MEI International Academy - "The World is Our Classroom"

MEI International Academy

About

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.

Website
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Founded
1997

Reviews

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Hilary
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

BEST Time of My LIFE

After completing the summer trip to Greece this year, I was lucky enough to join the MEI Fall trip. The trip changed my life. I have grown and learned not only about the world around me, but have gotten to really know myself. This trip has shown me the beauties of the world we live in, and encouraged me to be the best version of myself. This is so much more than school. After being on lockdown through covid, this program has helped me find new friends and explore new opportunities I never knew existed!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
70 days away from home was a nerve-racking concept to get my head around but, I took a deep breath and... I stepped off the plane! Just drive in and enjoy the ride.
Jocelyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Opportunity for Growth and Development

The MEI experience is unique & unlike any other on the market. As an "original" student over 20+ years ago, to see my daughter get to travel and explore the world with MEI has been a profound experience as a parent. The isolation and restrictions of COVID-19 in 2020 set so many young people back, as the world opens it's doors again, I can't think of anyone I would entrust my child with to safely get back to the beauties of the world & grow and mature through the experience this education offers.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be ready to put in the work, and get back the greatest rewards!
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Michael
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Most Incredible Experience

This semester is unlike anything in existence within any school system. It is truly incredible to travel throughout all of these locations and learn about the people who stood there throughout history. There was a moment about a week into the trip, after our first book chat. we were all having fun, overlooking Rome at sunset while a performer was playing. We were all just singing, laughing and observing the gorgeous city right in front of our eyes. That was the moment I realized, this experience was special and definitely could not be found anywhere else.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The most surprising thing I saw or did was listening to the pope speak. After about five days in Rome, we were walking back to our hotel from a morning note at the pantheon. While walking past St. Peters Square, we noticed there was huge amount of people gathered. We were unaware of any events. However, after a quick google, low and behold the pope was giving a speech. While most of us were not catholic, we wanted to see the man at the head of the institution at the centre of our history learnings for the week. We went into the square and I can confidently say it was an extremely interesting experience for every one of us. This may be the most surprising. However, our trip was full of twists and turns we did not expect. Each one of them causing us to learn and grow as a group and as individuals.
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Owen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Trip

The experiences and activities on this trip are like no other scholarly experiences I've encountered before. The idea of a classroom being at these world-famous sites is astonishing. Furthermore, the assignments are well oriented around the places you go and the activities you complete. They are hands-on, engaging, and surprisingly entertaining to say the least! Overall it was a truly amazing experience and pushed me to want to do more world travel and learn more about the subject area. This is a trip I will definitely not forget.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
French fry pizza was not only funny but very unfamiliar. I've never seen it in my life beforehand.
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Abigail
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Most Amazing Experience!!

I went on the International Business Program in the summer of 2021. It was the first time really being able to travel again since the start of the pandemic, and it was the most amazing experience. Despite having to navigate the changing covid rules and restrictions MEI did a great job of making the trip run very smoothly and safely. I became close friends with some of the best people from all around the United States and Canada and we all continue to keep in touch with each other! The six cities we went to over the course of a month were all well planned, and I loved having the chance to both academically learn in these place but also have time to really explore cities and see the sights. The MEI saying is that the "world is our classroom" and this is very true, and an aspect of MEI that makes it very unique in the best way possible! Having our classes out in the cities really opened up my eyes to how amazing learning can be when we step beyond the closed walls and desks of a typical classroom we are used to. There is nothing comparable to learning about Julius Caesar while sitting various squares in Rome, or learning about real estate while walking and physically looking at real estate through the streets of Berlin. Our teachers were also the best! As academic teachers they were very knowledgable and engaging about the Business and English courses they were teaching, but as we traveled around with them we really get to know them and their personalities beyond the classroom which was really nice to be able to connect with them in a way that is not usually possible in traditional school. Lastly, the experience as a whole was a ton of fun. It was definitely a trip where we all had to learn how to manage our time as we had to balance our academic work with our exploring of cities and hanging out with peers, but all of these aspects (even the academic work) were very fun and engaging! It was an experience of a life time that I already wish I could go back to!

What was your funniest moment?
One of the funniest moments when we were playing frisbee in the park, but the grass was slippery from the rain so as we all fought to grab the frisbee many people (myself included!) kept slipping and falling on the grass!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 12

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.
a young man wearing dress apparel and sunglasses

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.