7 Unique Study Abroad Destinations for Renegade Students

by Published

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already made the choice to study abroad, which means you are more than ready to expose yourself to new cultures, to develop a new level of independence, and to network on a global scale. When choosing a location, challenge yourself to select a unique study abroad destination that does more than just provide the perfect semester vacay.

Take your adventure one step further and commit to finding unique study abroad destinations, and unique study abroad programs, that will change your mind, your perspective, and your life!

1. Thailand

Decorated in stunning beaches, exquisite temples, and rising cities, Thailand is the perfect location for students who want to find unique study abroad programs. With plenty to see and do, Thailand offers students a mix of cultural immersion and adventurous destinations all while providing an exceptional educational experience.

Two friends at the top of a mountain, gazing at the sunset in Thailand
Climb to the top for the ultimate study abroad experience in Thailand

Benefits: 

Studying abroad in Thailand not only allows students to learn about the country’s culture, but also the deep-rooted religious history. Buddhism is the major religion throughout Thailand, and there are plenty of historic temples and sacred statues to help grow your Eastern religious knowledge.

Foodies get ready! An added bonus of studying abroad in Thailand is the incredible cuisine. Kha Kai, Tom Yum Goong, mango sticky rice, or authentic Pad Thai will keep your stomach full and happy while studying in Thailand. Give those taste buds a treat and experiment with a variety of unique, healthy dishes too!

Challenges: 

As is true with any journey into a foreign country, the language barrier may prove challenging for any student unfamiliar with Thai. However, this is no reason to back out! If you prepare yourself with relevant phrases ahead of time and embrace learning Thai as an adventure, this challenge quickly turns into a benefit as you will be gaining the most out of your study abroad experience.

Because of Thailand’s traditional culture, it’s extremely important to be aware of local customs. For example, you’ll need to remove your shoes before you enter a place of worship and never raise yourself higher than a Buddha statue, as it is seen as a sign of disrespect. Public displays of affection are also a no-no. Do yourself and the locals a favor by researching Thai culture ahead of time!

Sign up for one of these unique study abroad programs in Thailand:

2. New Zealand

New Zealand is quickly becoming one of the most popular study abroad destinations in the world. The weather is wonderfully temperate for the majority of the year and allows for a plethora of fun activities, including kayaking, golfing, rugby, and cricket. For outdoorsy students who like to stay active, New Zealand is the perfect alternative study abroad destination.

Three kayaks facing the open New Zealand water at sunrise
Your mission: paddle the path less kayaked

Benefits:

A great benefit of studying abroad in New Zealand is being surrounded by friendly locals who welcome travelers. Students gravitate towards larger cities, such as Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, or Queenstown. Attending the University of Auckland, which is well known for its classes in art and law, gives students many options for exciting nightlife, including plenty of cafes and bars to spend time with your new mates in.

Most wonderful of all, though, is the incredible sightseeing for any and all LOTR fanatics. The exquisite beauty of New Zealand is the backdrop for this famous trilogy, and you can visit many of the stunning sights (including Hobbiton!) on any weekend excursion.

Challenges: 

If you’re really looking forward to getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing something entirely new and shocking, you may have to work a little harder to find it in New Zealand! The “Land of the Long White Cloud” is pretty easygoing and familiar; while that is a breeze for some, there are definitely those students who love and actively seek a wholesome challenge. If this is you, make it your mission to really immerse yourself in every way possible! Intentionally seek out opportunities to get to the backcountry, to learn more about the Maori people, or to develop previously untested skills, like permaculture or docking lambs.

Sign up for one of these unique study abroad programs in New Zealand:

3. Peru

Even though it’s an incredible historical location of the world, Peru is an often overlooked, unique study abroad destination. It may lack the notoriety of France or China, but rest assured that Peru is more than deserving of students’ attention. With historical sites galore, abundant traditional culture, and gorgeous sights to behold, consider Peru when searching for unique study abroad opportunities.

Traveler posing with open arms in front of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu much?

Benefits: 

South America has great historical value, and Peru is home to some of the world’s most interesting archaeological sites. One of the most influential civilizations of all time, the Incas inhabited Peru many years ago and truly left their mark. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the history that intertwines with today’s Peruvian culture.

