Big Year:Full Year Study Abroad Program

Overview | Courses | Itinerary | Calendar | Map | Program Fee


A year to breathe.

A year to prepare.

A year to learn.

A year to see just how good it can get.

2016-10-16-MEI-Fall-Semester-1Siem-Reap8302-mei-international-academy-travel- study-study-abroad-international-baccalaureat- advanced-placement-go-abroad-education

The World is Our Classroom

Imagine studying Buddhism in the temples of Angkor Wat, exploring the Great Wall of China in Beijing and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. Picture yourself swimming in the Aegean Sea, studying the Caesars in the Roman Forum or the effects of the World Wars from the trenches in France. We believe that the best learning lies in experiencing the world around us where there are no walls, there are no classrooms – just the WORLD.

Courses Offered

First Semester Course Options

Students Choose ONE English Course:

  • English—Grade 11 or 12
  • Studies in Literature—Grade 12
  • Writer’s Craft—Grade 12

Students Choose ONE Business Course:

  • International Business—Grade 12
  • Economics: Analysing Current Economic Issues—Grade 12

Students Choose ONE Humanities Course:

  • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis—Grade 12
  • World Geography: Urban Patterns and Population Issues—Grade 12

Students Are Required to Take the Following Course:

  • Media Production: Interdisciplinary Studies—Grade 12
  • Media Arts—Grade 12
Second Semester Course Options

Students Choose ONE English Course:

  • English- Grade 11 or 12
  • Studies in Literature- Grade 12
  • Writer’s Craft- Grade 12

Students Choose TWO Humanities Courses:

  • World History Since the Fifteenth Century- Grade 12
  • Classical Civilization- Grade 12
  • Philosophy- Grade 12

Students Choose ONE Physical Education Course:

  • Human Dimensions: Interdisciplinary Studies- Grade 12
  • Healthy Active Living- Grade 12
Advanced Placement Course Options

AP® English Language & Composition

At the heart of an AP English Language and Composition course is the reading of various texts. Reading facilitates informed citizenship and thus increases students’ capacity to enter into consequential conversations with others about meaningful issues. Also contributing to students’ informed citizenship is their ability to gather source materials representing particular conversations and then make their own reasonable and informed contributions to those conversations. Students’ ability to engage with outside sources in their reading, writing, and research is an important measure of their intellectual growth.2 2 2008-09 Development Committee, “AP Language and Composition Course Description,” College Board, Advanced Placement Program.2010

AP® English Literature & Composition

An AP English Literature and Composition course engages students in the careful reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature. Through the close reading of selected texts, students deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure for their readers. As they read, students consider a work’s structure, style and themes, as well as such smaller-scale elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism and tone.1

1 2008-09 Development Committee, “AP Literature and Composition Course Description,” College Board, Advanced Placement Program.2010

How it Works



Option 1

Students choose all High School courses

First Semester



Second Semester


Option 2

Students choose two HS courses per semester + one AP course

First Semester



Second Semester


Option 3

Students choose one HS course per semester + one AP course

First Semester



Second Semester


Program Itinerary

Swipe to see all images

Program Overview

Fall Semester: Early September to Mid-December
Intersession: Mid-December to Mid-February
Spring Semester: Mid-February to Mid-June

Flight and hotel details are available on individual program sites, available to registered students and their parents.

Preparation and Course Work

In order to ease into the program, students have access to the course website in early July, where reading lists will be posted. In September, students begin online work three weeks prior to departure. These online sessions are designed to connect students with their teachers and classmates and help complete short tasks to alleviate the workload during the semester. Students are required to complete all pre-departure work prior to departure to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running while overseas.

Departure From Toronto (Day 1–2)

We commence in Toronto where we get to know one another and settle into the structure of our program. Here, we conduct activities and complete foundational course material before setting off for Beijing. All of our preparation allows us to hit the ground running and dive straight into the adventure that awaits us.

Beijing (Day 3–9)

In Beijing, students venture into the heart of the People's Republic of China, tracing the steps of emperors through the Forbidden City and discussing the teachings of Chairman Mao as they cross Tiananmen Square. Beijing is the perfect location to begin the study of two core themes that frame both semesters: the contrast between the East and West and the relationship between communism and capitalism. Students begin their photography and filmmaking component as they survey the complex history and modern contradictions of the People's Republic making their way through the city's bustling markets and hutongs and hike along the legendary Great Wall.

