Top 5 Places to Study Business Abroad

by Jake Hanrahan

Money talks. And it knows no borders!

Money is a language that is understood everywhere on Earth; therefore, it makes sense for aspiring business professionals to set their sights on studying business abroad. Given the global nature of modern economies and the international business world, learning the intricacies of conducting business in a foreign country is an unwaveringly valuable skill. Students that study business abroad will gain a competitive advantage by welcoming opportunities all over the globe, not just in their home country.

Read on for a list of some of the premiere destinations for business students, and the features that make each one ideal for study abroad.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

1. Dublin

The welcoming capital city of Ireland is the first entry on the list for its combination of business education opportunities and international atmosphere. Most importantly, Dublin is home to a surprisingly large economy, monitoring and regulating nearly 50 percent of the total economic output of Ireland as a whole. Somewhat surprisingly, Dublin is also a technology hub, not just for Europe, but globally as well. Nine out the top 10 internet communication technology companies on Earth are located in Ireland, making the city a prime location for studying business related to the technology sector.

University College Dublin is one of Europe’s largest institutions of higher learning, and its Lochlan Quinn School of Business offers six different areas of study as well as exchange programs with several American universities. Outside of the educational sphere, Dublin is a fantastic location for international students. Living expenses are relatively cheap when compared to other major European cities, like London or Paris, and the international student population of Dublin represents nearly two thirds of all international students in the country. If a high quality business program in an English speaking country is what you are looking for, study abroad in Dublin makes for an excellent choice.

2. Sydney

Shifting to the opposite side of the planet, the city of Sydney presents another great choice for studying business abroad, again in an English speaking environment. Canberra may be the capital of the country, but Sydney is the most populous and most influential city in the nation. Between the miles of beaches just minutes from the heart of the city to the exciting and youthful nightlife, Sydney may just be an international student’s dream location.

On the educational side of things, the city is home to the University of Sydney, Australia’s first and most prestigious university. Business programs at the university are top notch and dozens of U.S. institutions have established exchange programs. Once in the city, business students could have the opportunity to observe or even to work within the twelfth largest economy in the world. Further, students hoping to one day work with Asian or South Pacific cultures in the business world will be well served by a study abroad program in Sydney. Thanks to relatively recent agreements, Australia is a full member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), meaning that learning to interact with other cultures is of utmost importance in the business world of Australia.

Ipiranga Museum, São Paulo

Ipiranga Museum, São Paulo

3. São Paulo

If Rio de Janeiro is the cultural capital of Brazil, then São Paulo is the business hub of the nation. Through the trials and tribulations of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and preparing to host the Olympic Games in 2016, Brazil has seen its fair share of economic turmoil. However, all signs currently point toward a solid boost to the overall picture of business in the country as a result of hosting the two events. Currently the fifth most populous nation on Earth and the seventh largest economy, Brazil is a naturally solid choice for business study abroad. Specifically, São Paulo is home to several universities as well as study abroad programs organized by American universities.

Business study abroad programs in São Paulo often focus on the business climate of Brazil, while also exposing students to Brazilian culture and basic to intermediate Portuguese language skills. The city is also home to one of the largest stock exchanges on Earth, with a market cap that is well over $1 trillion. Finally, São Paulo is the hub of the Brazilian banking and finance industries, leaving the door open for a wide range of interests within the business realm. Incoming students should take advantage of the vibrant Brazilian culture to be found, but should also be aware of a possible language barrier in the city. Many residents will not speak English and business is conducted mostly in Brazilian Portuguese as well. A little brushing up on the language should be done before your departure, or you might opt to sign up for a brief language program before or during your business study abroad program in Brazil. 

4. Montreal

For students hoping to remain on the North American continent, a world-class international experience in business is available just a few miles north of the border, with a significantly lower price tag to boot. The city of Montreal is home to college students hailing from all over the world, and a culture distinct enough to make you feel like you are thousands of exotic miles from home. A youthful and fun atmosphere means that the list of things to do in the town is extensive, from art exhibits to nightlife to frequent festivals and concerts.

On a larger scale, Canada as a nation is a huge economic player on the global field, despite their relatively small population. Extensive natural gas reserves, medical products and services, and a stable manufacturing sector make Canada somewhat of an ideal example for the study of business.

Many study abroad programs in Montreal are applicable to both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with a focus on a case-method form of education. Business programs in Montreal often emphasize increased understanding of the North American market, and present students with real-world business cases and simulations. Successful completion of business study abroad programs in Montreal will bring with it the type of hands-on experience that many employers are seeking in today’s market. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to living in Montreal is the always chilly Canadian winter, so pack a coat!

Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong

Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong

5. Hong Kong

Hong Kong has exploded onto the international business scene over the course of the past few decades. Thanks in part to its extreme population growth and rapid industrialization, Hong Kong is now one of the world’s leading financial centers. A business student studying abroad in Hong Kong may be physically in Asia, but the types of commerce and trade moving through the city will come from every corner of the globe. Hong Kong’s economic success presents a great environment for learning about business, but incoming students should be aware of several things. Firstly, the cost of living in Hong Kong is among the highest in the world; but, if your wallet can absorb the costs, the city is alive with opportunity.

Seemingly countless skyscrapers crowding the edge of the harbor make for a stunning sight, especially after nightfall. The culinary and artistic influences of mainland China are obvious in the city, and numerous scenic hikes and beaches are open to the public, meaning that visitors will rarely, if ever, run out of possibilities for exploration.

Local universities in Hong Kong are known for their strong business programs, making a firm point of discerning the differences between Asian business practices and those of the west. These differences are seen as critical components of business and learning about them at the undergraduate level is a fantastic way to get experience in the field of international business. Finally, as was the case with São Paulo, students hoping to study abroad in Hong Kong should brush up on the local Cantonese Chinese language skills. While English is the second language of the city, only about a third of the local residents will speak it, meaning that knowing at least a bit of functional Cantonese will be extremely helpful when navigating Hong Kong.

Top Ways to Make Your Business Program Abroad Worth the Investment

As with any international education opportunity, there is a daunting risk of wasting time and not capitalizing on the opportunity at hand. Want to make sure your ROI is praiseworthy? Then follow these tips:

  • Study the language. Your business network will expand, your intellectual capabilities will increase, you’ll earn more university credits, you’ll become a more attractive candidate for local and domestic positions…it’s a no-brainer. 
  • Seek out networking opportunities. Research clubs for young professionals, get involved in the different chambers of commerce operating in-country, ask for advice from your on-site directors, sign up for job alerts or job fairs in your study abroad city. If anything, participate to get a feel for what the business landscape is like there, and to find out if you have what it takes to become an expat someday.
  • Ask for recommendation letters. Whether from your favorite professor, your internship coordinator, or a mentor you picked up along the way, snag a recommendation letter from a contact you made while abroad. This souvenir pays dividends!
  • Challenge yourself to understand the local business norms. They may not make much sense to you (if any), but while you’re there and you have the chance, try to actively gather intel on different operations and norms to expect in business transactions.

At the end of the day, it matters less where you choose to study business abroad and more that you are true to yourself as you choose a destination for study abroad. You might want to be strategic in your decision and select a place that will be advantageous to your career. You might opt to let your semester or summer abroad be devoted to exploring a niche of the business world just for the heck of it. You might say “Codswallop!” to both and just go where your heart desires. And so the question remains:

Where will you head to study business abroad?