Some of the best stories we have heard are not of huge adventures or crazy "only in China" moments (although there have definitely been plenty of those!) but instead smaller, more personal experiences. Just a few weeks ago, one of our former 2018 summer camp volunteers (who has since returned to join our new language buddy program) shared a sweet video sent to her by one of her previous students, who still remembered her and invited her to come back to teach them again. Seeing the impact these more personal connections can have is incredibly humbling, reminding us of the importance of our programs to the children they support.
Definitely the homestay program! I have always been more closely involved in our summer camps and online training courses, which is where my expertise lies. However, I would really love to go on the homestay program as it offers a much deeper insight into the local culture, and of course the free Chinese classes would definitely be welcome (my language skills are already going a bit rusty!!).
During my time studying in China, the best experiences always came from befriending people I met and becoming part of the local community, and what better way to experience this than living with a local family?! Our homestay participants always return with incredible stories of their experiences - from randomly appearing on a Chinese fashion show to being invited on a spontaneous trip to the other end of the country! While the program is definitely challenging in many ways, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience which I would love to join if I had the chance.
Abridge Academy prides itself on being a small, community-focused social enterprise offering a more personal experience. We work in close partnership with local schools, community groups and educational organisations to offer the very best experience for our volunteers. As a social enterprise, our mission always comes before profits - we are passionate about developing cultural relations, promoting language learning and inspiring the next generation of teachers.
For this reason, our programs offers participants the highest level of training and support, ensuring they are fully prepared before they go. We are the only major China summer camps organisation offering fully accredited and specialised TEFL training - something we have invested significantly in as part of our commitment to quality education. We also provide the highest level of travel funding and scholarships in the industry - including a full travel grant (worth the value of a flight ticket) as standard for all internship volunteers, and a range of full and partial scholarship programs.
Finally, something I personally feel very proud of is the incredible community of volunteers, alumni and supporters we have. Even through challenging times such as the current coronavirus situation, they have come together to share experiences and offer their best wishes. Last year, over 50% of our applicants came through friend recommendations, clearly demonstrating the power of this community and their passion for our programs.
The most important advice I can give is to listen to your customers and always consider their point of view. The current coronavirus situation has definitely highlighted those organisations who have built a positive relationship with their customers and those (no names!) who have suffered serious PR disasters due to poor communication or refusing to issue refunds.
One factor which has really helped Abridge Academy thrive is building this positive community of people passionate about our programs and who really understand us as an organisation. By listening to your customers and keeping good lines of communication open, almost any issue can be overcome - this year, despite mass coronavirus-related cancellations, every message we have received has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants thanking us for our support and understanding despite their disappointment. Although we offered everyone a full refund, many have instead opted to postpone their place until next summer, which is definitely a positive sign.