphere to. The beaches in Cadiz are incredible. Never have I lived so near to a beach in my life! My friends and I loved running to Playa Victoria after a long day. We would sit on the boardwalk and let the wind cool us off; I understand now why so many people jog along the beach. A band played occasionally played jazz on the boardwalk. Until then, I had not noticed how beautifully endless the ocean is. Yoga on the beach was a personal favorite. The sounds of the waves really help you concentrate. Once, the sun was just setting and I was smiling on the inside. Beaches are incredibly relaxing.

Carnivals are another staple of Cadiz. I luckily had a sample of the carnival spirit. Surrounding the cathedral, tractors carried groups of people singing spoof songs. Groups gathered in street corners sharing their take in politics, of course through song. One group, or cumple as they call them, was making fun of the beauty pageant process. They sang in pasty suits and flashy makeup. El jurado de las misses, their name, motioned us to dance with them. One of the songs, Spanglish, was even dedicated to my friends and me. At the end of their performance, they gave us a book with all their songs. The next day they recognized us and called us over again. Spaniards are just remarkably friendly.

Cadiz is undoubtedly gorgeous. My sense of adventure and curiosity has matured after this trip. My month in Cadiz helped my Spanish tremendously, but more than that gave me a feel of the world. These memories make up a greater trip, something you cannot understand until you go. I am ready to see what else is out there now.

JD N., Rhode Island: Florence Program
Abbey Road Programs JD N. "In addition to focusing on cultural immersion Abbey Road’s summer programs strive to make students more independent and self assured. Before I went to Florence, Italy this summer with Abbey Road, I had never been to sleep-away camp so I did not have any previous experience being away from home for a long time. I was definitely nervous being in another country for so long, especially since I knew I would have to do a lot of things on my own. I knew I would really have to learn to become more independent..."

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!

Clifton L., Illinois: Florence Program
Abbey Road Programs Clifton L. "Prior to my Abbey Road trip to Florence, when I talked about the places abroad that I have travelled to I would say, “I visited Tokyo” or “I visited Prague.” However, when I talk about my voyage to Florence I say, "I lived in Florence." This trip to Florence was not only my longest international adventure but also the only one where I felt the most like an independent resident rather than an awkward tourist. Even though it’s only been two years since I went to Durban South Africa, if I went back today, I would feel as much like an uninformed visitor as I did back then... "

Yet, I believe that 15 years could go by before I return to Florence and I would still be able to expertly navigate my way around the city. Of course, there were the early moments of the trip when my fellow Abbey Road travelers and I felt like we were in a foreign maze, thinking to ourselves that we would never be able to navigate through the winding streets and piazzas. But these thoughts lasted for just that, a moment. Within a couple of hours of exploration, my friends and I were pounding the cobblestone like natives. Going to class, going for cappuccinos, going to museums and art galleries, finding the chicest restaurants that served the best gnocchi, or the nicest stores for our shopping desires, we explored and discovered until Florence became our playground and classroom to learn from, and enjoy. During my time in Florence I studied Italian Art History. While my pre-departure expectations were already very high for the type of educational experience I would have, I could not have begun to fathom how high the class would soar above my wildest imaginings. I took an Advanced Placement Art History course in High school last year. I remember the day we visited the Galleria Academia and witnessed the magnificence of Michelangelo’s David, I kept remembering back to that Advanced Placement class and my 11 other classmates whom I pitied. While their David experience culminated with a tiny, playing card-sized picture of him in our textbook, and a brief caption which claimed that he is glorious, I was beholding his marbled flesh and witnessing his perfection, in person. This same scenario occurred at each artistic masterpiece that our class visited. Each time I stood before an oil painting or bronze sculpture, I was overcome with a feeling of relief that I was lucky enough to be able to absorb the vivid colors and chiseled details from only inches away. No textbook photograph or three-sentence long caption could ever take the place of that initial moment, when you first glimpse a gorgeous fresco or spectacular statue, and your breath is taken away.

Of course every pre-college student thinks that they have what it takes to live away from home with one or two other strangers, where they must navigate through groceries, cleaning, finances, rigorous studying, all while trying to maintain some semblance of a social life…well, maybe not everyone. I was one of those students who thought I had dorm life down to a “T.” But after returning from Italy and living like an adult, in an apartment, with two, initial strangers where we had to navigate through grocery shopping, apartment cleaning, budgeting our money, completing our class assignments, all while making time for gelato outings and shopping excursions, I realize that I would have been at a serious disadvantage without this program. Now that I have survived a month on my own, in a foreign country, I feel more confident than ever that I have gained the knowledge and skills to overcome any obstacle I may face when I start college in the fall.

abbey road alumni
Maddie K., Connecticut : Florence Program
Abbey Road Programs Maddie K. "At first I was very hesitant about going on the Abbey Road summer [program] to Florence, Italy. It was something I had never done before, and though there was some nervousness, I was also extremely excited. I expected to have a wonderful experience where I would make great friends, learn about and eat delicious food, and immerse myself in the country’s art and culture. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. One of the things I was looking forward to was meeting the teachers whom I would be learning from for the next month... "

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 taking 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 the 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 afterwards 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.

