Kayleen joined MEI International Academy in the summer of 2019 on the Trek Through Europe program and hasn't been able to return to the regular classroom since. She went on to teach on Culture, Currency & Conflict (Fall, Term 1), Trailblazers (Fall, Term 2) and will be staying on for Kingdoms (Term 3) and Empires (Term 4) this upcoming Spring, 2020.
What is your favorite travel memory?
I'll never forget the short walk from our bus drop off that very first evening that we arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam to our hotel. It was the Asia culture shock that we had all been waiting for and the feeling was electric!
The night was lit up with a mix of rooftop restaurant fairy lights; bright, colourful food stall signs, and the golden glow from the cities oldest, gothic Cathedral towering over the square.
We navigated the chaos of motorbikes and kids running around playing Vietnamese hacky sack in the street, just in awe of this lively scene. Vines from massive, centuries-old teak trees hang over the streets, giving it a "city in the jungle" type of feel and it feels as if every resident in the city is out sitting on a little plastic stool, enjoying life together.
It was one of my favourite impressions ever of a new place.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
The biggest change for me since starting working for MEI has been the switch in teaching style that comes with having an ever-changing classroom that is literally, the world around you.
A typical day of classroom settings might look like gym class on the beach, journaling in the park, morning lesson in a cafe and evening lesson around the hotel pool. I was so used to the resources readily available to me with a traditional, brick and mortar classroom and then all of a sudden, you find yourself out there in the world, just you and the students and it's been such a fun challenge figuring out how to structure lessons around real-world learning!
It's a very collaborative, creative, and experiential approach to learning and it's definitely made me a better educator and team-teacher.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
A lot of students talk about the self-confidence that they gained from their experience on MEI. It's confidence that comes with being out there in the world, away from home on your own and navigating your insecurities, leaving behind this person that you thought you had to be all throughout high school because of the social pressures, being alone and having to make new friends for probably the first time in a long time and really, truly learning about yourself and what you are capable of overcoming.
Students go on to feel much more prepared for making that college/university transition having already gained so much independence and confidence in themselves after MEI!
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
All of the trips go to incredible locations, so it's really about where you want to go and what you are hoping to gain from this experience!
Summer programs are jam-packed, whirlwind, two-credit trips where you are going to see and do a TON in those 6 weeks and you don't need to take time away from your regular high school. This is a really popular option that most students choose in order to free up some space in their timetable and spend an exciting summer abroad.
If you want a slower-paced, more immersive experience, then semester programs are that.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
I say this all the time and I truly mean it: I have never worked with a more inspiring, creative, FUN, intelligent, dedicated and passionate team of teachers. These are not your average, everyday classroom teachers and that's what makes MEI so unique. I am always proud to be not only teaching, but collaborating with, and learning alongside my team.
The locations we visit, the courses taught, and the topics explored are all carefully planned and blended in order to deliver a unique, all-encompassing learning experience!
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
Having whole-heartedly dedicated and passionate teachers is a HUGE part of the success of MEI, paired with students who are ready to come out and give it their all on the adventure of a lifetime.
Our class becomes very close, like a family unit, and the open communication, trust, and support within the group is really the foundation needed for having a successful trip. A teacher on MEI becomes also a mentor, a counselor, a tour guide, a friend, a guardian and even sometimes a nurse; an extra in your media film project, a workout partner, a lunch buddy, and soo much more!