Staff Spotlight: Kathy Kaufmann

What position do you hold at Abbey Road? What inspired you to join the team?

Kathy Kauffman is the Director/Coordinator of the Abbey Roads Nice program.

Kathy: I am the Director/Coordinator of the Abbey Road Nice Residential Program in France. I lived in the south of France on and off between 2005 and 2010.

And I fell in love with it so completely that when it came time for me to move back to the States to begin my Master of Arts in Teaching Languages, I wanted to find a way to get back to the French Riviera at least once a year.

I have been teaching and leading language immersion trips for teens almost every summer since 2005. So starting work with Abbey Road in the summer of 2012 was just a natural progression of what I already knew I loved.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

Kathy: What I enjoy most about my job with Abbey Road is sharing everything I love about the south of France’s rich language and culture with my students – helping them interact with locals, suggesting new foods for them to try, and taking them to discover some of the most beautiful and best kept secrets of the Riviera.

I love seeing my students’ eyes light up as we explore the cobbled streets of tiny villages or kayak down the turquoise waters of the Gorges du Verdon.

I love encouraging my students to try to things, practice French, and get out of their comfort zones, and I love watching them grow in intercultural competence and confidence over the course of our program.

Did you travel abroad as a high school student? If so, where and how did it impact you?

Kathy: I traveled to Ecuador with a group of friends when I was seventeen. As this was my first international trip in a long time and without my parents, I was both excited and apprehensive – but mostly excited.

During my three weeks in Ecuador, what I remember most was that everything was so mind-blowingly different and fantastic: the people, the food, the scenery, the air, the smells, the flora, the fauna, the clothes, the houses, the language – not only the Spanish language but also the indigenous Quechua of the Andes.

I will never forget how alive and heightened my senses were during that trip. The travel bug had bit, and it bit hard. Since this trip, I have been to 50+ other countries, and I can’t get enough of international travel.

My travels have shaped who I am and my openness and tolerance for different ways of life.

What is something about your job that would surprise most people?

Kathy: When I tell people that I go to the south of France every summer to direct an immersion program there, I generally get responses to the tune of, “Tough life!” or “Sounds like you’re really suffering!”

I love my job, but what might surprise most people to learn about by position is that contrary to the relaxing vision they might have of me soaking up the Mediterranean sun on the beaches of the Promenade des Anglais, my month with Abbey Road is certainly my busiest month of the year!

As Director/Coordinator, I generally work 16- to 18-hour days and I am on-call 24/7. I do logistics, scheduling, reservations, collaboration with our sister program in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, correspondence with parents, take students to the doctor, and so on.

I wear many different hats with Abbey Road, and while the month is admittedly exhausting, it is always a positive experience!

What advice would you have for a high school student considering their first trip abroad?

Kathy: If you’re planning on joining the Abbey Road Nice Residential Program or embarking on any other international trip and this is your first time abroad, here is something to consider: put down your iPhone for 2 seconds and take in all the new amazingness all around you!

You might be wired to social media at home, but let this be a chance for you to disconnect and experience something totally new.

Post a picture once a day to let your loved ones know you’re OK and having a great time, and then switch off the technology and soak in your new surroundings.

I also recommend that you try every new food that comes your way, interact with the people in your host country, try to speak the language, get ready to walk a lot, and know that this experience is going to positively impact the rest of your life.