Cities like Paris, London, and Rome are very popular destinations for study abroad; however, big Western cities like these can sometimes make students feel like they’ve never left home, since these cities tend to have large populations of international students. Therefore, students who want to travel across the world, who aren’t interested in a traditional study abroad experience, may be pleasantly surprised to learn about the accessibility of study abroad programs in lesser known, and far less traveled, destinations.
Choosing an “out of the ordinary” study abroad destination will allow you to get a more fulfilling look into a culture much more different than your own, and literally set you apart from your peers.
1. Muscat, Oman
Located along the coast of the Arabian Sea with a diverse topography, Muscat has a large population of immigrants, with almost half of the population consisting of people born in other countries. Oman is a hub for petroleum and natural gas, and Muscat is home to both the national oil company of Oman and the Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition. Muscat is an exceptional place to study abroad for students interested in learning about the manufacturing and distribution of oil and gas.
English is the second most commonly spoken language in Muscat after Arabic. Therefore, Muscat is a great location for English speakers to study the Arabic language, as students will have the chance to speak Arabic in everyday situations while experiencing the Omani culture firsthand outside of the classroom. Muscat offers a range of opportunities to learn about the ancient culture of Oman. For example, students who study abroad in Muscat will have the chance to visit the numerous tombs in the Bat settlement, which are over 3,000 years old. Studying abroad in Muscat will also provide students an excellent opportunity to explore the Middle East as a whole.
Amidst a majestically preserved culture, Thimphu offers a range of courses for international students. Though the national language in Bhutan is Dzongkha, it is common for English to be used inside the classroom, especially at large institutions like Royal Thimphu College. Recognized as a Buddhist Kingdom, Bhutan’s culture is heavily rooted in religion, and therefore many classes will also have an emphasis on Buddhism. While none of the local religious practices or prayers will be forced on students, it is important that students approach the rituals with respect and an open mind. After studying abroad in Bhutan, students will likely notice Buddhist practices learned in the classroom carrying over into their personal lives, even if they don’t follow or practice Buddhism.
The Bhutanese place a strong focus on well-rounded personal development, which will surely help students grow and create meaningful bonds with their teachers and classmates during their time in Bhutan. Studying in Thimphu will certainly put things into perspective for students, as they will witness the joy that accompanies a simple, yet fulfilling, lifestyle.
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s thriving capital and largest city. The city’s technology production is on the rise as well as its oil and gas industries. Widely recognized as a prominent global city, Kuala Lumpur has everything from fine dining to shopping malls to a thriving nightlife. But, compared to other major Asian cities Kuala Lumpur is relatively modest in size, making it an ideal location for study abroad.
The biggest appeal for international students to study abroad in Kuala Lumpur is the extremely affordable cost of living; with average monthly rent costing less than $300, students will likely have extra money to spend on experiencing all the city has to offer, such as visiting the Islamic Arts Museum or the Petronas Towers.
Kuala Lumpur is home to the University of Malaya, Malaysia’s oldest and most prestigious university, which offers cultural exchange programs specifically for international students.
Having recently gained its independence in 1966, Botswana is a young and growing nation; therefore, Gaborone is not your typical capital city. The largest city in Botswana, Gaborone has a population of just over 230,000 people. While the city consists of many restaurants and hotels, it lacks historical roots to help define the city’s identity. However, this can work in its favor, by encouraging students to experience the city naturally and get a sense of the local way of life by living and learning alongside locals.
The University of Botswana is home to the majority of study abroad programs based in Gaborone. Although there are many opportunities to study the diverse range of wildlife that surrounds the city, public health is also a popular field of study, since Gaborone is unfortunately home to the second highest HIV/AIDS population in the world.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is the perfect place to explore the Middle East, without coming into close contact with the political strife of many neighboring countries; although, there is a significant population of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Remaining relatively neutral in international affairs, Amman is actually quite a safe place to study abroad and the people of Jordan are extremely kind and inviting (as evidenced by their acceptance of large numbers of refugees).
Jordan has recently taken an initiative to reform education, as a way to prevent poverty and enhance the economy and general quality of life. This education reform has led to a high demand for language and cultural educators, specifically within the city of Amman. Study abroad programs in Amman usually consist of courses on ecology and environmental sustainability, Arabic language studies, and public health, but there are also a variety of business, arts, and science classes offered by most program as well.
Kigali, Rwanda is a city in great need of restoration; there’s no shortage of humanitarian aid needs in Rwanda. Still recovering from the detrimental genocide of a large portion of the population, Rwandans are working to construct a new national identity, aimed at preventing such atrocities from ever occurring again.