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» Emma Gibbs - The University of Michigan

Dear Murray,

Hi!  This is Emma Gibbs, I was at the Abbey Spring 2003.  I was surfing the web, looking for Abbey pictures, and I came across the eurabbey.com site.  What a wonderful site!  A year after I had been there, the pictures were so recent in my mind – I miss it so much.

I was writing to tell you how much I enjoyed the Abbey experience.  I never got a chance to thank you for introducing and helping me make the decision to go, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  My roommate [at the Abbey], Anna, and I are extremely close friends, and we talk at least once a week, if not more.  If that wasn’t enough, I am able to look back and call France one of my previous homes – I can’t say enough great things about the [Abbey] Program.

I would like to know how it is changing, how it is growing!  I see there are some upcoming art classes that you could take there, I would have loved that – I am an art major at school.  I might have to come back just for that!

I hope all is well for you, and I would like to hear back from you soon.  I hope you remember me!  Thank you again, a year late, but I wanted to tell you that I am extremely happy that I was able to have this experience. 

P.S. Are there any Abbey sweatshirts for sale? If so, I would LOVE to have one!!

~ Emma Gibbs - The University of Michigan

» Rhonda MacGregor - Mother of Aubrey MacGregor, Wayne State University

"My daughter (Aubrey) attended the fall semester and she arrived home last night. Her experience and opportunities, relationships with teachers and students were more than she could have imagined and she was overcome with emotion when trying to explain to us what a life altering experience it turned out to be for her. It will be something that she will have in her heart that will influence and inspire her for years to come."

~ Rhonda MacGregor- Mother of Aubrey MacGregor, Wayne State University

» David Griffus - University of Michigan Evans Scholar

“To be living and working at a place that is so special and historic feels like a privilege every day I wake up. I am not the only one that feels that way; I can guarantee you that every single person that comes to The Abbey feels fortunate to have been part of the history and magic.

When I first arrived here at the end of July, my first impression of The Abbey was really shear amazement. In a town where everything else is quaint and small, The Abbey and its grounds are magnificent structures sure to awe even the most critical skeptics. Every building on the campus has its own past and personality, from the Maison Brulee, which the Nazis set ablaze during WWII, to the main Abbey building itself, where George Washington’s own nephew studied at military school.

Also fit to mention are my impressions of the larger entity of Pontlevoy itself. Even though I did not know any French when I first arrived (learning more everyday), I never felt afraid to venture into the city and make attempts on a daily basis to try and learn more about me and the new programs taking place on campus.

The Abbey is absolutely spectacular.”

~ David Griffus - University of Michigan Evans Scholar

» Eric Covert - Michigan State University Evans Scholar

“The Abbey Program in Pontlevoy, France has been something I will cherish and always remember. Coming into the program in its inaugural semester, I was nervous about many things. But it quickly became evident that my semester here would be the most enjoyable and influential one of my life.

The courses, taught by some of America’s top professors, being immersed in a new culture, the flexibility for travel and the overall atmosphere here at The Abbey are just a few of the great things that I have experienced in the past two months.

I challenge everyone to seriously consider The Abbey Program if they are interested in studying abroad. Not only has it been the best two months of my life so far but it will absolutely be a massive addition to my resume, since international experiences are one of the most sought-after characteristics that employers are looking for in young business hopefuls straight out of college.”

~ Eric Covert - Michigan State University Evans Scholar

» Jenny Graham - Oakland University

“This is one of those experiences in life that you wish you could live forever. I’ve been taking all kinds of photos, but it’s kind of discouraging, because no matter how many pictures I take of The Abbey, or the people, or the places I go, it will never do it justice. I can go home and show people the pictures, but they’ll never understand it.

I feel this is my group. I’ve never been in a situation with so many people where we all just got along. It’s amazing how well we all like each other.

I’ve always had a sense that I would want to do something with my life besides just graduating and getting a job, and coming her totally reinforced it. I know now that after this experience, I have to just … go. That’s what we do here: we just go. There are things you need to do in your life, and you’ve just got to go and do them.

