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ISEP Student Stories: Patrick's Entrepreneurial Study Abroad Lesson

May 7, 2014

Here at ISEP, we always make kind of a big deal about how study abroad is, like, totally amazing and helps you learn tons of valuable life skills such as independence, adaptability, proactiveness, confidence, and many, many others. Seriously – study abroad is that empowering! But don’t just take our word for it…

Patrick during a post-study abroad return trip to St. Tropez
Patrick during a post-study abroad return trip to St. Tropez

ISEP alumnus Patrick, a University of Denver international business major who spent a semester in France at Aix-Marseille Université in 2007, is still reaping the benefits of studying abroad seven years after returning from his educational travels. As an adult, Patrick continues to travel the world. During a particular trip, he encountered a problem when an airline representative told him he couldn’t board the plane because of a damaged passport. After some itinerary adjustment, a bit of stress, and quite a few dollars, Patrick was able to go on his trip. But he didn’t stop there – in true entrepreneurial fashion, he decided to flip this misadventure on its head by launching a new product, the Passport Protector, to help travelers shield their passports from the elements and avoid the same issues he encountered. How did the skills he developed during study abroad help him along the way? We asked him:

Patrick and friends at the beach in Marseille
Patrick and friends at the beach in Marseille

1. How did studying abroad help you work through your passport mishap? Did any skills that you developed during your semester in France come in handy?

I can remember debating potential programs in France, and I specifically chose ISEP because the programs are more intensive and immersed in the culture than most. That being said, one has to learn to step outside their comfort zone, adapt, and grow very quickly. As the semester passed in Aix, I learned to appreciate the challenges and adventure, then actually lean into them. The same way getting lost in a city can become an opportunity to explore and test your language skills – those habits translate into seeing the chance to make a business out of an unfortunate event.

2. Do you think studying abroad helps you be a better entrepreneur?

My first week studying in Aix I was supposed to meet a local French student to show me around town. He saw my dorm room and everything I set up on my own - then told me I was ‘X’ adjective. I had him repeat it a few times and I didn’t know the word in French. Then I went to my pocket dictionary….the word was “resourceful.”

The skills I learned as a student with ISEP have been invaluable as an entrepreneur. Navigating the unknowns of business, product design, and marketing are not unlike navigating French transportation, medicine, and education. You learn to think on your feet, problem solve, and enjoy the journey; there’s no going back, no friends from home, and your parents aren’t coming to your rescue.

The Passport Protector
The Passport Protector

3. You plan on donating a percentage of proceeds from the Passport Protector to study abroad scholarships. What is your motivation to do so?

The Passport Protector
The Passport Protector

I chose to donate part of our proceeds to study abroad scholarships because of the impact it’s had on me and how important the cause remains. Open-mindedness, personal growth, and adventure don’t happen in a vacuum; they happen through experience. Study abroad is good for young people and humanity on the whole. It can also be costly – if we can help offset that cost even for a few students to enjoy an ISEP experience like I did, all the work will be worth it.

Thanks Patrick! We are so excited to see our alumni succeeding in the world. You can learn more about the Passport Protector (and donate to the cause!) on the project’s Indiegogo page. You can contribute as little as one dollar.

How has your ISEP experience impacted your career? Tell us and you could be featured on the ISEP blog.

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