What I find extremely motivating is when young people start their own business, and really drive their dreams to become their reality. This week, I was lucky enough to speak with Katie Prescott, owner and founder of Abridge Academy – a social enterprise she created with a goal of bridging East and West through education.
When Prescott was in college studying Chinese and Secondary Science, she had the opportunity to take a trip to Taiwan to teach English to young students. During this trip, she realized that helping others learn English was absolutely the path for her. Fast forward – she is now 25 years old and owning her own company in this realm of work!
Based out of The United Kingdom, Prescott’s company, Abridge Academy, is able to partner with varying schools and universities across Asia, including China, Japan and Taiwan. Prescott explained to me that “It is so important for children in other countries to learn English as it enables them to communicate with people from all around the world, develop their cultural understanding and improve their employability prospects. In countries such as China, children rarely have the opportunity to learn English in a more relaxed and fun environment, instead seeing it as a more boring academic subject – much like my failed eight years of learning French in school! Our programs enable them to develop more of a passion for language learning and see the real value it brings in building bridges across nations”.
Prescott is the only employee for her entire company – which sounds crazy, but the way she broke it down makes a LOT of sense. She hires freelancers or independent contractors for online teaching positions, has “volunteers” for her summer programs and homestays in Asia, and works in conjunction with various schools and universities. So really, there is no need for her to have to hire other employees. She handles all the marketing, event planning, recruiting and hiring. All in all – she is one busy woman!
Abridge Academy is an incredible place to build your resume and do some freelance type work. With three different types of programs to choose from, there is truly something for everyone.
If you are planning on full time travel, you could spend 3 to 10 weeks in the summer teaching English at an Abridge Academy Summer Camp. Prescott did mention that you will not be paid for this position but rather given cultural experiences in exchange. These cultural experiences include fun day trips, which vary depending on where your camp is based. For example, if you are in a major city, you may have a day trip within the city. But if you are based rurally, you could have a day trip into the mountains. Along with this all of your flights, accommodations and meals will be paid for, and you can get your TEFL Certification while you are there. This way, you don’t have to worry about getting a work visa in China, which can be a difficult process to begin with. Then, after your camp travels, you’ll also be given a three night stay fully paid for, so you can have some post-camp travel adventures.
If you’re interested in being fully immersed in another culture and want to truly experience home life but in a foreign country, you may want to go for The Homestay Tutor Program. Prescott explained the two different types of programs Abridge Academy offers. One is 6 to 8 weeks while the other is 2 to 12 months. With the 2 to 12 month program, you will work 30 hours per week, get a monthly allowance, accommodations, and free Chinese lessons. The shorter program includes 35 hours a week of work with accommodations and Chinese lessons, but no monthly allowance. Prescott compared this to being an au pair – you will do a few household chores and speak to the children in English, thus making them practice the language in every day life.
But what if you can’t travel right now? Or you want to be a digital nomad and not have to physically go to work? Well, Prescott has designed the perfect program for you! Become a “Star Mentor”, which is essentially an online tutor. You will become a mentor for enthusiastic students from China, and you will receive £16 per hour ($21.78 USD) along with free Chinese lessons and all inclusive trips to China. The requirements you should have: 12 hours per week to work and have some sort of experience with children. This does not mean you have to be a teacher – you could have babysat, tutored or worked at a daycare. You do have to be available on Bejing time – this means that people from The United States probably have to wake up very early in the morning. But, if you don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, this could be the perfect fit for you.
Currently, Prescott has 50 active tutors working for Abridge Academy, with most of them being from The United Kingdom, The United States, Canada and some of Europe. She did mention that there were over 800 tutor applicants recently, and she could only choose 50 of them- she clearly has built a desired company to work with! When going through all these applications, she said her main desired factor in her tutors is their answer to the question “why?”. She wants her team to consist of individuals who really love what they do, and can provide the best services to all the children and families in Asia.
In regard to Prescott’s business model to find clients (aka students and families), she has partnered with a Chinese company who recruits these individuals, and refers them to Abridge Academy. Then, she connects the correct tutor to a family that suits them – then the real journey begins.
As for the future of Abridge Academy, Prescott sees herself pushing the business into new countries and regions of the world. She hopes to grow her business going forward, and is striving to bring back the summer camp programs and home stays in the near future, once our world can recover a bit more from The Coronavirus Pandemic. “The longer you wait, the more difficult it is” Prescott told me. She mentioned that a lot of people would say that you need the experience before starting your own business, but for her, this is the experience. She is getting it now, and learning as she goes. And to be fair, it seems she is doing a pretty amazing job bridging Eastern learning styles to The West.
To learn more about Abridge Academy and the programs they offer to students, volunteers and tutors, you can go to abridgeacademy.com.