GREENWICH, Conn. — Greenwich High graduate Kanako Morimoto wants to make the world a little bit smaller for future international students.
Morimoto, a current master’s candidate at the University of Tokyo, recently helped to develop A Friend Abroad. The online platform connects aspiring international students with “mentors” — current students and alumni with first-hand experience in studying at their dream schools.
The site offers personalized admissions counseling, including program selection, application preparation, essay reviews and mock interviews at a much lower price than traditional services, Morimoto said.
The service starts at $5 per 30 minutes of video chat with a chosen mentor, according to Morimoto.
While Morimoto said that the original idea came from another co-founder, Lindsey Lim, she would have appreciated the site as a resource in the past.
Morimoto moved to Greenwich when she was 10, quickly picking up English and excelling in school.
“But when it became time for me to prepare for college admissions, I realized I had very few people to turn to for tips and advice,” she said by email from France, where she is working with her team on the site. “No one in my family had ever attended university in the U.S. [nor] was familiar with the admissions process.”
Although Morimoto moved back to her native Japan for graduate school, she still found it difficult to make connections. She said she didn’t know anyone attending the programs she was considering.
Morimoto’s story is not unique.
“The ever-increasing flow of foreign students to universities in North America and Europe (as well as certain countries in Asia) inspired the team to create A Friend Abroad” Morimoto said. “Often without friends or acquaintances having studied at their target schools, these aspiring international students find difficulty in acquiring direct and candid information indispensable to succeeding in the admissions process.”
Morimoto developed the site while at European Innovation Academy, a three-week-long startup accelerator program in Nice, France. Her team members include Lim, Ke Ji, Jacob Bergquist, Patrick Burden and Frederik Jakobsen.
The team is in competition with other start-up teams. Thursday is the last day for them to acquire users for the competition, Morimoto said.
If they are chosen among the Top 10, the team can pitch to venture capital investors who can provide funding for the project.
Registration and a comprehensive list of services offered can be found through the team's website.
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