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living4.jpg (18131 bytes) Welcome to The Commons.  Gables Commons Drive, Orlando, Florida will be your new address for the length of your contract.   The Commons was completed (kind of) in the spring of 1998.  It features one, two, three, and four bedroom units built in clusters around the clubhouse facility.   The clubhouse offers a pool, weight room, and many services you will find very useful.


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Various views of the Commons complex

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Security doin' the rounds:

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The Apartments:

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The parties!:

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Arguably the most important and exciting part of the program is the opportunity to interact with cultural representatives from around the world.  All participants in both the Cultural Representative and Fellowship programs live in The Commons complex (Waterpark Program participants currently live in the Vista Way complex).  The complex, built in 1998, covers several acres with clusters of buildings housing about 1000 participants, lakes, and amenities galore.


The living situation

The buildings are co-ed, although individual units are not.  Each apartment features a washer and dryer, fully-stocked kitchen, private telephone line, full-cable TV, and one bathroom for every two or three residents.  The bedrooms are each shared by two people.  There are four configurations of units: one bedroom/one bathroom, two bedroom/two bathroom, three bedroom/two bath, and four bedroom/three bath.   Weekly costs vary by unit size, and the recruiters are hesitant to even mention the existence of the one bedroom/two person units.  You are assigned to a unit based on space availability, although preferences might be noted.  The smaller units are more appealing to many, but be careful not to forget that more flatmates means more friends, parties, connections, and lifelong relationships.  Living with a group of people from around the world is the most interesting and exciting experience, however many people find it difficult.  Remember that you must be willing to share a room with someone who may fancy some exotic (and disgusting smelling) cuisine, or is foreign to the concept of taking the garbage out before the 'roaches appear to do the job for you.  You must be accommodative and understanding to the needs of all the residents in the unit.


Security is provided 24 hours, and residents must show ID to enter after 10pm.   Guests are only permitted when signed in by a resident, and can never remain on the property past 2am - this is VERY strictly enforced!  The overbearing behavior of security has been an issue in the past, however the service exists solely for the protection of residents.  It is simply better to have it and deal with the nuisances which can pop up, than not have it and lose the secure environment within the complex.


Transportation is available to work, the theme parks, and Wal*Mart, of course.   These vans haul residents around the area in relative comfort (relative to walking, that is).  But they have been known to be convenient, and even reliable on occasion!  If you have a car it would be a HUGE asset to bring.   Plenty of parking is available at your doorstep


Each country is represented by around 100 participants, and apartments are intentionally mixed so you are roomed with someone from another country.  Lifelong relationships can develop from this grouping, and by the completion of your contract, you will have friends around the world.  On the flipside, though, you must learn to deal with the cultural differences which will undoubtedly arise.  But that is a major component of the Learning Experience at The Commons.

Partying is a full-time activity here.  Whether with roommates, countrymates, or just about anyone else, the Commons environment is never without a party.  Of course, those who want to rest are seldom disturbed, but why rest - this only lasts one year!


Rent is deducted from your paycheck on a weekly basis.  Currently, there are two levels of rent, $77 weekly per-person for one and two-bedroom units, and $65 for the others.  This amount covers unit rent, utilities, phone service, cable TV (with Comedy Central and MTV!), transportation, recreation, and many other services provided.  This amount is automatically deducted weekly, regardless of whether you live at the complex or at your new local boyfriend's house in Kissimmee. 


The Commons is a Disney-managed property located just south-east of the theme parks on Little Lake Bryan Drive, off Vineland Rd.   Epcot, Magic Kingdom Park, The Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, the three water parks, golf courses, and all the rest of the wonderful world of Disney are within arms reach.  Just a short walk or Rollerblade down the road is Mickey's Retreat - the cast recreation complex on Little Lake Bryan.  It features a lake, beach, two pools, beach volleyball, basketball, tennis, barbecues, an activities pavilion, a soccer pitch and a baseball diamond!  Whew.  And it's all new - it opened in the Summer of '98.

A short drive from the complex will take you to I-Drive and 192, the tacky tourist strips.  Universal Studios Escape with the new Islands of Adventure park, Wet 'n Wild, and Sea World are less than 10 minutes away.  Downtown Orlando offers great clubs and pubs (and little else), and is 20 minutes up I-4.  Shopping is excellent at Pointe Orlando, Florida Mall, East Colonial, and Ocoee, all within reasonable drives.   For beaches, head 50 minutes east to Cocoa Beach, or 90 minutes west for the Clearwater area - which is much cleaner, larger, and has no ants!  Tampa Bay features Busch Gardens and their awesome collection of acclaimed coasters, and Ybor City, with its awesome collection of bars and clubs.  For sports action, Orlando is home to the Magic and Solar Bears, Tampa has the Devil Rays, Lightning and Bucs, Jacksonville has the Jaguars, and those pesky Dolphins are down in Miami, along with the Marlins.  If you happen to be in the program during February and March, a trip up I-4 to Daytona Beach is necessary.  The world famous Bike Week and college spring break are not to be missed.


All images copyright 1998, Andy Saito.  No reproduction without permission.

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