Top 5 Places to Study Political Science Abroad

by Jake Hanrahan

With its tendency to change with every border crossed, political science is a field in which students can benefit greatly by making a study abroad experience a central part of their education. All but the newest and most volatile nations on Earth have their own governments; studying these governments, and the laws they produce, is one of the fastest ways to really get to know which values are most important in a local culture. Certain problems in the ways people govern themselves and the ways they solve these problems can often only be truly understood by spending time living amid the specific political environment.

Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland

For example, how does a nation like China, with a population several times that of the United States, govern its people? How does a country like Zambia, one of the poorest on Earth, make do with what it has to better the lives of its people? These types of issues within the field of political science are often only truly understood by actually experiencing the problems and solutions firsthand, making studying politics abroad an enormously important experience for students in the field.

The following is a list of the top five places to study political science abroad, for students who want to immerse themselves in a new culture and gain hands on experience in the global field of political science.

Geneva, Switzerland

Perhaps the holy grail of international destinations for studying political science abroad, Geneva is home to several institutions that could be of great interest to students. First of all, Geneva houses the second largest United Nations office complex in the world, behind only the organization’s headquarters in New York City. Second, Geneva is home to several world class universities, nearly all of which provide outstanding academic programs in political science. Most political science programs in Geneva advertise a focus on international relations for their students, making these programs ideal for internationally minded political science students.

Finally, Switzerland as a whole is nearly unbeatable in the natural beauty department, meaning that in between important lessons on how to best preserve international peace, students who study abroad in Geneva will be able to get outside and enjoy some of the most stunning outdoor recreation Europe has to offer.

Santiago, Chile

A city that has quickly become an economic and political centerpiece of South America (not to mention the heart and soul of Chile), Santiago is a young international student’s dream. In just the past dozen or so years, Santiago has undergone a technological revolution, resulting in one of the most modern cities in all of South America. Numerous shopping malls and a vibrant nightlife compliment the lifestyles of university students in Santiago. Local universities are tasked with producing a generation of students that can lead the nation (and the region), both politically and economically, making political science programs in Santiago some of the best in the Southern hemisphere.

As a note, most if not all political science classes in Santiago will be taught in Spanish, making Santiago a great choice for students hoping to improve their Spanish language skills during their time abroad.

Hong Kong ferries

Hong Kong ferries

Hong Kong, China

Make no mistake about it, China is set to become one of the most prominent players on the global stage within just a few short decades, or possibly even years. With its massive economy and equally large population, the study of political science in China is of great importance for the country to continue running smoothly and efficiently. Therefore, Hong Kong makes for a great destination for political science study abroad for several reasons.

For starters, the language barrier that so often deters English speaking students from pursuing study abroad programs in China is not nearly as intimidating in Hong Kong; English is an official language of the island, which happens to feature a fascinating political atmosphere worth learning about. Home to recent protests over the idea of its independence, Hong Kong natives have increasingly supported the idea of breaking away from Chinese rule for several years now. The Chinese government in Beijing has understandably opposed such a move, which has spurred occasional outbursts of protests and, rarely, violent responses from pro-Chinese forces.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, political science is of great importance in Hong Kong’s society and is taught vigorously in many of the city’s top universities. For political science students looking for a combination of culture, big city life, and the opportunity to live through critical stages of a fight for independence, Hong Kong would be an excellent place to study politics abroad.

Brussels, Belgium

For the same reason that Washington, D.C. would make for a great place to study political science in the U.S., Brussels is the place to be for large-scale European politics. Home to the headquarters of the European Union, Brussels has plenty to offer political science students from around the globe. Two universities in the city are ranked within the top 200 in the world, and Brussels' location in the heart of Europe make further travel around the region not just possible, but downright easy.

Another location where language may play a role, Brussels is essentially a bilingual city with all road signs and public markings written in both French and Dutch. For students studying either of these languages or for those interested in how governments deal with a multilingual population, studying political science in Brussels should be a top option to consider.

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

San Jose, Costa Rica

A Central American success story if ever there was one, Costa Rica has managed to display remarkable political stability in a region that often sees anything but. The town of San Jose is the location of Universidad Veritas, a top destination for international students studying abroad in Costa Rica. With options to take courses in either Spanish or English, Costa Rica represents an opportunity to expand language skills if desired, but with no requirement to do so.

While in the country, students will get a firsthand look at the methods that make the political system of Costa Rica successful in comparison to other Central and South American countries, including the representation system and voting procedures. An emphasis on international trade is a likely component of political science study abroad programs in San Jose, as Costa Rica has numerous important economic ties with countries both inside and outside of Central America.

During free time, students will find themselves in a tropical paradise, complete with potential jungle excursions and beach trips that will be sure to provide an exciting getaway from the stresses of studying.