Most Popular Degrees to Earn Abroad

by Rebecca Murphy

There are so many ways, nowadays, to spend meaningful time abroad: studying for a semester, volunteering, backpacking, you name it. All of these are wonderful choices, but what they usually lack are time and integration, and don’t end up being as “life-changing” as they could be. If you want a truly meaningful experience abroad, while simultaneously pursuing personal and professional goals, you need to consider the ultimate, the beacon, the #abroadgoals to end all #abroadgoals: getting a freakin’ degree abroad!

Alhambra in Spain
Get your Spanish language and literature degree in Spain

Why pay all this money to party in Ibiza for three months and return home only knowing four different ways to say “shots” en español, when you can spend a few years abroad, earn an actual degree, AND party in Ibiza on breaks? Yeah, going to school abroad sounds good to us, too.

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of earning a degree abroad, but you are not sure what the best degree subjects to pursue are, do what all of the cool kids are doing and pick one of the most popular degree subjects to explore abroad.

Foreign Languages

This one is basically a no-brainer. If you’re even thinking about majoring in and becoming fluent in another language, you better already be planning to score some international experience! But, why not take your goal one step further by pursuing an entire foreign language degree abroad to really guarantee fluency?

There’s nothing sadder than when someone tells you they “majored in French back in the day,” but they can’t really speak much of it anymore; seems like kind of a waste of a degree, right? If you’re going to dedicate years to memorizing vocab flash cards and studying every tiny grammar rule, wouldn’t you want it to eventually lead to something and be a skill you can always use? We all know that it’s pretty much pointless to pursue a degree in a foreign language and not actually spend time in a country where that language is spoken, because you simply won’t become as proficient in the language without that international component. So, if you are serious about gaining fluency, the best option is to spend a few years in-country and earn your language degree abroad.

Montmartre, Paris metro stop
Get a degree in history or literature in Paris, and walk in the footsteps of literary greats.

Where to start? The fantastic thing about foreign language degree programs is that you can complete them basically anywhere. Except, of course, it should be in a country where they speak your native language. Don’t say you want to get a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and then enroll at a school in London. That’s a cop-out and we all know it. You won’t learn any more Spanish in London than you would back home, so head to Spain or Latin America instead. If you’re overwhelmed by choices and don’t know which country or degree program to choose (we know, there are A LOT of them), spend some time comparing reviews or reaching out to program alumni. It might be, for your purposes, better to study French in Canada rather than France, but you’ll only know by talking to someone who has been there, done that.

Literature, Culture, & History

Those considering earning a degree in literature, history, or culture are “one upping” foreign language degree seekers. Becoming fluent in another language is a fantastic skill to have, but truly understanding the context behind that language is even more important. Anyone can memorize vocab and study conjugations, but it takes a whole other type of dedication to learn why something is said the way it is or how something came to be. Having a firm grasp on the history and culture of a region can put young professionals at a serious advantage when it comes time to fill out job applications, which is why these are some of the most popular degree subjects to pursue abroad.

Where to start? This sounds obvious, but if you really want to maximize your degree program in anything related to culture or literature, head to the places with the most history. Italy, England, France, Israel, and China are all very popular locations for international degrees in culture, literature, and history because of their thousands of years of rich history, influence on today’s languages and politics, and esteemed degree programs in these areas. It doesn’t hurt that these regions are so darn beautiful too; maybe countries (and cheese) get better with age, right?

Girl looking out over a river in Brussels, Belgium
Brussels up on your foreign policy and your French by getting your political science degree in Belgium

Politics

The world is all pretty much in shambles and we know it. Most people are looking at choosing the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to election seasons, and youngsters who are finally old enough to vote either don’t understand enough or don’t care enough to vote. Now more than ever we need dedicated and influential people to lead our work into better ways, and the best way to accomplish this is to have politicians obtain as much global experience as possible from a young age. Hence, politics is one of the most popular degree programs abroad. If you’re considering pursuing anything in international relations, political science, or diplomacy, you will have a giant advantage if you obtain your political science degree abroad.

