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
bit.ly
Founded
1997
Headquarters

15816 Peel Regional Rd 50
Bolton ON L7E 0A3
Canada

Reviews

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Chloe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am completing the big year, I traveled to Asia and Austrialia for my first semester of senior year and I will travel to Europe for the second semester of senior year. This experience and opportunity is truly once in a lifetime. I had the most incredible time on my first semester and I can’t wait for semester two to start. The people who do this program are so open-minded and mature so it makes getting along with people very easy. The places I traveled to were so amazing, destinations such as Angkor Wat and the Great Barrier Reef are dream trips on the top of most travelers lists so I feel very grateful that I was able to experience all of it. The school work is demanding and it challenges you, but in the best way possible. I feel the courses have prepared well for university because we do assignments that have purpose, rather than loads of busy work I use to do at my traditional school. If you have the opportunity to do this program I would not turn it down, it is an incredible experience that I will no doubt remember for the rest of my life.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Walking into the pre-departure meeting is the most nerve racking moment by far. The good part is that everyone is in the same boat- no one knows each other so everyone is nervous! Walking in to the room where your group and teachers are, and meeting them for the first time does feel like that first day of school moment. Although the nerves go away right after that moment. You instanley get a feeling of inclusion and welcomeness with the group as a whole.
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Zoe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I can hands down say that studying abroad with MEI was the best decision I have ever made. Coming from a traditional high school, my preconceptions of studying abroad were pretty standard. I expected to experience, fun, community, and knowledge. What I couldn't have planned for was how just three months would drastically expand my views on the world we live in and at the same time grow my confidence and internal reflection of what it means to be a cog in the greater machine of society. With MEI you are given all of the tools and guidance to challenge yourself as far as you wish. What makes this program so unique is the self-led investigation that is encouraged throughout. The teachers would cover the required curriculum while at the same time encouraging and supporting me and my peers when our curiosity sparked by something specifically. For example, when I expressed an interest in learning how to write a proper professional email, an English assignment was adapted so I could have time set aside to explore that writing format. Or when I expressed an extreme desire to trek across Beijing to the Summer Palace, the teachers celebrated my passion and gave me the time and resources to do it. The people I met and places I visited shaped the way I think of the world at present and my views toward the future. Studying with MEI has redefined what learning means and I am so grateful for my experience on the Term 1 and 2 programs.

What would you improve about this program?
If I could improve anything it would be to visit more off the beaten path locations. Some of my favourite memories and best learning experiences took place in the locations that one may have never even heard of, such as Mui Ne, Vietnam, or Yungaburra, Australia.
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Payton
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I was a shy kid growing up. I never did anything that would force me out of my comfort zone. I would surround myself with my best friends. So, when I saw the MEI Fall semester online I knew I needed to apply. I needed to do something for myself. I needed to do something that would change my life. The MEI Fall Semester was incredible. There are no words to describe how amazing this experience was but I’m going to try to explain it in a few paragraphs.

First you step into a room with a bunch of people you’ve never met before in your life. Immediately you feel comfortable around them, because these will be the people you spend your next three months with. You switch roommates every location so it’s impossible not to get close with everyone on the trip. As cliché as it sounds these people will become your family. I shared so many secrets that I have never admitted to anyone in my life.

From climbing the Great Wall of China to Hiking in the Blue Mountains every experience pairs with an amazing scenic view. We walked through night markets in Beijing and Hong Kong and explored the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City. There is not one memory that I can say was better than the rest because each day was a rollercoaster of events. In Australia we would wake up early in the morning to do an hour workout. It would drain us all of our energy, but we would rejuvenate in our beautiful three-bedroom apartments treating ourselves to homemade breakfast and showers. Next, we would have a lesson normally at a luscious green park and write in our morning notes about experiences, memories, and writing prompts provided. Afterwards we would have free time to explore the streets of the location we were in. Normally stopping in coffee shops to have our lunchtime latte while getting some work done. Later on, we would reconnect with everyone for a sport tournament or an activity. Everyday ran like this in Australia and Bali, and even though Asia was a bit more chaotic it ran the same way as well.

We developed such a common routine on the trip and got so used to the physical activity we had to partake in each day. Now that I’m back at home I miss the vigorous workouts. Even the academics were a challenge but so rewarding with every assignment we completed. We were required to present in front of the class to develop our public speaking skills, like our climate change debate in Mui Ne. Each of our presentations and book chats allowed everyone to have an equal voice. After every essay I wrote or short story I presented it felt gratifying. I knew all of my assignments broadcasted the best of my abilities and they helped me improve my communication skills.

If I can tell you anything that will convince you to come on the trip, is just know these people you meet: will be your friends for the rest of your life. As I am back to the real world, we are already planning reunions to see each other again. This trip is meant for you if you have a will and wanderlust. Everyone on this trip loved to travel, and we cherished each experience so much. The academics and physical activity may be challenging, but you can get through it and achieve your personal goals. Before I went on this trip I was lazy, I would watch TV when I woke up and watch it when I got back from school. After being on an incredible journey I don’t even think of wasting my time staring at a screen, I now am much more productive and have an even greater will to achieve everything I set my mind to.