Hong Kong (Day 9–15)

In Hong Kong, students witness how British and Chinese traditions have amalgamated to create an international financial epicenter. Amidst the labyrinth of skyscrapers, we immerse ourselves in a world of contrasts from the lively Tsim Sha Tsui district to the serene Tian Tan Buddha. Exploring the city's fusion, students witness the East meeting the West and the realities of economic globalization. A visit to the World War II cemetery where Canadian, British, and Indian soldiers are buried further frames the context of Hong Kong's current position both politically and economically on the global stage.

South Vietnam (Day 15–24)

We travel to Vietnam and arrive in Ho Chi Minh City to probe into economic development in South East Asia. Students crawl through the Cu Chi tunnels that were home to the Viet Cong guerrillas and consider the effects of war on a generation of people. We also investigate the graphic images presented in the War Remnants Museum and how this museum is strategically curated. Our next stop is Mui Ne, a welcome respite from Vietnam's largest city. The warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand allow us to re-energize as we continue our examination of war and its aftermath. Here, the relaxed pace enables students to prepare for their mid-term evaluations while taking time for rock climbing and surfing.

Cambodia (Day 24–42)

From Vietnam, we fly into Cambodia. Arriving in Siem Reap, students spend time exploring Angkor Wat, a magnificent temple complex featuring stone carvings depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Evenings are spent in shops and restaurants along the vibrantly lit backpackers’ alley called ‘Pub Street,' among lively travelers and streams of tuk-tuks. From Siem Reap, we move south to Phnom Penh where students experience the duality between the beauty and tranquility of the region in contrast to the Khmer Rouge’s tragic legacy. The class will explore Cambodia’s capital city for a photography contest, showcasing their knowledge of composition from depth of field to the rule of thirds. Our final stop in Cambodia sees the class taking a step back from cityscapes as they relax into coastal living in Sihanoukville. More than a visit to sun and beach, students work hard preparing for midterm Independent Study Unit interviews and studying for midterm exams.

Bangkok (Day 42–45)

Departing Cambodia, we head to Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital. From food carts and slow-moving river traffic, to Buddhist monks and neon-lit streets, students investigate the city through the lens of commerce and urban development. Students balance their days between jostling through the crowds of Khaosan Road, enjoying the calm of the city’s Buddhist temples and taking their explorations beyond the beaten path.

Bali (Day 45–53)

En route to ‘the land down under’, the class stops for one week in Bali, Indonesia. Flying into Denpasar, the class decompresses from three hectic days in Bangkok along the beach-lined coast in Seminyak. Students turn their attention to the far-reaching effects of travel and tourism as they participate in an economy driven almost completely by its visitors. From here, we travel northeast to the nearby city of Ubud, where our exploration of the commodification of culture continues in the Monkey Forest, the Goa Gajah ‘Elephant Cave’, and along the Tegallalong rice terraces.

Sydney and the Blue Mountains (Day 53–60)

Departing Asia, we board a flight south to Australia. Our first stop in Sydney connects students to Australia's thriving economy, set against the backdrop of the island’s breathtaking mountains and golden, sand beaches. Students reside in the upscale harbourfront district where they trace its humble beginnings as a settlement for convicts to the center of one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Here, students delve into the business course, analyzing Australia as an emerging market and investigating the challenges their economy faces, as well as its potential for growth and development. Before boarding a flight to Queensland, the students enjoy a three day trek among the eucalyptus forests of the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Cairns and Great Barrier Reef (Day 60–66)

In Cairns, World Issues becomes the focus, as the class delves into aboriginal issues and the postcolonial lens. A comparative case study with Australia and Canada’s treatment of their native populations reveals some of the damage done, the challenges we face in reconciliation, and hope for the future. Evenings are spent along the esplanade, tossing a frisbee disc or playing beach volleyball, before making dinners for each other in cozy apartments. Our time in Cairns concludes with a three-day excursion on the Great Barrier Reef on a private live-aboard boat. Students discover the hidden alcoves of the coastline and scuba dive and snorkel the days away in search of clownfish, reef sharks and sea turtles.

Tablelands (Day 66–70)

Heading back to land, the students ascend to the tropical heights of the Atherton Tablelands. An adventurer's paradise, we explore the local lakes, waterfalls and rainforest, the perfect environment for an in-depth analysis of the world's water resources. The cozy accommodation at On the Wallaby offers the best of Australian hospitality, and also the chance to study business from the perspective of a unique small business owner.

Sunshine Coast (Day 70–76)

Traveling south along the eastern coast of Queensland, we visit the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Aside from endless and spectacular white sand beaches, the Sunshine Coast is home to conservation and national parks, universities, and international cuisine with a dynamism seldom matched.. Students have an opportunity to explore local and global conservation efforts, as well as the world of finance in their final Dragon's Den project. Teeming with cafes along the water, the Sunshine Coast is the perfect location for students to prepare for complete their final Independent Study Unit interviews, as well as study for their upcoming final exams.

