10 Alternative Study Abroad Locations

Europe, China, even parts of South America are all incredibly popular study abroad destinations. Each one is a great choice for many, offering opportunities to explore cultures both familiar and foreign, building a new world view, and meeting new people. But these not the only options out there. In fact, many alternative study abroad locations exist, offering unique opportunities that you just can’t find anywhere else. Studying on a ship around the world, learning about conservation in Antarctica, and exploring some of the most mind-blowing architecture in the world in Dubai, are just a few of the great ways you can step outside of the usual study abroad experience. Read on to learn about these ideas, and more, to give you a truly unique study abroad experience.

  1. SEMESTER AT SEA: This alternative study location is, basically, everywhere. With a Semester at Sea, you can spend your study abroad experience not just in one place, but in many. Voyages include Central and South America, North Africa, and the Atlantic. This incredible study abroad experience allows students to learn about life around the world, living on a ship, and embrace around the clock lifelong learning. Students of Semester at Sea leave with a more global understanding, thanks to their multiple-country study and field experience.
  2. ANTARCTICA: Studying abroad in Antarctica is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many students can say that they’ve studied on the coldest, windiest, and most remote continent on Earth? Learning in Antarctica is an incredible adventure, allowing for opportunities to experience wildlife, amazing scenery, and activities that you just can’t find anywhere else. Predominantly field-based, most Antarctic study abroad programs are great for those concerned with the natural world, including geology, climate change studies, and conservation, as well as science and exploration.
  3. DUBAI: Dubai is an incredible place to study abroad, not just because of its unusual culture, but because of its wealth of excellent schools. Many study abroad students choose the American University Dubai, but there are so many others, including Boston University Dental School Dubai, Dubai Aerospace University, and Harvard Medical School Dubai. Architecture students especially will enjoy studying in this ultra-modern city full of skyscrapers and unusual architectural designs. Business students do well here, too, as Dubai is a major investment destination. Plus, with more than 160 nationalities represented within the city, students can take on a highly international experience.
  4. THAILAND: China is a popular study abroad destination, but Thailand makes for an excellent alternative. With the vibrant city of Bangkok, unique rural programs like elephant camps, and a very affordable cost of living (and study), Thailand is a great place to experience studying abroad. Education is extremely important in Thailand, with science and engineering at the forefront of Thailand’s universities. Studying in Bangkok, students can find a modern city full of cultural opportunities, while beyond, breathtaking natural landscapes, mountains, tribal cities, and a unique ecology offer plenty of study and recreational opportunities. Thailand is especially attractive to students who want to focus on engineering, ecology, and development. And although the educational opportunities in this country are great, what students really love is the tropical wealth, gorgeous beaches, and cheap, delicious Thai food.
  5. NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand’s neighbor Australia gets a lot of love from study abroad students, but this alternative destination is just as great, if not better. A beautiful environment, incredibly friendly people, plenty of outdoor and athletic opportunities, and interesting cultural activities are major draws that study abroad students may enjoy. The University of Auckland is a particularly popular destination for students seeking an alternative study abroad location, with classes including art, law, and even optometry. The harbor city of Wellington also boasts Victoria University of Wellington, right near the attractions of downtown. Students in New Zealand can take advantage of unique programs as well, including a ski diving program.
  6. TURKEY: While Europe is a popular study abroad destination, Turkey offers students the opportunity to see a different side of Europe, as well as Asia. There are so many attractions that are great for students, including the metropolis of Istanbul, the historical cities of Troy and Ephesus, and a beautiful coastline to enjoy. Turkey is also a great jumping off point for other travels, with a location that is convenient for exploring Western Europe as well as China. Education within the country is especially attractive for business, engineering, and international relations. Turkey’s multicultural past also makes it a great place to study more than 25,000 years of history, fine arts, architecture, literature, and other creative pursuits.
  7. GHANA: Studying abroad in Africa is certainly unusual, but if the idea of heading to the African continent is appealing to you, Ghana is an excellent destination. The country has become a popular tourist spot due to its stability in economy, politics, and social issues. Ghana’s capital city of Accra is popular in particular for the University of Ghana, one of Africa’s most prestigious universities, and a campus that welcomes more than 1,000 international students each year. Ghana boasts gorgeous beaches, beautiful wildlife sanctuaries, and culturally diverse inhabitants that are especially friendly. Students can explore these, as well as Ghana’s historical forts, castles, craftsman traditions, and even a hopping nightclub scene.
  8. RUSSIA: With a dizzying 6,592,800 square miles and a tense history with the West, Russia can be an intimidating study abroad destination for some students. But it’s well worth taking the plunge to find all that this beautiful and interesting country has to offer. With so much space and so many different cities to explore, there is a seemingly endless variety of different experiences that can be found within this country. Most students prefer to study in the two biggest cities in the country, Moscow and St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg in particular is popular for art history students, with a wealth of historic arts and culture to learn about. Students who want to learn about the history and culture of Russia would enjoy Moscow as well, with a world-renowned collection of museums, theaters, and more, plus a view of the economic and political center of the country.
  9. PERU: Peru is an environmental, archaeological, and anthropological playground, full of more than 20,000 years of history and culture and a wide variety of climates, ranging from the hot and humid Amazon to the deserts and mountain villages. Students can embrace this incredible opportunity, visiting sites and cultural wonders, including Machu Picchu, remnants of the Incan empire, and Spain’s lasting influence on the country. But Peru’s study abroad experience isn’t all about the past: there is a rich modern, contemporary life influenced by Peru’s fusion of cultures. The capital city of Lima is particularly cosmopolitan, and a great spot to find colleges and universities that are open to study abroad students. The Andean city of Cusco is also a popular destination for study abroad students, as it was the capital of the Inca Empire.
  10. TAHITI: First things first, Tahiti is amazingly beautiful. The idyllic black sand coastlines of this Polynesian country are a major draw for potential study abroad students. But beyond the country’s natural beauty, you’ll find an amazingly interesting place to study abroad. As part of French Polynesia, Tahiti is one of the very few remaining colonies in our modern post-colonial world, and it’s an appealing place to study what life is like for colonial subjects. Students can spend their time on the main island of Tahiti, and find the opportunity to explore the more remote island of Huahine, the interior of which is almost entirely uninhabited. Tahiti is also a great place to jump off and explore other islands of the Pacific.
Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Elsa Thomasma