McKenzie O., California: Florence Program
Abbey Road Programs Kenzie O. "My summer in Florence with Abbey Road was the best summer of my life. From Florence itself, to the people on the trip, to the amazing staffers, everything combined became something truly special. Abbey Road is such a different experience because it goes beyond getting to know a city and you become part of Florence. I have been fortunate enough to have gone on two previous teen travel trips and Abbey Road was by far the most impressive ... "

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!

Michael M., New Jersey: Nice Program
Abbey Road Programs Michael M. "This summer I traveled to Nice, France with Abbey Road, and it was the greatest experience of my life. I did not know what to expect, not having been to Europe or on a program such as this, except an opportunity to speak more French. I had no idea what was to come. My travel with Abbey Road was so much more than that. Not only did I learn more French than ever before, and learn about French art and culture, but I had so much fun while doing it. I learned not only through the classroom, but through the town of Nice and through day trips elsewhere too..."

Overall, I cannot think of anything I that would have made the program any better than it was; it was really perfect. In the town of Nice, there was so much opportunity to learn. Old Nice was filled with shops and markets, where the venders rarely could speak any English. Near Old Nice, in Garibaldi Square, I made friends with some local skateboarders, which not only gave me an opportunity to learn colloquial and slang French, but also provided for some great action photography for my elective course. And when not in the town area, my friends and I would go down to the beach, get gelato, do some shopping, or learn some more French with our educators. Every weekend we would take day trips to different towns nearby. From ones like Antibes, we could even see the Alps. Others gave a fantastic view of the French countryside or the Mediterranean. St. Paul de Vence even gave us a view of all three at once! Some trips were to the beach, others to old medieval style towns, and we even took a trip to Italy for a day. The day trips were really fantastic because they let us experience not only our “home” town, but others as well, many of which were actually quite different.

One of the most amazing things is that everybody got along. From the start, we were all friends, and we got along like one big family. Some people were from Texas, Canada, and North Carolina, and even though I am from New York, we had no problems getting along wonderfully. I was friends with everyone on my trip, and ended up spending my time with all of them at some point or another. It was truly a perfect group of people. My trip with Abbey Road was the best experience of my life. I had so much fun learning and experiencing France first-hand. The teachers were fantastic, the other kids were fun to hang out with and as excited and enthusiastic as I was, and we were in what I now consider the best place on Earth, while experiencing other cities as well. It was the perfect situation, and the people running the program were extremely accommodating, telling us that anything we wanted to do would be seriously considered. And these suggestions often came to fruition, which led to an amazing experience for everyone on the trip. My travels with Abbey Road were perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Zander G., Washington: Nice Program
Abbey Road Programs Zander G. "When preparing for my Abbey Road trip to Nice early in the summer, I was focusing on the language aspects of the program. I wanted to surround myself with French culture and to learn the language as completely as I could in the span of a month. I was not expecting the social aspect of the program to be as prominent. I made strong friendships with many other students, and I have continued to communicate with many of the other students after the conclusion of the program..."

When I started making friends in Nice, I did not expect the social nature of the program to assist me in my quest for better language skills; however, as the program went on I found that real conversations and discussions in French are the best way to truly learn the language. The best way to engage in real discussions and conversations in French was to do so with people I know well and like. One week into the program, during our morning French class, we read material about nuclear power in France and the rest of the world. The class engaged in a discussion about the benefits of different power sources and the effects of the earthquake in Japan. We debated passionately for over an hour, speaking nothing but French. The conversation even continued long after the class had ended; students were speaking about nuclear power in the hallways. Because all of the students were so comfortable with each other, we were able to have a productive and interesting discussion. This one discussion was better than any I have ever had in French class at school, and it demonstrates the truth of the method of Abbey Road: true immersion through bonds of friendship lead to the best language learning experience. I really enjoyed my time in Nice, and I got much more out of the trip than I had expected. Overall, my trip to Nice was a fantastic experience that I would love to be able to recreate someday.

Sarah L., Massachusetts: Nice Program
Abbey Road Programs Sarah L. "“Bienvenue!” read the sign once I arrived to the Nice airport after long plane rides from Seoul, Korea. An Abbey Road staff member came to pick me up and took me to the “Résidence” where all the members of the program resided for the month. It was located at the heart of the Nice. On my way to the residence, not having been to the beach for almost about five years, I was thrilled to see the pebbly beach and its clear sunlit sea that was stretched out along the coast. This was just the very start of the trip and I was already excited about what was ahead of me for that July ..."

