MEI International Academy - "The World is Our Classroom"

MEI International Academy

Why choose 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

Big Year experience

I just concluded my final semester with MEI Academy and after spending 120 days on the program I can confidently recommend this to any high schooler in grade 11 or 12 who is looking for something new. I participated in the “Big Year” meaning I spent my fall semester traveling through Europe and my spring traveling through Asia and it was truly life changing! Not only were the places that I traveled to absolutely magical but the people that I spent my time with were incredible. I love MEI because the size of my program (10-15) allowed me to become friends with people I never expected to. We were all like-minded in the sense that we wanted to learn about the world, but we also were all so unique and I learned so much from my fellow students. The teachers on the trip were also incredible! They were all so supportive and passionate about what they do, which was incredibly refreshing. The majority of the teachers on my trip were young making them approachable and easy to relate to. Some of my teachers changed between semesters but Riley stayed through the entire year and I became very close with her. I of course respected her on a teacher level but when we weren’t in lessons she became a great friend. It might sound very corny but the people I spent time with truly felt like family by the end. I was forced to learn to coexist with people because of proximity which taught me a lot about myself and how differently we all live. Regarding the academics, it was quite difficult to get used to the MEI approach as it is very independent. Most projects that we did had very little guidelines regarding content which allowed us to explore topics that actually interested us and tie it back to the course, teaching us how to think critically. The teachers gave a lot of creative liberty to the students, supporting and even encouraging us to follow through with our “crazy” ideas. I got back from Asia about a month ago and I’m still mourning the experiences that I had and the connections that I made. I truly cannot recommend MEI enough!

  • The people!
  • Riley Miller
  • Workload can seem intimidating depending on your teachers.
  • No weekends (but worth it)
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Yes, I recommend this program

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

During grade 11, I decided to go to Asia for my spring semester with MEI and transitioned to Europe in the fall of grade 12. This ‘reverse’ big year approach set me apart from my peers, yet I found myself enjoying it just as much. I chose to apply for MEI because I was looking for deeper knowledge than what was available at my local public schools. I went into it pretty blindly, not knowing anyone, as most of the students do.

My high school experience has been anything but ordinary, as I have attended four different high schools, including MEI Academy. It was during the two MEI programs, where I discovered an incomparable educational experience. The teacher’s high expectations fueled my growth as a student, thinker, and peer. Coming from an online school, I initially lacked certain public speaking skills and certain social abilities. However, the immersive and supportive environment at MEI sparked my personal transformation. I came out of my programs, not only as a more articulate individual but also as someone who can easily speak for myself and confidently form friendships with people who I might not have connected with otherwise.

One aspect of the program that particularly resonates with me to this day was the structured routine of our days, which was nothing like my life at home. Waking up each day surrounded by individuals who were equally as eager to embrace the new experiences was a breath of fresh air. From daily morning workouts in constantly changing locations to reflective writing and collaborative projects, I truly would not have found this anywhere else. Unlike a conventional school setting where teacher interaction is limited to the class period, with MEI I had constant engagement with both educators and students, creating meaningful relationships that extended far beyond the classroom.

Not only did my relationships extend beyond the classroom, but so did my education. MEI stands out as a transformative educational experience. Something I had never experienced in a traditional classroom, but had the opportunity to learn on my MEI program was the blend of courses with real-world application. The academic skills –from public speaking to essay writing– that were taught during my time with MEI, I continue to actively apply to all of my courses at home. These are valuable skills that will continue to allow me to prosper as I begin post-secondary education. For those who want to broaden their horizons and grow as an individual and as a student, MEI Academy is the perfect place to do that. I wholeheartedly recommend these programs for anyone who is considering it. I would not be the same without this experience.

  • Rigorous Academics
  • Wonderful teachers and students
  • Always keeping busy
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Yes, I recommend this program

Just do it

Mei is an unforgettable and life-changing experience. I was a student in the European fall semester of 2022, as a junior in high school. We traveled to Rome, Roccamare, Borgo, Florence, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, the Swiss Alps, Paris, Heidelberg, Berlin, and Munich.
To travel between cities you will take a coach, train, or airplane. We stayed in various hotels and they were always clean, with a handful even being luxury.
I am from the US, and this is a Canadian-based program. I appreciated learning from my classmates and teachers from a different country than me. All of the students are interviewed prior to the trip and go through an application process before attending. Therefore, all of my classmates wholeheartedly wanted to be there and had an eager passion for their learning. The Mei dynamic is very much a family one. You will become closer to this group of strangers than most of your friends at home. Each and every teacher and teacher assistant is very warm and truly cares about you. I have made lifelong connections with Mei whom I hold very close to my heart.
Mei creates a well-rounded, flexible, and education-hungry student. Every morning we were required to watch videos and had readings corresponding to a daily theme. One of the themes was power and there was a Machiavelli reading attached along with a series of wonderful videos. This was our morning muse and it connected to all of the coursework we completed that day. A group conversation followed this and each student brought challenging and passionate ideas, leaving me feeling inspired every day. I learned from my classmates constantly and felt like they added to my education almost as much as the material did.
Impact: I often find myself using critical skills that Mei has taught me, a year after the trip has ended. As I am in my last year of highschool, I am complimented by my teachers on my ambition and ability to think outside of the box. After returning home from Mei I felt incredibly inspired to pursue my passions and started a non profit organization at my school. I learned more about myself, my dreams, aspirations, and values more than ever before.

  • Strong community
  • Remarkable, well rounded education
  • Variety of European cities
  • A bit unstructured- at time there was lack of clarity and structure in daily plans + meet ups
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Yes, I recommend this program

MEI Academy Big Year

I studied in Europe and Southeast Asia for my grade 12 year in 2022-2023. My experience with Mei academy re-defined my perspective on education but more importantly myself. The students and teachers pushed me out of my comfort zone which allowed me to see my core values and who I want to become. Studying subjects where they took place gave me the unique ability to draw conclusions and connections that the standard classroom setting can not provide. There is something so special about being thrown into a new place with random people who are united by a passion for travel and hunger for education. Now that I am in university I have begun to see the manifestation of the education I received. I am currently a social science and arts students and I have been able to apply much of the education I got with Mei to my university education. I have also seen a complete change in the way I conduct and express my opinions when in discussion based courses. Mei teachers stress the importance of being able to verbalize and support opinions. When speaking to large groups I often get complimented on how I engage and explain myself in a clear and straightforward way. I learnt that through Mei. I wholeheartedly believe Mei changed my life for the better and has pushed me to strive for the best version of myself in every aspect of my life. Mei is not just “school overseas” it is a program that first makes you look outward to the world (the education part) and then makes you look inward at yourself and reflect on who you are and how you can improve. If your on the fence about going to school with Mei trust me the three trips (Greece, Europe and Asia) I did with Mei were the most enlightening times in my entire life. If I could continue my education with Mei I would.

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Yes, I recommend this program


This experience is unlike anything you'll ever do. You can tell MEI International Academy has worked for over 25 years to find the perfect balance between education and travel. This program is not built for the weak. The dynamic environment keeps you on your toes and teaches you lessons that your peers don't learn in regular high school. MEI taught me to think critically, ask questions, and stand for ideas I feel passionately about. Joseph and Rita have created a beautiful odyssey, and I am grateful to be an alumna!

  • Staff Involvement: Invested in making the trip great for each individual kid
  • Worldly Experience
  • Independence
  • Time away from home


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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.
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.