Top 5 Most Adventurous Study Abroad Programs

by Jake Hanrahan

For many, the idea of leaving the comfort and consistency of home for several months to travel to a new locale is enough of an adventure by itself. But for a select few, it’s not quite enough. For these students, a study abroad experience wouldn’t be complete without an added hint of adventure and excitement. What follows is a list of five of the most exhilarating and adventurous study abroad programs available in the world. 

1. Dive With Sharks in Fiji

With its beautiful tropical climate and pristine white sand beaches, the islands of Fiji already make for a fantastic study abroad location. However, for students looking for a study abroad experience that is not all about relaxing in the sun, Broadreach offers a full program on shark behavior and conservation. Students in this study abroad program will find themselves in a scuba paradise, among many potential dive sites on the hundreds of islands that make up the nation.

A beach in Fiji

Enjoy the highly sought after beaches of Fiji while studying abroad

This month long study abroad program in Fiji exposes students to both classroom and field education, with multiple days and locations available for diving with sharks. Besides stunning dive sites, the abundant coral reefs that surround many of the islands that make up the nation of Fiji are home to a variety of smaller shark species, including lemon sharks and reef sharks. For even more heart-pounding experiences, larger and more aggressive species such as tiger and bull sharks can be encountered as well.

Cultural experiences are also included, such as a trip to a Fijian village to learn from the locals about the deep connections between their daily lives and the sea as well as their spiritual practices, which include the worship of a shark god.

Both academic and commercial organizations in the islands offer excursions to dive with the sharks, including scuba training and certification programs for newcomers too. Therefore, if a whole program in shark studies is not for you, International Studies Abroad offers study abroad programs at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, which provides dozens of different academic courses, all in a setting that makes it more than possible to work on your scuba diving certification.

If coming face to face with some of nature’s most deadly predators sounds exciting, then consider suiting up and studying abroad for a semester in Fiji!

2. Leave Civilization Behind in Rural Mongolia

Yurt in Mongolia

Experience living in a traditional Mongolian yurt.

No need to pack your laptop for this adventurous study abroad program, because there’s no electricity, let alone internet! The nation of Mongolia has been home to humans for tens of thousands of years, but in parts of the country you would think life hasn’t changed much in all that time. For a truly “rural” experience, you can take part in a study abroad program in Mongolia that transports students right into the heart of the nomadic Mongolian lifestyle.

SIT Study Abroad offers a 15 week study abroad program in Mongolia, a portion of which is spent living in much the same way as Mongolians have for hundreds of years. This study abroad program offers students the opportunity to engage in just about every aspect of Mongolian life, including intensive language study, analysis of Mongolian geopolitics, and placement in both an urban and rural homestay.

While placed with the local residents of the rural villages, students will get to take part in almost every aspect of daily life, including traditional cooking practices, local language instruction, and even livestock care.

If you are looking to get “off the grid”, there may be no better place than rural Mongolia!

3. Head WAY Down Under through Study Abroad in Antarctica

For most college students, Christmas break is meant for relaxing, unwinding from the stress of finals, and for existing exclusively in the space between your parent’s couch and their refrigerator for several weeks. However, for a select few adventurers looking for something a bit more active to do over the holidays, studying abroad in Antarctica is a viable alternative.

Emperor penguins in Antarctica

See Emperor penguins in person while studying in Antarctica

American Universities International Programs (AUIP) offers a study abroad experience that can earn students up to six college credits for participating in a sustainability course on the infamous White Continent. This course includes an online lecture portion taken during the fall semester, capped by a two week excursion to both Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and Antarctica. 

Students participating in this adventurous study abroad program will learn about the efforts that are critical for sustaining the Antarctic region, combined with multiple wildlife excursions, in search of penguins, seals, and whales, and a voluntary swim in the frigid polar waters.


If the cold doesn’t bother you, and being lazy over Christmas break isn’t for you, you have to check out winter study abroad options in Antarctica.

4. Set Sail for a Semester on the High Seas - Aboard a Student-Manned Sailboat

Lake Wakatipi in Queenstown, New Zealand

Grab the chance to see Lake Wakatipi in New Zealand in person

When students travel overseas for study abroad programs, very rarely are they required to actually fly the plane or steer the boat that takes them there. But this is not so with this program!

SEA Semester is an organization that offers full semester-long study abroad programs for a wide range of majors, all taking place aboard a sailboat that is operated by the students themselves. Programs are available around the world, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to New Zealand, with the sailboat moving between multiple ports and sometimes between multiple countries during the course of one semester. Each individual voyage has its own theme, such as conservation science, marine biology, or historical studies, but each programs is still applicable to a large range of disciplines and majors.

Learn to build teamwork and camaraderie as you complete this challenging, yet highly unique, adventurous study abroad program!

5. Journey to the Roof of the World for a Study Abroad Trek Through the Himalayas

Of all the students that have returned from this type of study abroad program, many report that the most challenging part was finding the words to explain the almost indescribable natural beauty they encountered on a daily basis, and that seems like a pretty good problem to have.

Basecamp in the Himalayas, Nepal

Travel to basecamp in the Himalayas during a study abroad program in Nepal

Where There Be Dragons offers a semester long immersive Nepali experience, that includes cultural studies, rural homestays, and a multi-week trek through the upper Himalayas. Students in this study abroad program learn about a variety of topics, including local cultures, ecology of the region, and natural resource management, all in a setting that is challenging both mentally and physically. Housing during the program can range from hotels, to home-shares with locals, to good old tents on the ground, making it a great option for the adventurous student who enjoys not knowing where they may be laying their head each night. Those considering this type of program should understand that a moderate level of fitness is required.

If none of the above components pose an issue, then this may be a perfect fit for students wanting a more “outdoorsy” study abroad experience.

Whether you decide to swim with sharks in Fiji, rove rural Mongolia, visit penguins in Antarctica, sail the seven seas, or brave the Himalayas, each one of these adventurous study abroad programs will give you the badge of daredevil honor.

So which one will you sign up for first?