What would you improve about this program?
If there is anything that you could improve it would be allowing the trip to be a few extra days at the end after ISU's and exams so that we can spend them relaxing and hanging out with our best friends.
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Julia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

After traveling with MEI Academy for 5 weeks throughout the summer of 2018, going back to normal high school will be a challenge. The trip that I signed up for with great enthusiasm ended up being more amazing then I could have ever imagined it to be. Before too soon, our group that was made up of people who all had different interests and all came from different places was a family. I made friendships that I will cherish for a long time coming. I believe it was so easy for everyone to get along and get close was because we are all hungry to travel and eager to learn; an environment in which I directly found my spot. There is a balance between education and social experiences, and almost all the time, the two overlap. One thing to know is that while this trip is amazing, it is definitely not a vacation There is a great sense of responsibility when you have the decision of going to visit the Big Ben or writing a last-minute essay that you haven’t worked on in the days prior. Time management is a skill that definitely is important during this trip, and even if it isn’t a great skill when starting this adventure, it most definitely will be one of your strongest coming out of it. Besides time management I have developed skills that I will use for the rest of my life. Responsibility, proper social skills, even going to the laundromat and doing our own laundry sometimes ended up being a challenge, but are all skills that have been enhanced during those 5 weeks. My favourite aspect of the trip is the fact that we weren’t just in these incredible places, but our amazing teachers were able to incorporate these environments into our lessons, which truly made the world “our classroom”. We would learn about marketing with the Eiffel tower in the background or reading poems about Dover Beach, while driving past Dover Beach. These are experiences you just aren’t able to recreate while sitting in a classroom. Overall this trip is something that I know I will be looking back on for years and years to come. It was an amazing experience that I would not have wanted to miss for the world.

What would you improve about this program?
Improved sightseeing aspect of the program in London in order to see more of the city.
Default avatar
Ben
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

For me, the single best aspect of the trip was the connections and friendships that I made over the 35 days. I believe that this trip attracts some of the best people, but I must give credit to the teachers for creating the family aspect and feeling that each and everyone of us felt while on the trip this summer. The teachers encouraged us to get to know, and spend time with every person on the trip. With a group as large as ours (32 students) it would have been easy to get to the end of the trip and realize that there are people that you have never talked to. I am glad to say this didn't happen.
In terms of the school work, it was busy. It was most defiantly not a free ride as some people had predicted it to be. It was busy for an obvious reason. We completed two grade 12 courses in 35 days instead of the normal 5 months. It was challenging, but the teachers were incredibly helpful and approachable, which made the workload manageable. The teachers not only had these qualities when it came to school work, but you could also talk to them about anything and they were always helpful and made you feel comfortable.
I enjoyed the freedom of having free time over lunch and in the evenings, but having structured activities and excursions were also a ton of fun and allowed us to get to know people better. Some of my favourite excursions were the cave diving, the zip-lines, and the Jaguar Park hike!
From the trip one of the biggest take aways that myself, and most people had, was how to be more independent and how to manage time better. Due to how fast pace the course is, time management is crucial in order to get all the work done on time, as well as leaving time to take in the unique surroundings that you are in.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 10

Alumni Interviews

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

Lisa Marshall

Lisa is a Grade 12 high school student who is passionate about travel and learning about the world.

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.

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Staff Interviews

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

Derek Plewes

Job Title
Lead Teacher & Course Development

Derek was a semester student with MEI International Academy in 2007. He has since returned in 2015 as a Lead Teacher and Course Developer, taking students to Central America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is hiking into the heart of an extinct volcano in Costa Rica where a small rainwater lagoon has formed. The trek to reach these calm, bright turquoise waters took our class through a thick rainforest with a narrow trail to the rim of the volcano which we climbed down. We were rewarded with a cool swim and an opportunity to truly enjoy the beauty of the natural world around us. Through the canopy a few kilometers away, you can see the active Arenal Volcano.

The Backpackers: Central America program is full of adventures like this, which keeps me coming back!

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

One of the key skills that I've learned and continued to build while working for MEI is the ability to be adaptable. You can plan a trip down to the minute, though inevitably, there will be surprises. Whether the weather quickly changes during lecture, or a heavy rainy season has washed out your favorite hiking trail, or a subway stop that you planned to meet at is closed - there's always something.

Being adaptable is key to a successful trip so that you are always ready for the next hurdle!

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

For me, the relationships are a defining feature of these experiences. When we hear about students that became close friends years after coming with us, it shows that the experience lasts much longer than 35, 50, or 80 days.

Our students have gone on to be university roommates, in each other's wedding parties, or as business partners. The longevity of these relationships is hard to duplicate in any other setting. I’m still very close to students I was peers with 11 years ago and we constantly hear stories about our students staying in touch and reconnecting all over the world!

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

It's hard to beat the Adventure Down Under Program. Although I've never taught it in the summer, I have been in the same locations that it visits while teaching on the Fall Semester. I have always had a passion for sports, fitness, and healthy active living. Writing your exams in Fiji? That part always perks an ear or two!

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

MEI Academy is unique in its mentorship. As teachers, we are working out with students in the morning, sweating alongside them. When we ask them to write a piece of creative writing, we step up and perform a piece too! We walk the talk.

We also have a teacher-student ratio of 10:1 or less, which gives us the opportunity to get to know students in ways that they don't typically experience in a regular school and give them more focused attention on their abilities, goals, and vulnerabilities.

That's why I first got excited as a student and that's what I try to bring to my practice every time I board the plane for a new program.

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

Word of mouth has sustained MEI over the years. There is no doubt in my mind that our alumni have been a big part of our success. I heard about these programs through friends and the longer I do this the more often I hear that students came because of a sister, a cousin, a classmate, etc.

The fact that we have been fortunate enough to have so many endorsements goes to show that these programs can be life-changing experiences that will help students grow as they approach the transition between high school and their post-secondary goals.

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