I went to Paris when I was eleven as part of a short eight-day tour around France, Italy and Switzerland, and loved it so much that I wanted to travel back to France again someday. When I heard about the Abbey Road Program from the Summer Opportunities Counselor at my school, I looked it up on Internet and applied to the Nice program soon after discussing about it with my family. Now, having completed the program, I can tell you that I do not regret making that choice. Having taken one year of French at school, I was very pumped to join Abbey Road program to Nice and use my level-1 French skills as well as improve it, being amongst French people, French food, French air – French everything. As a French language learner, I also wanted to adapt myself to French culture, perhaps to be able to understand and learn French better. Abbey Road allowed me to do so much more than what I expected. Time flew by in Nice. It was hard to believe that a month could pass by so quickly. I enjoyed every moment being there to the fullest. Yet, the program was not just about fun, but I learned quite a lot of French during the program. With French-speaking people around me all day, I learned to actually “speak” French and embrace the French culture at the same time. Each and every day, I learned new stuff in French, whether it was in class or during elective or at the market, a store, a café, etc.

Our program consisted of… students from all different states as well as different countries who all got along very well. Living in the same residence and experiencing the France together, we were almost like one big family. The staff members were always open to our questions, and they helped us learn French more efficiently. Going to the bakery in the morning, taking classes, roaming around the French streets, eating gelato, buying fruits at the open market, shopping at “Vieux Nice” together, I made lasting friendship with other students throughout the program, as well.

During weekends, as a group, we traveled to different areas in Côte d'Azur, or the French Riviera, including Cannes, Saint Tropez, Saint Paul de Vence, Antibes, Monaco, and more. One weekend, we traveled to Sanremo, Italy, as well. I enjoyed all the trips to those places and the picturesque spectacles I encountered at each region are truly unforgettable. Thanks to Abbey Road, I had one of the best summers I have ever had. When the program was over and it was time to leave, we all had a hard time au revoir-ing to each other. Back home from the program, I wanted to go back to Nice again for a few days. If I have a chance, I would love to join Abbey Road for another summer.

Caroline B., New York: Chris Meyer Memorial Scholarship Recipient, St-Laurent-du-Var Program
Abbey Road Programs Caroline B. "It's so surreal to be back in New York, the signs are in English, the cars are huge, and the money is green. My trip is now a memory. I've met people, seen places, and done things that I'll never forget. I adapted a lifestyle and developed relationships that broadened my perspective and influenced who I want to become. It's extremely hard to say goodbye forever, to walk away from people who have changed you for the better, never knowing when you'll see them again, or if you ever even will. I was one of those people that did not want to come home...."

The first couple days were both incredibly exciting and incredibly difficult. I was slow with French for a while. It was the first time I ever really attempted to express my instantaneous thoughts and ideas in French on the spot. I drastically improved at being able to use the French I already know. I learned colloquialisms, expressions, and vocabulary as well. That all came from the conversations I had in France, especially with my host family. It's a lot more challenging to discuss things like music, art, politics, and culture than it is to order a sandwich. Getting to know them as people in French was probably the coolest thing about my trip. I have no regrets about going. I must credit the program for giving me the opportunity of going there and doing all that I did as an introduction to my future studies abroad. In fact I'm eternally grateful. I really am in love with France. It was a little like a dream, to have really adapted a lifestyle there. I had a routine, a home and relationships and I'm so sad that they're now in my past.

Nayelly D., Texas: Chris Meyer Memorial Scholarship Recipient, St-Laurent-du-Var Program
Abbey Road Programs Nayelly D. "Spending four weeks in France is one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. My summer study abroad experience was literally one of a kind. My four weeks were spent in the French Riviera in the small town of St. Laurent-du-Var. Going into the program, I did not really know what to expect. I knew I would explore new cultures, further my knowledge with the French language and meet many new people, but I didn’t know exactly what all we would do..."

Along with several others from the group, I arrived at the Nice airport on Sunday July 3. Right away the foreign feeling kicked in, as I knew I was no longer in the U.S. I met my host mom who picked me up at the airport and right away, speaking French it was! I knew it was the start to something great! I stayed with my host-parents in St. Laurent-du-Var in a residential complex called Jeanne d’arc. I lived in a 3 bedroom, one bathroom residence. I stayed with the Cassar family. M. Denis and Mme. Françoise Cassar lived by themselves along with their little French bulldog Djoy. They always made sure I was comfortable and well attended to in every possible way. The food Mme. Cassar cooked was amazing! She made sure there was a variety and made sure I felt as though I was at home. I felt as though I got a lot of French practice with my host family as I conversed with them a lot over various topics like politics, the government, traveling, the U.S., Mexico, and several other things. Within those conversations, I learned that France and the U.S. have many similarities and differences.