Sydney (Day 76–80)

From the Sunshine Coast, students board a flight back to Sydney for two days of final exams and two additional days of beach hopping and excursions, concluding their adventure through Asia and Oceania. Students edit and present their final film projects and prepare for their long journey home, before bidding farewell to their new ‘MEI family’.

Departure from Sydney (Day 80)


Students return home in December after the adventure of a lifetime. During the months between semesters, they enjoy time with family, an opportunity to assess applications for post secondary education, and the time to prepare for the next amazing leg of their journey. Students can take online math or science courses during this time.

Paris (Day 82–90)

The epicenter of European luxury and decadence, Paris is an ideal location for students to immerse themselves in the philosophies that have shaped modern Western thought. Students discuss the Enlightenment at the Panthéon, the Napoleonic Wars at Napoleon's tomb, and the legacy of the French Revolution at the Palace of Versailles. We also take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of the 'City of Light'–picnics of cheese and baguette, climbing the Eiffel Tower, and igniting our imaginations while wandering the Musée du Louvre.

Strasbourg (Day 91–94)

From Paris, students travel south to the Alsatian town of Strasbourg–the seat of the European Union. Students spend their afternoons exploring the winding streets, and their evenings engaged in book chats over candle-lit dinners. Our day trip to Heidelberg takes students along the western bank of the Rhine River and into Germany, where we discuss the events of World War I and savour a breathtaking view of Bavaria from the heights of Heidelberg Castle.

Swiss Alps (Day 95–99)

Next, students arrive in the valley of Lauterbrunnen, situated high in the snow-capped Alps. Here coursework focuses on the inter-war period and the challenges of remaining neutral when surrounded by conflict. Students again test their physical limits by hiking to the quaint village of Mürren. The serenity of the Alps helps clear students' minds as they begin to refine their song and poetry writing skills around campfires under the stars.

Munich (Day 100–105)

Our exploration of World War II takes us to Munich, where students witness the scars of modern warfare. Our lectures and activities guide students on an emotional journey as they trace the impact of the economic collapse of the 1920s to the rise of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Movement. We visit the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau and examine how Munich has rebuilt and redefined itself as the modern cultural and economic powerhouse it is today.

Venice (Day 106–110)

Amidst its maze of canals and gondolas, this unique city on water remains a wealth of Italian art and culture and a fascinating case study of political leadership. Once the hub for both crusaders and explorers, Venice is a fitting location for students to connect how the Western notion of capitalism and the Eastern idea of collectivism succeeded together. Here, we reside on the quiet island of Lido, where we conduct morning workouts on the beach. Daily trips into the heart of Venice allows us to examine the Venetian Republic at the Doge's Palace and early Christianity at Basilica St. Marco.

Tuscany (Day 111–124)

Students conclude their studies of modern history from a spectacular villa in the rolling hills of Tuscany. Trips to Siena and Florence introduce students to the most well-preserved medieval city and the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance. Returning to our home base in the countryside, students complete the Spring Semester's first Independent Study Units and exams. With a few days to recharge before travelling to Rome, students explore ancient Etruscan tombs and hike through the vineyards of Montepulciano before relaxing in the hot springs of Saturnia.

Rome (Day 125–131)

From Tuscany, students cross the Rubicon and enter the 'Eternal City' where they witness the layers of Rome's history. Studying the art and architecture of the Roman Empire, students consider the complexity and interconnectedness of history, culture and philosophical thought. Whether writing morning notes on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, performing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in the Forum, or sampling the world's best gelato at the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, students witness the ghosts of history come alive.

Peloponnese (Day 132–138)

After leaving Rome, students sail the Adriatic Sea aboard an overnight ferry to Greece. Upon our arrival in the Peloponnese, where Agamemnon and Achilles' armies gathered before attacking Troy, students explore the archaeological ruins of Olympia, home to the first Olympic games. Continuing further east, students visit ancient Mycenae before arriving in the picturesque beach town of Tolo. This relaxed setting offers students a chance to focus their energy on presentations, group activities and creative writing. Students perform workout routines on the beach and test their limits on a day-long hike through the Lousios Gorge.

Santorini (Day 142–148)

Cruising under the stars that guided Odysseus, students sail across the Aegean to the volcanic island of Santorini. Hiking along cliffs overlooking the black sand beaches, students delve into the genius of the Socratic method and grapple with the ideas of Aristotle. Home to one of the most spectacular sunsets in the world, a student inquiry into Plato's Question of Beauty is most relevant here as we discuss ancient Western philosophies over fresh calamari and tzatziki.

