It was the Face Time call that had me in tears. Sorrow? Joy? It was both. I missed my daughter terribly. She was in her hotel room with the busy streets of Paris out the window. It was week two of her summer adventure and she was loving it. Stories of how everything was so fabulous bubbled from her lips. When I asked if she was learning anything she looked at me from 7300 kilometres away and said, “MOM! Are you kidding me? I’m not just learning it – I’m living it!”
Bonnie was on the 6-week summer program offered by MEI International Academy. The Toronto based “school” offers kids in grade 10 and 11 the chance of a lifetime – to travel abroad and earn high school credits. She chose “Trek through Europe” to study grade 12 Social and English curriculum. By the end of the six weeks she would visit five countries and come home with two classes kicked off her last year at school.
It all started with an introductory meeting where MEI teachers visit the major cities across Canada to tempt both the students and the parents. MEI offers courses all over the world in increments of 6 weeks to an entire year of learning and exploring. While Bonnie picked Europe because of her passion for history and Shakespeare, her friend picked “Journey to Africa” for a safari adventure. Other destinations for the two course program include; Adventures Down Under, International Business: East Meets West, Australia, Central America, Ancient World Odyssey, Backpackers through Central America and Spain/France.
Prior to leaving, Bonnie had to read novels that would pertain to places they were going. Small assignments in June connected her with the teachers before the adventure even started.
First stop was London where they had to gather courage to “rant” at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. A dream came true when they explored Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to watch Julius Caesar. They bought a subway pass but Bonnie said the it was un-necessary. “We took the tube once – just to experience it. Our teachers were determined that we would see everything there was to see so we walked and I’m really glad we did. We would have missed so much if we’d gone underground.”
Forget classrooms, they sat on stairways to museums, in town squares, in fields of alpine flowers and in cathedrals and cafes.
In Paris, they learned about the revolution touring the sites that were pivotal in the outcome. Her summer adventure was during the 100th celebration of Vimy Ridge so a visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial was added. The monument today is pleasant but the craters and tunnels tell a different tale. “Walking through the narrow trenches made us imagine how horrible it was for the men who trudged through ankle deep water ducking to stay below gun fire. You don’t know how lucky you are until you actually witness what others have done for your freedom.”
(Huh? That was my 17-year-old saying that!)
While studying Nazi Germany in Munich they sat on a train loading dock at the Concentration Camp at Dachau while learning the plight of those who walked there. Can there be a more solemn classroom to drive the history lesson home?
But there was more than study. They had plenty of time to sightsee. They went on the London Eye, sent paper planes from the top of the Eiffel Tower and yes, took selfies with Mona Lisa at the muse du Louvre. There was a MEI version of Amazing Race in Munich, soccer games, cycling and daily yoga. In the Alps they hiked to the hostel and studied with the Eiger as their backdrop.
By the time they reached the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic it was time to finish assignments and write their final exams. When she came home there was a new love and appreciation of the world and the desire to see more.
“Most kids forget what they learned in Social 30. Not me,” is what Bonnie says two years later.
MEI International Academy is named after Joe Mei who started the overseas program because he knows hands on learning is the best way to learn. Three teachers travel with the class of up to 40 students. The courses meet the Upper Grand District School Board (Ontario) requirements and are easily transferred to your child’s school board. The tuition includes most costs including the airfare (based on a Toronto departure) and hotels. Learn more about MEI at www.meiacademy.com