School was also one of the key components of the program. Some of my favorite classes were when we went around to the native people in St. Laurent and Nice and interviewed them. Not only did we get to practice our French in real life scenarios, but we also learned about the French culture. The staff also significantly helped with this learning experience and made sure our four weeks were unique and filled with experiential learning. My four weeks in France were full of fun activities! Every week we went to Nice at least once and I was always excited to go! Our staff did a good job in preparing many activities for us. A couple of my favorites were parasailing and kayaking. I had never done either, but it was fun to explore both! The day trips were also super fun! My favorite was the trip to Cannes. I wish we would have stayed there longer or at least have gone back another time, but either way, it was still fun. One of my favorite things was celebrating the 14 juillet! The celebration was so full of life and so vibrant! I had a great time participating in the many activities that were planned for us.

The staff was amazing. I felt that they worked hard to give us a great summer vacation and to make sure we enjoyed our time in France. They looked out for our safety and did what they could to make sure we had fun. I want to thank everybody at Abbey Road for enabling me to have had this wonderful experience. Thank you for awarding me the Chris Meyer Scholarship and allowing me to participate in this four-week study abroad experience. I will continue to uphold Chris Meyer’s legacy in whatever endeavors I may embark on and vow to continue to be a citizen of the world.

Jason D., New York: St-Laurent-du-Var Program
Abbey Road Programs Jason D. "The week before I was scheduled to depart for France, I was extremely nervous. My first trip to Europe was to last for 30 days, among teens who I had never met before while living with an unknown family who did not speak my native language. My first priority was to improve my French to the point where I could hold a conversation with ease and to experience French culture while pursuing this goal. I had not even thought of creating lasting bonds and friendships with the people I met during this journey..."

While in France I hoped to see the beautiful beaches of the Azure Coast and experience daily life in a French town. After my first couple days in France in addition to wanting to improve my language skills and experience French culture, I also began to have the urge to create a bond with not only the fellow students, but also with my host family. What has surprised me most about the Abbey Road home-stay program is the lasting impression that the trip has made on me and I seriously consider this program to have been a life-changing experience. Considering that my French has greatly improved, my cultural awareness has exponentially increased I’m confident that this will positively affect my academic performance. I’ve also established what I hope will be lasting friendships with several of the Abbey Road teens and I remain in close contact with my host family. For me personally, the St. Laurent-du-Var cultural immersion program was a pivotal experience. I arrived home to New York feeling confident, independent and with a newfound wish to explore the world around me.

Karina L., New York: St-Laurent-du-Var Program
Abbey Road Programs Karina L. "Prior to my journey with Abbey Road, I wished to immerse myself in the French culture, expand my French vocabulary and generally have a better understanding of the French language. I was so excited to come to France for the first time and explore the depths of the French Riviera. I couldn’t wait to meet my host family and spend time with them, grasping a deeper understanding for their culture and lifestyle..."

My primary goals of this journey, which stayed intact throughout the month I stayed in France, were to better my French, fully immerse myself in the French culture and take as many amazing pictures as I possibly could. Throughout my stay in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, I felt I was fully immersed in the French culture; staying with a host family allowed me to fully experience a French lifestyle as well as improve my French, for I always spoke French whenever I interacted with my family. I established a great relationship with them while in France and hope to keep in touch! My teachers/chaperones were incredibly thoughtful, sweet and personable. They made us feel so comfortable and became more than just teachers and event coordinators. They were someone we could go to with anything, making my experience even better. As for my fellow Abbey Road goers, the moment I introduced myself to everyone in the group, I knew we would all get along. There was never a dull moment amongst everyone in the group and it was so difficult to say goodbye. People in my group live all across the United States, ranging from New York to California. One of the girls on the trip lives in Hong Kong, China, making the departure more emotional than I anticipated. The thought of being apart from these people for over twelve hours scared me, and seemed too surreal to be true. The entire experience had a surreal vibe when I reflect back. To think I spent the majority of my summer in France with such amazing people seems too good to be true.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this trip, surprisingly, was the daily class. Every Wednesday, class was held in Nice, where we would get to practice our French. Our teachers would assign us talking topics and we’d go out and converse with the locals, whether it be in outdoor food markets or on their way to the local Boulangerie. This way of learning helped expand our vocabulary and practice speaking French in real-life settings where we would debate politics, discuss local cuisine, or an upcoming futbol match. We also would take trips to museums, where we would get the opportunity to experience cultural aspects of the French, which was also something I enjoyed. This trip was something completely life changing and I’m so glad I chose Abbey Road this summer!