Mykonos (Day 149–160)

Along the picturesque beaches on the island of Mykonos, students take a step back to reflect on their odyssey. Here they begin to piece together an evolving global narrative as well as their place within it. From their experiences in preparation for their final Independent Study Units and exams, students cultivate a worldview that is uniquely their own. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, students conclude their journey as renewed, confident, and empowered citizens of the world.

Athens (Day 139–141)

Our final days together are spent among the ruins of the Ancient Agora, and along the pillars of the Temple of Zeus. Students have an opportunity to visit the National Archaeological Museum, wander the markets of the Plaka, and play a last game of Ultimate Frisbee at the Olympic Stadium. A graduation ceremony is held on our final evening in Athens where students enjoy a feast beneath the moonlit Acropolis.


This monumental year concludes with the unique experience of an MEI Big Year graduation at the Acropolis in Athens. Looking back on their Big Year, after six months of travelling through 27 cities in 11 countries, while making more memories than most people have in a lifetime, students truly see themselves as citizens of the world.


Travel dates subject to change.



Program Fee

All prices include international student fees.

Program Fee Includes:


  • Ministry-approved credit(s) upon successful completion of the course(s)
  • Custom course pack
  • Student Login
  • MEI journal
  • Digital yearbook

  • Hotels and accommodations
  • Breakfast and dinner daily
  • Entrance fees to all course-specific sites
  • First Semester: All program flights starting and ending in Toronto
  • Second Semester: All flights starting and ending in Toronto
  • Transportation between hotel locations via private coach, train or plane
  • Return airfare from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport

Sites and Excursions: First Semester
  • The Forbidden City
  • Tiananmen Square
  • The Temple of Heaven
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Tian Tan Buddha
  • Victoria Harbour
  • Temple Street Night Market of Hong Kong
  • Reunification Palace
  • Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
  • Sand dunes of Mui Ne
  • Angkor Wat
  • The Bayon
  • Phnom Penh Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda
  • Wat Pho
  • The Grand Palace of Thailand
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Daintree Rainforest
  • Snorkeling in the Coral Sea
  • Circular Quay
  • Hyde Park
  • Sydney Harbour
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Bondi Beach
  • Manly Beach
  • Coogee Beach
  • The Coral Coast of Fiji
Sites and Excursions: Second Semester
  • Paris Museums: Musee D’Orsay, Louvre, Pompidou, Pantheon
  • The Palace of Versailles
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Mouffetard Market and the Tuileries
  • Heidelberg and Fussen day trips
  • Munich Museums: Deutsches Museum, Dachau Concentration Camp, Neue Pinakokthek
  • The English Garden
  • The Doge’s Palace
  • Basilica San Marco
  • The Rialto Bridge
  • Saturnia Hot Springs
  • Day trips to Florence and Siena
  • Florence Museums: The Accademia and The Uffizi
  • The Roman Forum and Colosseum
  • The Pantheon
  • The Sistene Chapel and The Vatican Museum
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • Palatine and Capitoline Hills
  • The ruins of Ostia
  • Piazza Navona
  • Ruins of Olympia
  • Mycenae
  • The Acropolis
  • The Ancient Agora
  • The National Garden of Athens
  • The National Archeological Museum
  • The Plaka
  • Caldera hike from Oia to Fira
  • Kamari Volcanic Beach
  • Paradise Beach, Mykonos
Program Fee Does Not Include:

  • Lunches
  • Travel Visas
  • All airline taxes, charges and fees
  • Insurances
  • Scuba Diving Fees
  • Gratuities
  • Registration fee
  • Course texts
  • Medical Insurance and Cancellation Protection*

*All students travelling with MEI Academy are required to purchase Medical Insurance.

NEW! Pay Using Points

You can now use your points to partially or fully pay for your MEI invoice.

Students can now fund school fees with loyalty points! Aeroplan® Miles or TD Points, to be specific!

MEI International Academy is pleased to announce it has joined the Program as a Participating Institution. With this new partnership, students are able to convert Aeroplan® Miles and/or TD Points into funds to help cover their fees at MEI International Academy.

You can also convert the Aeroplan® Miles and/or TD Points of family members and friends to help pay for school. Anyone can donate either of these loyalty points to an individual student.

For more information and to set up an account, please visit

If you have any questions or concerns about the Higher Ed Points Program, please email

Want more information? Ready to make the world your classroom?

© 2016 MEI International Academy | All Rights Reserved |