Where to start? Every region has some sort of government put into place (except Antarctica, keep letting the penguins and seals govern you!), so there is no bad area to earn a poli-sci or international relations degree abroad. However, most serious students flock to the countries who are seen as the “big players,” including the United States, France, England, China, and Germany. Don’t forget, though, about some smaller countries may offer better benefits when it comes to international degree programs. Belgium, for example, is home to many international organizations, like NATO, and hosts several of the EU’s official seats. Additionally, Switzerland’s famous neutrality and four-cultures-in-one-country attitude could do it for you. No matter where you choose to earn your political science degree abroad, you really can’t choose wrong!

**Bonus Tip!** You might consider taking a few language classes while earning your degree in politics abroad. Especially if you’re from the U.S., most international diplomats won't expect that you can speak anything but English. You might be a bit more successful in getting multinational trade agreements signed and forging relationships with new allies if you have a few languages in your back pocket. If you really want to be an influential politician, better brush up on your language skills!

View of the Sydney Opera House in Australia
Greet guests with a “G’day” while getting a degree in hospitality management in Australia.

Hospitality

Thanks to the power of the internet and social media (and cheaper gas prices!), it is rapidly becoming more popular to travel abroad. Those who may have never really been exposed to the beauties of the world are now able to be connected to everything and everyone, and people all over are booking their first flight to somewhere exciting. The field of hospitality is consequently booming and becoming one of the most popular degrees to earn abroad. Worldwide there is a growing need that exists for young people to get involved in the hospitality industry. If you’re totally infected by the travel bug, or the thought of managing hotels and helping people travel more easily makes you weak in the knees, you should probably get a degree in hospitality abroad!

Where to start? As you would probably assume, the best places to earn a degree in hospitality are the places that generate the most tourism. Europe is usually hospitality degree seekers’ first choice, with top hospitality degree programs located all over popular European destinations, like Italy, Spain, and France. However, don’t knock other areas of the world, such as Malaysia and Australia, off your list just yet. Can you think of anything worse than spending two years learning about preparing authentic British tea time at a high-end resort? Noooope! What do you think really makes hospitality programs one of the most popular degree programs abroad?

International Business

The global economy is constantly changing, with trade agreements always being argued over and large business M&As happening every day. It’s difficult to understand how all of this affects people and companies on both a large and small scale without being exposed directly to it. You may think that obtaining an economics degree or MBA in your home country is enough to understand how the business world works. However, when you’re in a conference room with the heads of global companies, who speak four languages each and are discussing whether or not to merge their Chinese offices, you will probably feel pretty unprepared.

Going to school abroad and earning a business degree will ensure that you not only understand how to make smart business decisions for you, but also smart business decisions for the rest of the world. You might work at a company that focuses on global water filtration, and unless you’ve studied and understand how certain processes affect specific regions, you could very well be implementing something that is not sustainable for the area and ends up hurting their economy. Or, maybe you have a big sales pitch with an Argentine company and you don’t know that in most of South America, nobody gets down to business until you’ve gotten to know each other and become trusted confidants. You wouldn’t want to blow the whole opportunity because you hit them with your pitch too strongly!

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Get down to business earning your degree in Dubai

Where to start? The best places to obtain a business degree abroad are major global cities, where students can benefit from endless international corporations and dynamic areas of trade. These include cities like London, New York, Paris, Dubai, and Beijing, but the options are really endless. If you’re looking to be super successful in the international business world, consider picking up a minor in a foreign language while you’re at it! Being able to communicate with more people will make you infinitely more hirable and desirable for any global company, and you’ll be able to chat up that cutie at happy hour after work, too!

Eating, Drinking, & Being Merry

Yeah, yeah, we know you can’t get an actual degree in this. But, anyone who earns a legitimate degree abroad will come home with an honorary degree in traveling, eating, and making new friends. These skills definitely can’t hurt your career, no matter where it takes you.

Earning a degree in your home country is challenging, but earning a degree abroad is sooo much more legit. 

Regardless of which one of these most popular degree programs you choose to pursue, you’ll be setting yourself up for a future filled with success, international relationships, employment options all over the world, and sweet travel opportunities. Earning a degree abroad, especially in one of these most popular degree subjects, is basically earning your ticket to a future abroad. Who wouldn’t want that?!

Ready to get started? Sign up for a MyGoAbroad profile, bookmark and compare programs, and be on your merry way!