Elizabeth S., Kansas: St-Laurent-du-Var Program
Abbey Road Programs Elizabeth S. "They say that home is where the heart is. If that is true, then I left my heart in St. Laurent du-Var. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I bid farewell to the small town I had grown to love so much. Even though I had four days in Paris ahead of me, I couldn't fathom dinners without Lucie (my adorable host sister), walks without my new friends from St. Laurent who weren't venturing to Paris, or days without going to the rocky beach. At the beginning of the trip, I made a few goals for myself..."

They included accidentally writing a blog post in French, reading a newspaper article in French understanding every word, and considering myself to be border line conversational/fluent. After a few days in France, it became easier to transition between English and French. I never wrote an entire blog in French, but when speaking to friends I often typed in "Franglish" throwing in a few words in French here or there. Also, when I first arrived in the US, I kept accidentally talking to people in French. I constantly had to remind myself. I had the opportunity to read several newspaper articles while in France. Though I never could understand every word, I understood the overall idea. It was fun getting to keep up with the same world I had always lived in, but in a different language. I would consider myself to be very conversational in French, but I still have a long way to go before I'm fluent. Looking back on my French speaking skills prior to the trip, I was hardly conversational. I could read and write well but I had never spoken French aloud. It was so rewarding the other day listening to my favorite Edith Piaf songs and understanding what the famous French singer was saying.

Returning to my house in America was strange. I wasn't used to all the space and I realized that people really don't need that much space. I expected to be homesick in St- Laurent-du-Var. I never expected to be homesick once returning to Kansas City. I want desperately to be back in France with my friends and host family. If I was crying when I left St. Laurent, you would expect for me to bawl when leaving Paris. Yes I was sad, but looking out that airplane window, I knew it wasn't goodbye for long. "Au Revoir, France, mais pas à jamais", I said under my breath.

Rachel L., New York: Green Ticket Scholarhip Recipient, Western Civilization Program
Abbey Road Programs Rachel L. "The night before I was to embark on Abbey Road’s Western Civilization program my parents and I had a serious conversation about their expectations. They knew that I would have to make many choices over the summer; choices about what I wanted to eat, whom I wanted to talk to, activities I wanted to partake in. I reassured them that this would not be just a relaxing European vacation where I would lazy around in a hotel all day, but I was going to treat my summer like an intellectual and cultural experience that would change my life..."

I set out on the Western Civilization program with this mindset, knowing that in order to get a full experience I might have to put in a little extra work. Nothing could have prepared me for how fun and rewarding this ‘extra work’ would be. My ‘try everything new’ mindset was first put to the test in Greece when we were told that we would climb down the 999 steps from the ruins of the Palamidi Fortress to reach the town of Nafplion. The climb down from the ruins was one of the most physically draining, but most surreal experiences of my life. To our left as we descended we could see the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and the many small islands that stand nearby, including the island fortress of Bourtzi which appears to protrude from the water. While I was gawking at my surroundings, I suddenly felt like I was intruding on a scene only meant for the front of a postcard. It was perfect: the color of the water, the picturesque ruins, even the sky, which barely had a single cloud. At this moment I knew I was in a special place and I truly began to appreciate the opportunity I had been given.

I had a similar moment on our last night in Rome. Our hotel was only a few minutes walk from the Pantheon and my new friends and I often found ourselves wandering in that direction at night, looking for a quick espresso or just a place to sit down and relax. As we headed towards our favorite monument, we found ourselves in a familiar piazza, but this night it was crowded and filled with light. We moved towards the center of the crowd and were immediately absorbed into an Opera Concert. Four singers stood on a low stage, spotlights following their faces and light dancing off their sparkling costumes. We stood amazed and listened to the music until we had to return to our hotel for check-in, but in those minutes I felt like I was witnessing something truly unique. It wasn’t just the beauty of the scene, but also the feeling of raw culture; I was experiencing something utterly Italian.

Although I will remember this summer because of all the new friends and experiences I’ve had, it was really our daily lessons that helped me appreciate my surroundings more than I could have on my own. I remember our very first day in Athens when we were walking among the ruins in the Agora. Our two teachers, Chris and John, led us through a small museum inside one of the buildings and they were able to identify and explain almost every artifact in the room. They seemed to have an inexhaustible knowledge about everything we saw and they continued to amaze me throughout the summer. Every person on this trip made my weeks something I will always remember and I only hope that I can have another summer that will live up to this one. Thank you Abbey Road!