If someone were thinking about studying abroad, I’d recommend this program because you’re not just let out there by yourself. You have people here to make sure you experience the French culture, you get to know local families and get the most out of the experience."

~ Jenny Graham - Oakland University

» Adam Vietenheimer - Midwestern State University

“At your own university, everyone has his or her own little group. But here, everybody knows everybody. You live right next to them, everybody’s on the same floor. You’re learning about people from other countries here, but at the same time, you’re learning about people from your own country.

Living here has made me more open to getting to know different people. I’m not willing to go up and start talking to people I don’t know at home. But I hang out with a lot of people here that I normally wouldn’t.

You’ll look back 30 years from now and you’ll just be saying in your mind: The Abbey. So many stories, so many tales, so many crazy moments.”

~ Adam Vietenheimer - Midwestern State University

» Sarah Black - University of Southern Mississippi

“At a big university, you don’t really know your teacher, you don’t really know your classmates, it can be real impersonal. Here you know your teacher personally. They’re very passionate about what they’re teaching - it’s almost contagious.

We were just walking one day and this older man stopped us. We said we liked his car and then he started speaking English to us. We ended up going to his house for a full dinner, about six of us did. We started off the champagne and had four courses. It was huge. Probably took about four hours. Coming over here has really changed my mind. Now I know I can just pack up and go anywhere and I’ll be fine.”

~ Sarah Black -University of Southern Mississippi

» Anna Gibson - University of Southern Mississippi

“The Abbey experience is truly life-changing. I came back a completely different person, independent and much more open to the world. There was nothing more exciting for me than putting my key in the huge black iron gate, and realizing yet again that the huge monument in front of me was home. When you leave The Abbey, you bring a part of it home, and you carry it around with you wherever you go. The memory of sitting in a huge window seat watching the sun rise over the rooftops of Pontlevoy, and of the first time you came back to The Abbey and realized it was home – these are unforgettable moments. The Abbey Program gives you the opportunity, not just to live in France, but to explore Europe and truly experience life on the other side of the world. Learning your way around Europe is not an easy concept, but you become so much more independent when you are there for three months and have to deal with the difficulties and the excitement of it all. You learn from experience – not the type of knowledge you are used to reading out of a textbook, but the type that you create for yourself with a rail map and a little courage.

Before I went to Pontlevoy, I read a quotation by Mary Anne Radmacher Hershey in The Abbey brochure: “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” At the time I just thought it was romantic. One night I woke at The Abbey to find a moon bigger than any I had ever seen, its light streaming in my window. I remembered that quote, and I realized silently that I understood what it truly meant.

I met so many people from across America and Europe, I discovered so many new places that I had only seen in books and I made so many lasting memories. The experience of studying abroad also teaches you a lot about your own country. You learn to respect differences and celebrate similarities, and you come home with a renewed respect for your own country and for your temporary home. Hemingway once said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” This is how you will feel about France when you leave The Abbey to return to the world you knew before. It changes you, and it stays with you.”

~ Anna Gibson - University of Southern Mississippi

» Aaron Fales - University of Michigan Evans Scholar

“It was the best time of my life, and I will always remember the times I shared at The Abbey in Pontlevoy. Thanks for this wonderful experience and opportunity- it is one that will never be forgotten.

I speak hardly any French, but it’s no big deal because you’re around people in this town who are trying hard to not be shy and learn to speak English. And when you’re out with other students and meet your French friends, well we all have gotten pretty good at our “Franglais.”

Just enjoy the ride. It’s not going to last too long. It’ll be over before you know it. Enjoy the time you have and the new friends you’re making.

Nobody here is the type of kid to live with regrets. When we are paying our student loans off years from now, are we going to remember that many classes from Michigan or Southern Miss or wherever? Just ask around this place a little bit about memories. We will never forget here. None of The Abbey will go away.”


~ Aaron Fales - University of Michigan Evans Scholar