Alumni Spotlight: Francois Martin


Francois travels all over the world for his job, much of which includes escorting university admissions officers who are meeting with International students about studying in the U.S. His clients are mostly private liberal arts institutions interviewing some of the best high school students in the world. As a bystander at these meetings, Francois is overwhelmingly amazed by the desire for learning of these foreign kids.

Why did you choose this program?

My first motivation in seeking a study-abroad program was sending my kids somewhere amazing, to do something other than being a tourist and without me there to make it a vacation. At the same time, I wanted them to be safe, see interesting places, learn about food and language and culture, and be a part of a group of kids from all over the world.

After researching a number of programs, Abbey Road seemed to be the program that met all of these requirements for me. The itinerary seemed to have enough travel to see multiple locations but enough study time in each place for them to remember something.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

One of the main reasons I chose Abbey Road as my sons' summer study abroad program provider was their full involvement in organizing and planning the whole trip. We did not have to worry about any organizational tasks as everything started from the JFK airport to their way back home was thoroughly planned and executed by the staff members.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I've had the opportunity to take my kids on numerous family vacations to other countries, but as they grew older, I didn't feel like I could provide them with a sense of adventure as long as I was there doing everything for them.

All parents should know that family vacations are not the same as study abroad programs, and if we want our kids to really experience and learn something new, we should consider academic summer programs abroad.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The boys came home talking about Florence and Paris like our own neighborhood. They add small, yet distinct references about Greek philosophy into their everyday conversations. As a result of daily classes and excursions in various European cities, they recognize exotic locations in movies and remember how they felt standing right there in person.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I'll admit to being a pretty serious "helicopter parent," with lots of involvement in my kids' lives on a daily basis and, like many other parents, I wasn't sure if my sons were ready for such an adventure. Before making a final decision, all I had was just blind faith in the unknown and overall trust in testimonials on the web site. However, I have to admit that the whole experience exceeded my expectations.

Why sending our kids to study abroad makes huge impact in their personal development?

My kids have very limited exposure to most of the world. This is especially true in Utah, with little diversity and relatively few immigrant populations, although I think most kids in the U.S. have no idea what it's like to be a citizen of any other country. At best, most kids' understanding comes through exposure as a tourist in Mexico or the Caribbean or what they see on the Discovery Channel from the comfort of luxurious surroundings full of electronic conveniences.

There is nothing in the U.S. that could have given my boys the same type of experience they received traveling with Abbey Road staff members and teachers. I'm a lucky dad to have Abbey Road contribute to the character development of my kids.