MEI International Academy - "The World is Our Classroom"

MEI International Academy


Our guiding principle has always been to encourage students to learn about the world and how to live in it. It isn’t enough to travel abroad, visit historical sites and museums, and expect meaningful connections to happen automatically. Our mission is to offer a global high school experience with each lesson designed to inspire REAL education in the locations we visit.

We believe that the best education lies in experiencing the world around us where there are no desks, there are no walls: the world is our classroom.



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Yes, I recommend this program

This was such a life-changing and unique experience. I had the opportunity to travel around Quebec while studying grade 11 English and grade 12 Human Dimensions. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by an incredible group of teachers and classmates with whom I instantly built a connection. I enhanced my writing abilities and mastered new learning techniques that will be useful in my future academics. Also, I was equipped with a new set of camping and leadership skills. Overall, this experience was extremely beneficial for my personal and academic growth.

What was your funniest moment?
With so many unforgettable memories, it's nearly impossible to choose the funniest moment. However, I can assure you that every minute you spend with your classmates and staff on this adventure will stick with you forever. From evenings by the campfire to all-day hikes, there will never be a dull moment and you'll always have a reason to laugh and smile. You will meet extraordinary individuals on this trip who will change your life forever, and trust me, afterwards, you won't be able to pick just one funny moment to share either.
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Yes, I recommend this program

This was an amazing experience! I took Human Dimensions and grade 11 English while travelling and camping through Quebec. The teacher to student ratio was 1-2.25 and I feel that I built a personal connection with each teacher. I learned so much about my personal learning style and how I can be successful in school as well as an abundance of knowledge about public speaking, poetry, essay writing, story analysis, cooking, budgeting, health and so much more. I would recommend this program to anyone!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be sure to really engage with the teachers and your environment! As long as you try your best and make the effort to learn and explore, you will have an amazing experience.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The MEI Academy World History Online Live Course was an experience that has shaped me and influenced how I view history as well as current events. My teacher created an environment that allowed us to have open and meaningful discussions that ultimately led to a deeper understating of the topics we learned about. This course was unlike any other. There were many opportunities to have dynamic conversations about the lessons which brought the content to life. I was able to think in different ways, view things from unique perspectives all while challenging myself to reach beyond my initial thoughts and what is seen on the surface. This would not have been possible without the support and guidance of my wonderful teachers, especially my incredible lead teacher Mike Gibbons. Mike came to every class with enthusiasm and excitement. He was so passionate and engaging and it was so evident that he cared for our learning and what we took away from the experience. Although we were not able to travel, Mike made taking the course online enjoyable and memorable. He challenged us to think critically and in-depth with every assignment that we did. All of our assignments and conversations were unique and thought-provoking. Being able to view the world and events through a new lens and understand how everything is linked together has been so valuable and something I will take away with me well beyond this course.

Even though the course had to be moved online, it was still worth it and a great experience. The use of videos and pictures were helpful and added variety. The format and schedule - all day two times per week with a check-in on Mondays, worked quite well and gave me flexibility which I really appreciated, especially since it was a summer course. My teacher was very understanding and supportive whenever I needed help. It was also helpful to split up into groups after every lecture to talk about things. In terms of areas to consider for future classes: There was a lot of material to cover and since it was an online format, at times it was challenging to be able to stay completely focused and absorb large volumes of information. It would have also been beneficial to have more exemplars provided for assignments. It also seemed that there was too much emphasis placed on word count. Lastly, the final assignment due at the same time as the prep work for the ISU was from my perspective too much all at once and perhaps more weight could be put on other assignments to remove the last one or space them out differently.
Overall, however, I really enjoyed the course and was so grateful for my awesome teacher Mike!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The most nerve-racking moment was the final ISU oral exam. There were many components I needed to prepare for that I would have to speak on for over an hour and a half. I overcame this by preparing with great detail and thoroughness. Once the exam started I found it to be enjoyable and relaxing rather than stressful and nerve-racking.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I registered for the MEI second semester program for Spring 2020, and just a few days before departure the world shut down due to COVID-19. While our travel has been delayed, we were able to complete our classes online. Even though it wasn't what I hoped, the online learning was well done, and helped keep a routine while we were in lockdown! 
The media program was my favourite, and I learned a lot. I want to continue to expand on what I learned when we travel, since some things I found a little more difficult to grasp through online learning. I prefer to be hands on, but given the circumstances, this was not something we could make happen. 

I will wait and leave on the travel portion when things open up for travel again. I've been looking forward to seeing the world, and I know it will happen when we can safely see the many sites we discussed in our lessons. MEI teachers did a great job supporting our class through a global pandemic from the safety of our homes. I really appreciate the online graduation ceremony that the staff put on for us! It was really nice to feel recognized. 
My plan is to carry on with post secondary, and when things open up, leave to enjoy the travel portion of this experience. I know the learning will continue, and I'm looking forward to it! Education with MEI is unlike anything in a traditional classroom. 

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The more nerve-racking moment was learning that all our travel plans were postponed. We kept hoping that travel was simply delayed, but as the reality of COVID-19 set in, we were able to shift gears to online education. The teachers were very supportive of us through this process.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I had the TIME OF MY LIFE on MEI! It was the perfect mix of fun adventure and schoolwork. This sparked the beginning of a whole new world of travel for me and seriously everyone should be learning through this program! I went on the summer trip and went to four countries and met my best friends who I still visit in another country TO THIS DAY!!!! It’s incredible and if you time things out right you will have the most incredible experience. Do homework at night in a cafe and on the bus, and otherwise adventure!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Take more photos! I was always scared to ask people to take photos for me/of me. You will only be in these places maybe once in your life, who cares! JUST GET THE PHOTO!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

Growing up, my family chose to travel a lot as we believe it enhances one’s global mindset which is crucial in today's world. We heard about the program through our neighbors whose daughters did it. We believed this program would provide a perfect opportunity to travel as well as earn recognizable high school credits. My older sister decided to participate in the Ancient World Odessey trip in her summer leading into Grade 12 and had so many amazing memories to share when she returned. I knew I want to participate.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

MEI's website was super easy to navigate when looking up programs and finding which was right for you. Before deciding, there were multiple meetings in my city from teachers who are with MEI to ask questions or any concerns I had. Once I chose the program I wanted, everything travel-wise was organized through MEI. They booked all hotels, plane tickets, and even helped with Visa applications for China.