Lindsay C., Maryland: Western Civilization Program
Abbey Road Programs Lindsay C. "[While] packing my suitcase on the last night in Paris… my roommate and I sobbed because our trip of a lifetime had come to an end. When would we see our newfound friends again? Could this incredible trip truly be over? I can see now that although I am no longer traveling through Europe with Abbey Road, the journey will never completely end. My memories from the trip will have a lasting impact and the events that I experienced have completely changed how I view the world. I have gained more than I ever imagined from Abbey Road’s Western Civilization tour through Europe..."

Before embarking on this trip, I had hoped that it would change me from a mere tourist into a sophisticated world traveler. Through the significant amount of information provided at every sight we visited, as well as the numerous Symposium Seminars (group discussions), Abbey Road succeeded in making me the type of traveler I so desired to become. Instead of glancing at a painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and swiftly moving on to the next, the counselors gathered us together to discuss in-depth the history and details of the particular painting and encouraged us to study and debate why the artist created it in that manner. Before the trip, I had promised myself that I would embrace every aspect of European culture and make the most out of each new experience. I know that I kept this promise throughout my month in Europe because I approached moments of nervousness or apprehensiveness as an opportunity to stretch beyond my comfort zone and grow as a person. My walk through the Santa Maria della Concezione (the Bone Church) in Rome was one such occasion. As our counselors explained, the nuns and leaders of this very sacred church bury its holy men in the church’s vicinity and do not believe in cremation. However, the church quickly ran out of space to bury all of the dead, so the leaders used the bones to decorate the church’s walls and ceilings. As I strolled through this narrow, holy Church of Bones, I felt as though I was entering an underground grave. I knew that these bones were not disgusting in the eyes of the leaders of this church, so I made sure to look at it from their point of view. Experiencing this sight from a different perspective expanded my knowledge and understanding of the different customs and philosophies that exist throughout the world.

I anticipated that this trip would include a respectable balance of work and play, and indeed it did. In addition to exploring the cultural sights, we participated in a wide range of leisure activities such as exploring Florence while on a photo scavenger hunt, dancing at a Discotheque, nightly excursions for gelato, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night while on the rides at a festive carnival in Paris, dressing up with face paint to watch the Women’s World Cup Final in a restaurant in Rome and playing beach volleyball on an inflatable raft in the water at the Glyfada Beach Resort in Athens. These were only a few of the many exciting and surprising adventures that I encountered; however, the escapades brought more than just fun. They fostered a bond of friendship among a group of thirty students that I would have thought impossible beforehand. I have learned so much not only about the culture of Europe, but also from my relationships with the people I met on the trip. We shared many stories about our own unique experiences, which greatly enhanced my understanding of my traveling companions, as well as of the places we visited. My life-changing experiences have taught me more about the meaning of life and revealed more about who I am than I could ever have learned without stepping out of my current environment. I will continue to share with others the remarkable journey that I have experienced with Abbey Road. As I think about these countless memories, sift through all my breath-taking photos of the Acropolis in Athens, the Vatican in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Skype and message with my many new friends, I know that my Western Civilization trip to Europe with Abbey Road will always remain a part of me.

Jason Y., California: Western Civilization Program
Abbey Road Programs Jason Y. "This past summer I took an amazing trip to four very beautiful, different cities in Europe. Initially I thought I was going on this trip to learn about the history of Western civilization but I ended up learning so much more. I experienced the cultures in a way I could never have imagined if I was on this trip with my family. I met many great friends who I plan to continue friendships with for years to come. At the beginning of the trip, starting at the airport, I could already tell this trip was going to be one that I would always remember..."

Soon enough all of the kids started talking and we immediately hit it off. Our guide Chris Bond, also did a good job of allowing us to have a ton of free time at the airport to chill and meet our newfound friends. I still continue to talk with my Abbey Road friends almost every night on Facebook and over the phone. I am looking forward to hopefully having an Abbey Road Western Civilizations reunion this year. After a long but fun plane ride to Athens, we settled down in our hotel room and our guides gave us time to relax. I did a quick exploration of the hotel with my new friends and then we headed out as a group for a traditional Greek dinner. As the next couple of days unfolded, everyone soon became incredibly close. I knew that I would love the next few weeks in Europe. The three guides on the trip, Emily, Chris and John were all awesome. Although they were very laid back, all three of them knew more than I could ever imagine about the history of Western civilization. We would always meet at a reasonable time of around 9:30 am and head over to an awesome historical site. One of the reasons this trip was so great, was because we were never learning about topics in a classroom. We always visited the places we were learning about and got to be at the monuments that we had learned about just minutes ago. For example, while learning about the olive tree of Athena we would be sitting under the very tree we were studying. One of my most favorite historical sites in Greece was the Acropolis. From our hotel we had a breathtaking view of the Acropolis and at night the entire place lit up beautifully. The Acropolis was thought to be the holy rock of Athens and it is here the ancient Athenians built many monuments and temples. During one of the first days we were in Athens we took a walk through the city from our hotel and took a short hike up to the beautiful Acropolis. At the Acropolis, our instructors, led by Oxford graduate John Landsdowne, taught us all about the history of this holy place. On top of the rock, we got a ton of free time to explore and see the great monuments and ruins and also view the entire city of Athens. I have never been around someone as knowledgeable as John.

