8 Subjects You Didn’t Know You Could Study Abroad

by Jake Hanrahan

Languages, sure. Cultural studies, yeah. Government, duh. As almost any college student can tell you, there are some blatantly obvious majors and fields that give way to international experiences as part of a standard degree program. However, many students are woefully unaware of just how many different subjects can be studied abroad.

The following list includes eight subjects that may not immediately cross students’ minds when thinking of study abroad, but that are just as possible to partake in as far more well-known options. 

1. Cosmetology

Manicured hand holding a small daisy

Popular beauty standards seem to change almost as quickly as a model can walk a runway, but every culture in the world will have its own unique definition of what is beautiful and what is not.

From the high end beauty schools of London to the far less structured but equally demanding hair weaving practices of rural Ghana, opportunities to expand one’s knowledge of cosmetology through studying abroad are available all over the world.

Cosmetology study abroad programs are not just in hair and makeup design, courses focused on other areas, such as manicures and pedicures, can be found in dozens of countries and in a huge range of settings. Studying cosmetology abroad is a seldom utilized but extremely valuable experience for students in the field.

2. Astronomy

Milky Way

The study of the celestial objects with which we share our universe is a fascinating yet demanding task. A good place to start with respects understanding as much of what is happening in our night sky as possible would be to, well, have a decent view of what you are trying to study.

There are surprisingly few places on earth that allow for pristine night sky viewing and, unsurprisingly, not all of them are in the U.S. or the U.K. In fact, for half the year it isn’t even possible to see one of the most recognizable objects in the night sky, the Milky Way, from the northern hemisphere. All this means is that budding astronomers should realize early in their careers that they need to be mobile to be the best they can be, and this notion makes studying astronomy abroad all the more valuable.

Not only will students actually get to view certain objects that would be impossible to see from home, but they can also expose themselves to the types of technologies other nations use to study the stars, as well as the cultural significance that celestial objects have in different regions around the world.

3. Leadership

A popular saying states that “leaders are born, not made”, but history has time and again proven that to be false. Leaders absolutely can be made and for students interested in improving their leadership skills, taking leadership courses abroad may be just what is needed.

The ability to lead is critical in almost every industry, but fields like business, economics, and political science require leadership skills even more than other industries. Leadership study abroad programs focusing heavily on building leadership skills are available in many countries, with notable programs housed at universities in France, Ireland, and Italy.

By studying leadership abroad, students can quickly learn the intricacies of leading people from many walks of life. In our modern, global world, the true art of leadership comes from the ability to identify differences in a group of people and enable them to work together efficiently. Exploring leadership methods abroad will allow students to develop their leadership abilities exponentially.

4. Illustration & Animation

man painting computer

That’s right kids, Spongebob Squarepants isn’t the only children’s show viewed around the world. In almost every corner of the globe different styles of animation and illustration can be found, each with their own unique demands and techniques. Many times these art forms will be great indicators of the society they are produced by, making studying illustration and animation abroad a great technical and cultural experience.

The methods used to produce animations can vary widely, with many countries utilizing computer software and others still relying on good old fashioned pen and paper drawings. Another important note, not all animation styles are meant for children. Japanese comic book style illustrations, for example, have gained enormous followings all around the world despite their adult themes, bridging the gap between child’s play and true art.

Students who study animation and illustration abroad can return home with a much better understanding of both the art and the business side of the industry. Observing, experiencing, and understanding the field of animation on an international scale will also make students more sought after by studios and future employers, and prepare them to be better able to identify and produce highly successful pieces for the larger world market.

5. Sports Sciences

Soccer field

All told, sports around the world have an enormous impact on not only their fans, but their respective societies as well. Sure, there is always the cultural factor that sports can add to a city or even a country, but they have unseen benefits too. Sports can and do drive the advancements in human medicine and injury treatment, and the economics of sports rival those of many other global consumer industries.

While it is likely true that the U.S. is by far the most sports-rabid nation on Earth, that certainly doesn’t mean that other countries don’t have plenty to contribute to when it comes to sports education. While Americans’ obsession with football may be one of a kind, the next most popular American sports, like baseball, basketball, and hockey, are played at least to some degree on nearly every continent on Earth.

Students hoping to someday work in the world of sports leagues, sports administration, or sports management would be well served by adding study abroad experience to their education. Studying sports science abroad may allow students to see first-hand how leagues operate on a daily basis and learn more about the enormous global sports industry. Students will also have the potential to branch out into the world of sports beyond America’s most popular list, such as boxing, cricket, and of course, the world’s most widely played game, soccer.

6. Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice

There are good people in every single country on the face of the earth but there are naturally a few bad apples in each nation as well, making criminal justice and law enforcement a fascinating subject for study abroad. Officers of the law are meant to protect and serve their communities, but each community will often have its own set of values and customs that dictate how officers do their jobs.

For example, in the U.S. finding an on duty officer without his or her gun is like seeing a unicorn. However, travel to other well developed countries, like England or New Zealand, and you may have far better luck finding a unicorn than an officer with a weapon. Other possible destinations for studying criminal justice abroad could include the Netherlands, home to The Hague and the International Court of Justice, or Singapore, a country in which drug possession charges can and do result in a mandatory death sentence.

Studying criminal justice abroad is an uncommon but fascinating way to take your education to the next level, especially due to the fact that so many law enforcement policies reflect the culture they are designed to protect. Topics such as gun control, crime scene investigation, and the criminal justice systems are all available for students interested is studying criminal justice abroad.

7. Nursing

Nurses are necessary components to any developed medical system, and are therefore in demand nearly everywhere in the world. Yet, students are often surprised to find nursing study abroad programs across the globe, and even in several specialities within the field, such as clinical nursing and emergency medicine.

As one might be able to guess, nurses are needed and trained everywhere. The question of where to study nursing abroad essentially boils down to choosing a location where your interest is in high demand. Travel nursing programs are also a great choice for internationally minded nursing students, which are training programs that take students to multiple different countries and expose them to common health issues and solutions all over the world.

Studying nursing abroad can be incredibly valuable to future medical professionals. International training will separate nurses from large pools of job applicants in the future, while also showing that they have what it takes to work in a new and unfamiliar or uncomfortable environment, skills that are critical to being a successful nurse.

8. Computer Science & Information Technology

Computer circuitry

Thousands of languages are spoken on earth, but computer languages, and the wonders of technology they produce, can bridge gaps that spoken languages can’t. With the explosion of technology and its increased accessibility in recent decades all over the world, numerous countries are beginning to receive and implement new computer systems, driving the need for internationally trained computer science and information technology professionals through the roof.

The best destinations for students to study computer science abroad are different than for other professionals, because opportunities are available in essentially any destination where computers are used. For english speaking students, world class programs exist in England and New Zealand, and many more locations worldwide. Additionally, Japan and South Korea are more popular locations studying information technology abroad because these nations are constantly creating new, cutting edge technology.

Again, in the world of technology, the hardware being worked with remains the same, but the people being worked with can vary drastically. With so many technology companies looking to expand into global markets, experience studying computer science or information technology abroad will set students up for a bright future, and put them ahead of their peers both professionally and culturally.