During foundation work before we left, all the teachers and students of the program were able to contact each other using a Facebook group that was set up by MEI for asking questions and getting to know each other.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I think the one piece of advice that any student who is wondering if they should go on an MEI trip should know is that MEI is an academic program which requires hard work. Of course, that is not to say you don't get to go out and see the location you are in, but more of a word of caution that you have to be willing to work hard in order to get good grades as you might get in your normal high school.

Since the summer programs are condensed versions of courses you may usually take in four months down into 35 days, you have to acknowledge that you will always have an assignment on the go. My biggest piece of advice is that you shouldn't procrastinate while on the program and always finish with your best work possible.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day with MEI is fairly standard across all programs. You wake up and have morning workout at about 7:00 local time until 7:30. This workout is one of the best activities to start your day with. Often, we play ultimate frisbee or other active group activities to wake us up and help beat jet lag. We then head back to where we are staying and get changed and eat breakfast. At around 9:00 AM, we meet again as a class and participate in Morning Note, a journaling exercise which requires 900 words in 30 minutes. This allows us to get ready academically for the day and helps train us to write fast.

After that, we will either already be at our lecture location or we will walk to it. This location is always relevant to the material we are learning that day. After our lecture, we are often assigned an assignment and have around four hours of free time to head out in groups of three to explore the city and work.

In the two course programs, we meet again in the afternoon to have another lecture and head to dinner as a family or small groups. At the end of the day, we have free time to unwind after dinner, get work done with friends in other rooms at the hotel, and go back to our own assigned rooms for room check where teachers give us important information about the next day.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear about going abroad was the fact I went alone without knowing anyone else, and being scared that I wouldn't make friends. This was completely changed with MEI from the first day everyone came in to meet everyone with this same fear. The fear quickly evaporated as we really met each other and talked for a bit.

MEI builds a family on each trip where you feel that you truly belong. All the teachers on the trip are easy to talk to and feel more of a mentor than a normal classroom teacher who you might be intimidated to talk to. Once you start to live with everyone and move as a group, you realize that the students you are with are just like you, and you just become so quickly bonded! In the future, I look forward to travelling solo and meeting new people I might have never talked to on a normal day at home.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Michael Gibbons

Job Title
Lead Teacher and Program Coordinator
Mike was a semester student with MEI International Academy in 2009. He returned in 2016 as a Lead Teacher and Course Developer, taking students throughout Europe. His specialty in humanities with a focus on Modern History has helped him lead the Trek Through Europe, Footsteps to the Modern World, and the Online Live History Program.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Of the many memories I have made in my years of travel with MEI, one of my favourites has to be my first lesson ever as a teacher. Sitting at Hyde Park in London, teaching about the modern world; Surveillance, Terrorism, and the start to the 21st century. My lesson was interrupted by the Queen, who was receiving the King of Spain, all while MI5 agents ensured the Queen's safety with snipers and surveillance. During my first lesson, I could not have planned for such a vivid example of the themes.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

All MEI trips allow students and teachers to grow and learn from our travels in the world together. I have grown and learned so much from my colleagues and my students on each of my programs, but the aspect that sticks out most is patience. Patience waiting for flights or hotels, patience waiting for museums or restaurants, and patience with students and new travellers trying to find their way. I truly believe that patience is one of the most essential traits for any teacher, but travelling with 30 teenagers across Europe has developed my patience far more than I could have ever imagined.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

The best story I have heard from a returning student was actually from one of my students' parents. They wrote to me, "... As parents, we are most impressed and even conversations at home about current events have been even better because [our daughters] critical thinking has been elevated and she is asking phenomenal questions now that she is viewing things with a different lens." As an educator, it is always my goal for students to see the world with different perspectives to understand any topic.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

As a History and Geography teacher, my choice is simple: Expedition to Tanzania. That program (while the most different) offers a unique opportunity to live and learn from locals while seeing some of the world's most important ecosystems. The World Issues course allows students and teachers to dive into the current issues facing Tanzania, Africa, and the developing world more broadly, all while camping on Safari or volunteering with a local school group. For me, the combination of location and learning puts Expedition to Tanzania on the top of my list.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

MEI Academy is unique because of the people. MEI works because of the people involved, from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers to engaged and motivated students. We often say MEI teachers, students, and parents are “kindred spirits” because of our shared values and love of travel. On every program I have been a part of (including as a student), I’m always proud of how MEI travels. As a student group, we often have some friction trying new places or new locations, but we always rise to the occasion. Most recently, in Amsterdam on the Footsteps Through the Modern World program, the hotel was very hesitant to accept our group. However, when we left, the hotelier and staff at the hotel said they had never had such a kind and respectful group of students, and we would be welcomed back anytime at any of their hotels. Another example that comes to mind was in Switzerland at the restaurant where I was having lunch. They mentioned that they only accept one group of students from a school in Canada, MEI Academy.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The people. No matter where I am in the world, or what company or school I am engaged with, the most significant factor in success comes down to the people involved. MEI has always picked the best people, and many of our students return as teachers because they know the program, they know the expectations and buy-in to the MEI ethos. Live your education.