International Schools: Expert perspective
Studying abroad during high school can be a life-changing experience, whether you are boarding at a foreign school or travelling with a roaming study group.
MEI Academy, based in Caledon, Ontario, offers programs for students to study abroad during the school year or summer. Samantha West enrolled in the commerce program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario after taking three trips with MEI, including the International Business program. “I learned how to take a look at the world from a business perspective,” Samantha says. “Business affects everything, so I knew if I enrolled in a commerce program, I’d be able to apply it somehow later in life.”
The world as a classroom
MEI’s business program includes stops in Toronto, New York City, London, Paris, Strasbourg and Munich. In each city, the students face a business challenge. In London, the students were asked to analyze Camden Market and identify business opportunities and present business plans for new shops. Students had to apply their business savvy and communications skills. “One thing MEI does really well is integrating course material,” she says.
Aimee Kellar, an MEI teacher, says on-site learning, such as at the Roman Colosseum, is key. “Students get a sense of the impact of the history,” Kellar says. “It’s experiential learning.” Carmellana Ruggiero says she sent two sons on MEI trips to give them an opportunity to learn on their feet. “It’s a valuable experience because you’re on the site of whatever you’re studying, whereas other abroad programs stay in one place,” she says.
A military school that teaches the skills of life
The Florida Air Academy offers a more structured international learning experience. Based in Melbourne, Florida, the military school enforces consequences for falling behind academically. If a student misses an assignment, for example, he may wind up in weekend study hall while his classmates take a day trip to Disney World. “The character-building is really good,” says Elsie Hughes, who sent her daughter Rebecca to Florida Air Academy because of its high academic standards and discipline. “It equips students with the skills they need for life.” The strict rules help Florida Air Academy maintain its 100 per cent college acceptance rate.
Jessica Jones, a recent Grade 12 student, transferred to Florida Air Academy from a local school three years ago. “At first I thought military school was going to be horrible, then when I went there, I realized it wasn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is,” she says.
Florida Air Academy has 200 boarding students from 30 different countries and 20 U.S. states, as well as 120 day students. “It’s really cool because you get to meet people from all over.” Jessica says.