A typical day consisted of waking up at around 8:30, eating at a local breakfast café or staying at the hotel and having some of the great local breakfast food, and then meeting up with the group at around 9:30. From there, our guides would inform us about what we were doing that day. Then we would head to a historical site. At around 1 o’clock we would usually take a break from our lessons and go to a nearby sandwich shop. Here you could buy many different assortments of delectable sandwiches, paninis or pizzas, obviously followed by a mouth-watering gelato. After lunch, we would head back to the site and usually our guides would say more information and then give us about an hour of free time to roam about the site. By now, it is the heat of the day, and our guides can tell that everyone is getting a bit tired. At this point we would get free time until around 6 o’clock when there was an optional activity offered. I highly recommend going on all of these. During this free time, we have many options of what we can do. We can explore the city, go shopping, or if we are feeling a bit tired, we head back to the rooftop of the hotel, put in our ipods and just chill or even, my favorite, take a quick power nap to prepare us for the late night ahead. After the optional activity was over, the group would meet up again at the hotel. This is where our guides would either give us money for dinner in small groups with whomever we choose to go with, or we eat some delicious local cuisine with the group. Some of the best food I have ever had was on this trip such as the meats in Greece, the pastas in Italy, and the crepes and croissants in France. We end dinner very late for American standards, but early for European standards, at around 10 pm. From 10 to 12:30ish, depending upon how many activities we were doing tomorrow and the time we had to wake up, we roam about in whatever neighborhood we were in.

Our rooms were great places to relax and chill out, as the beds were even comfier than my own bed at home. The first two weeks we stayed in rooms of three people in very nice and luxurious hotels. Definitely one of the top experiences of the trip was staying in the apartment complex in Florence. The first day we arrived, our guides gave each trio of roommates sixty euros to shop for the week’s grocery supplies. My two roommates and I loaded up on pasta, sauces, and fresh local meats along with tons of sandwich fixings. It was great to be able to come back to the room during free time and make myself a quick sandwich or even cook up a bowl of delicious Italian pasta.

The apartments in Florence were more than I could ever have imagined. Each apartment consisted of two spacious floors along with a full kitchen stocked with our very own utensils, pots and pans. The last week in Paris, we stopped sharing rooms with two others and we roomed with only one other kid. After our palatial Florence experience, the rooms seemed a tad small although that didn’t matter much because we hardly spent any time in Paris in our rooms. During the night and day, we were constantly exploring different hip neighborhoods of Paris. Paris was definitely my favorite place. Although the city is boiling over with history, our guides somehow managed to find the perfect equilibrium between learning and free time.

I loved hanging out with friends at night on the lawn of the lit up Eiffel Tower. The Louvre was incredible because not only were we viewing some of the most historical and magnificent paintings of all time, but our guide John was also teaching us the history behind all of these paintings. Another favorite is the castle of Versailles and the phenomenal gardens behind the castle. While we were there, there was even a spectacular water show with water coming out of the Versailles fountains at all different angles.

Going on this trip is the best decision I have ever made. Not only did I learn a ton about historical Western civilizations but I gained a lot of understanding about different modern European cultures. Also, I made so many new fabulous friends from all around the country. This was a great pre college trip because I learned a lot about myself and who I am.

Charley G., Oregon: Western Civilization Program
Abbey Road Programs Charley G. "One fantastic thing that Western Civ was able to do was cater to everyone’s individual interests. Some people went on the trip to see the sights, and see them they did: from the Acropolis to the Duomo to l’Arc de Triomphe, each city we went to was chock full of tours of incredible places of interest. Others came to learn about the story of Western Civilization; for them, we had nightly readings and discussions about Hellenistic art, Renaissance philosophy, and everything in between. And a few people just came to have some fun; the trips to the beach..."

The prospect of writing this essay is a bit daunting. There are so many aspects of my trip that deserve mention, but communicating the experiences in a manner that does them justice is a task I’m not sure I’m up for. After all, how do you explain the friendships made, the things learned, the growth and the maturation to anyone who didn’t have the same adventure? Is it enough to list your favorite activities and most vivid memories? Does that not leave out the amazing emotions of my Abbey Road experience? I don’t know. I hope I can capture the feeling I get when I daydream about wandering through the Louvre, or gazing at the Sistine Chapel, but if I can’t, please at least understand that this trip was something extremely special for me. A lot of the great parts of Western Civ had nothing to do with the teaching, the excursions, or the curriculum. To be sure, the lessons were fantastic - both informative and riveting. However, it was the people that made the experience. Walking around Paris trying to find food that everyone liked, or getting along with roommates who weren’t always quite as interested in making the room livable as you were, these were the times that true growth happened. What my instructors did was not so much create the adventure - they simply fostered an environment that let us make our own memories. By making our trip conducive to fun, education, and maturation, my teachers helped me create an experience that I will not soon forget.

