7 Underrated Countries to Earn Your Degree Abroad

by Mary Ellen Dingley

So, you’re considering getting your degree abroad! Hurrah! You’re ready to further your education and find some international adventure at the same time. Maybe you’re looking for a shorter undergraduate degree or a master’s that’s cheaper than tuition in your home country. Maybe you want that coveted cross-cultural experience, and the international flair to add to your resume. Either way, before you start your research, be sure to consider some off-the-beaten-path countries!

View of skyscrapers in Singapore
The Singapore cityscape by day

Studying in other Anglosphere countries or Western Europe is fairly common, but what if you struck off to somewhere completely new and different? An “underrated” country won’t show up on many brochures or in stock photos of happy tourists, but just because it’s not a common destination doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out!

You’re adventurous, like to live outside-the-box, and maybe feel a little bit like a rebel. For you, stories about great cities like London, Paris, and New York paled in comparison to hearing about Nairobi, Cairo, or Bangkok. You want to see the places no one you know has visited. You want to be in the places that don’t show up in your history classes. An “underrated” country could be a challenge, but it also could bring a more immersive and diverse experience and that’s a challenge you’re willing to face.

So, it is time to explore your options! Depending on what you want to earn your degree abroad in, add some of these exciting countries to your list of possibilities:

1. Singapore

Singapore is at the crossroads of many Asian cultures. Along with being a truly global hub and an economic success story, it has one of the best universities in all of Asia. Although English is one of the nation’s official languages, students could also pick up Malay, Tamil, or Mandarin while earning a degree in Singapore as these are all official languages as well. If you’re interested in medical school, the National University of Singapore has multiple different medical programs. You could also study business, social science, or Asian culture in Singapore. As a gateway to the East, Singapore is a fascinating place to live and earn a degree abroad.

View of Cuetzalan, Mexico
Cuetzalan, Mexico

2. Mexico

Mexico might be thought of as a beach vacation spot, but it also has a rich culture of art, history, and literature, and boasts a world renowned university in its capital city. Economic inequality and indigenous rights still remain contentious issues in México, so it’s a nation where studying social science can be immediately applicable. But you can also study something like traditional Mexican cooking and impress all your friends when you show them that Tex-Mex is not the only way to go. Mexico is a fascinating bridge between North and South America and a great place to immerse yourself in political science, international relations, human rights, and immigration law.

3. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is a controversial country, but earning a degree in Saudi Arabia could launch a career in working with or in the Middle East! It has a well ranked university of science and technology with fellowship and visiting student programs geared toward international students. See for yourself what life is like in a country ruled by an absolute monarchy, with a unique combination of the 20th highest ranked GDP and legal bans against women driving. If you want to get a science-focused degree, but also want to be ready for a cross-cultural career, Saudi Arabia could be the place for you!

Cityscape in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Mecca, Saudi Arabia

4. Slovenia

Slovenia is a tiny country in Central Europe known for its gorgeous landscape (bordering the Alps and the Mediterranean) and outdoor activities. Ski, hike, raft, and swim, and when you get tired, check out some of the gorgeous medieval castles. Slovenia draws from its central position, near Austria, Italy, Hungary, and the Balkans, creating a cuisine and culture that’s truly a “fusion.” If you earn a degree in Slovenia, both Western and Eastern Europe will be right in your backyard! You can study at one of the nation’s four universities, including EMUNI-EURO Mediterranean University, which was founded by an international consortium of universities to be a truly inter-cultural institution. You can even get your master’s degree in intercultural business communication in Slovenia, a location that is not only beautiful, but at a crossroads of numerous cultures.

5. South Africa

South Africa is a diverse, complex “rainbow” nation with eleven official languages! It’s a great place from which to explore the African continent, and to grapple with the complex issues of a nation with great challenges and great opportunities. You can find technical and vocation-based programs as well as academic universities where it is possible to study a wide variety of subjects in South Africa. Located in a multicultural city with beaches and mountains surrounding it, The University of Cape Town is the nation’s most highly ranked institution, and Cape Town itself is huge (bigger than New York City!). Africa is a continent where emerging economic markets, international development, public health, and political science are vital and vibrant subjects to study.

View of Lake Bled in Slovenia
Lake Bled, Slovenia

6. Peru

Peru has some fabulous universities, and if you want to be fully immersed in Spanish, this is definitely a great place to do it, since universities rarely use any other language of instruction. Peru is a good location for anthropology and archeology majors, with its plethora of different cultures and fascinating ancient ruins. And you won’t have to travel far from the classroom; Lima boasts some of the best universities and ancient ruins within its borders. Peru is also great place from which to explore the rest of South America and to see jungles, mountains, and deserts! If you want to study Quechua, the language of the Andes, many Quechua classes are offered at Peruvian universities.

7. Portugal

Portugal is in well-trodden Western Europe, but is often overlooked in relation to its larger Iberian neighbor Spain. However, Portugal boasts its own unique culture, language, food, music, and wonderful universities, with the University of Algarve being its highest ranked. Not only can you get a good education in Portugal, but you will be on the doorstep of the rest of Europe, a major plus if European travel is a priority for you. You can head to Portugal to study finance, business, or the culinary arts, and wander around the adorable towns and beautiful beaches. Learning Portuguese will not only help you with other romance languages, it is useful (with tweaks) in the emerging economic powerhouse of Brazil, too. Return to your home country with new language skills, some mean seafood recipes, and sun-kissed skin.

Street view of Cusco Cathedral in Peru
Cusco, Peru
There are so many countries around the world with enlightening academic environments waiting for you to come immerse yourself, so don’t restrict yourself when you’re doing your research!

An underrated location doesn’t mean an underrated education. There’s so much more to explore outside of the usual “Top 9 Places to Earn Your Degree Abroad.” Be sure to compare programs, read reviews and alumni interviews, and maybe even reach out to program coordinators and alumni to learn more before making your decision of where to earn a degree abroad