One fantastic thing that Western Civ was able to do was cater to everyone’s individual interests. Some people went on the trip to see the sights, and see them they did: from the Acropolis to the Duomo to l’Arc de Triomphe, each city we went to was chock full of tours of incredible places of interest. Others came to learn about the story of Western Civilization; for them, we had nightly readings and discussions about Hellenistic art, Renaissance philosophy, and everything in between. And a few people just came to have some fun; the trips to the beach and the Discotheque (a place way cooler than the name makes it sound) were enough excitement to satiate everyone. However, Western Civ wasn’t just about making everyone comfortable. The teachers pushed us, whether that meant offering our own opinion in our weekly symposiums or trying the food that we never thought we would, and in so doing, made us learn more about ourselves.

Of course, Western Civilization was about more than a good time - it was about sharing a life experience with 23 other individuals. We began as strangers, and ended (mostly) as friends. I thank Abbey Road for everything my four weeks in Europe had to offer. Though there were ups and downs, they all contributed to a journey that will forever define my summer and be a part of the experiences of my youth. Thank you so much.

Emma H., Texas: College Prep Program
Abbey Road Programs Emma H. "It goes without saying that the majority of students approaching the fall semester of their senior year typically experience high anxiety with regard to college applications. This was especially true for me, and already by the end of my junior year a considerable amount of worry around admissions had set in. For this reason, I began to search. Being an explorer and adventuress at heart, I have embarked on many different summer programs throughout my years…"

The spectrum of these ranges from strictly living out of a hiking back pack for two weeks in the North West to residing in a French dorm with the goal of foreign immersion. While all of these trips have been rewarding and well worth my time in their own ways, my latest journey to Boston for the Abbey Road College Prep Course was incredibly fulfilling for the particular time in my life that it came. It goes without saying that the majority of students approaching the fall semester of their senior year typically experience high anxiety with regard to college applications. This was especially true for me, and already by the end of my junior year a considerable amount of worry around admissions had set in. For this reason, I began to search for a way to receive adequate SAT preparation, information about colleges, and assistance with the application process. After completing my session with Abbey Road College Prep, I can honestly say that I believe it to have been among the most effective and fun ways to complete all of those challenging tasks.

Immediately I appreciated the accommodating and caring staff that was always striving to ensure an enjoyable experience for students. In this way, I was very pleased with the balance between structured activities, time for work, and time for play. Therefore, while students felt comfortably chaperoned, there was still plenty of time for ‘free time’, during which students could explore the city, complete assignments, or simply relax with friends! This balance also held true in regard to the excursions. As a program, we were able to enjoy many outings, including a tour on the Duck Adventures Boat, an afternoon at Quincy Market, an outing at Revere Beach, and my personal favorite, a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art.

However, these alone did not fulfill the purpose of my attendance; it was only in conjunction with the academics that the program thrived. As previously stated, the SAT preparation was a significant factor in my coming to Abbey Road. Initially, I was nervous that fitting the entire Princeton Review course into two weeks may not have been effective. That prejudgment could not have been further from the truth! Our Princeton Review professor was extremely thorough, continually dedicated to ensuring students’ comprehension of the material and to helping the students succeed. In fact, I would say the two-week course, compared to a longer school year or summer course, ended up as the most effective way for me to prepare for the SAT.

In addition to the excellent test taking preparation, the Admissions Prep Writing Elective was outstanding as well. With all of the stress surrounding college for the students, having a staff member so highly experienced and informed in the college search process was a key anxiety-reducing factor of the program. Through activities such as constructing a “Must Haves & Deal Breakers” list, drafting a résumé, and brainstorming essay topics, the writing elective course teacher effectively broke down the massive amounts of information about the college search, prepared students for all that goes into an application, and finally assisted in fine tuning each student’s application essays.

Leaving Boston I had the peace of mind regarding my application essays, a more defined list of colleges that interested me, and a clear path to follow to my next SAT and to complete my application process. Not to mention, I left the program having made friends with students from all over the nation that I continue to keep in touch with as we journey through the remainder of the application process. In these ways, the Abbey Road Program met all of my needs pertaining to my college search, and I could not be more satisfied with the results that Abbey Road helped me achieve!

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