Sites like Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, keep the country’s history alive, but there are plenty of modern activities for study abroad students to enjoy as well. Lima, the capital of Peru, is a vibrant city that’s particularly appealing for students. Centro Lima showcases the mansions of Spanish conquistadores, the president’s home, and a plethora of museums.

Challenges:

As with traveling to any foreign country, the bacteria makeup of the water is just different than the bacteria your body is used to in your home country. Ingesting non-purified water can lead to stomach sicknesses that are just no fun. To best avoid the possibility of getting sick on your study abroad adventure in Peru, make sure to wash all foods before eating, drink ONLY purified water, and use clean or treated water to brush your teeth!

If you don’t know some Spanish, communicating may be tough at first. Spanish is the official language spoken in Peru, so avoid any linguistic struggle by strengthening your basic Spanish skills before studying abroad, or make sure you take some Spanish classes in Peru.

Sign up for one of these unique study abroad programs in Peru:

4. Israel

As one of the top three most educated countries in the world, Israel is easily one of the best and most unique study abroad destinations in the world. Education is one of the foundations on which Israel’s culture is built, which is why many of Israeli universities rank among the best in the world.

Silhouette of three people flying a kite in the Golan
Fly high with a study abroad program in Israel

Benefits:

Students planning on studying abroad in Israel will have the pleasure of choosing from a multitude of prestigious universities. While the Hebrew language is widely taught, most people in Israel speak English and many study abroad programs are offered in English. This makes it easier for students to get acclimated to life in Israel without feeling out of place.

The three major cities in Israel are Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is a more liberal, cosmopolitan area, where students can log many great study abroad experiences. Haifa is a more industrial city, where many jobs are located, earning it the title of “The Working City.” Finally, Jerusalem may be the most popular city for students because of its religious history. No matter where you choose to study, Israel’s incredible cities have something different and new to offer!

Challenges:

If you plan on traveling to a city like Jerusalem, keep in mind that it is a religious area, and it is of the utmost importance to be respectful of customs and traditions. This is a great opportunity to truly gain perspective on new (or familiar) religions, practices, and traditions alike. 

Unique study abroad opportunities in Israel are not based in potentially dangerous locations. Religious tensions are high in certain areas, such as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank areas, so it is best to avoid these areas. If you decide to study abroad in Israel, use your best judgement and adhere to safety protocols that may suggest avoiding a certain location. Israel is an amazingly beautiful and historic place, so make sure your personal safety is covered so you can enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Sign up for one of these unique study abroad programs in Israel:

5. Antarctica

To get a unique (and dare we say rare) look at how the world’s environment is changing, choose study abroad in Antarctica. For students who want to learn more about conservation, global warming, or life in a remote area, Antarctica is an uncommon treat that most people know nothing about and never get to experience.

View of Antarcticas frozen tundra from a boat
This frozen wonderland is waiting for a student like you!

Benefits: 

The weather may not be as nice as other areas of the world, but the education you will gain from renowned scientists in Antarctica is immeasurable. The unignorable reality of environmental issues draws students interested in geology and environmental studiesYou will be one of the few people in the world to witness Antarctica’s wildlife, to gaze upon a literal winter wonderland, and to have a unique experience that is unattainable anywhere else in the world. 

Need we say more?

Challenges:

Studying abroad in Antarctica is not for everyone. It is an isolated and extremely cold destination. Aside from the slightly chilly winter that averages around -115 degrees Fahrenheit and the warm summer temperatures of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the vast tundra is notorious for giving human visitors sunburn! You’ll need to plan ahead to protect yourself from the UV light reflecting off the snow.

If you’re up for this icy challenge, these unique study abroad programs are absolutely once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Die hard scientific researcher and penguin-lovers alike – looking for the next big thing – should forget the unusual nature of the location and study abroad in Antarctica!

Sign up for this unique study abroad program in Antarctica:

6. Namibia

A vast land indeed, Namibia is home to the Namib Desert, which contains waves of sand dunes that ride along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Access to this picturesque African landscape is limited, so studying abroad in Namibia is truly a unique study abroad opportunity, especially for students seeking adventure served up a little differently. Did we mention there are zebras and giraffes?

Towering sand dunes in Namibia
Catch a wave in-between your classes in Namibia

Benefits:

By choosing most unique study abroad destinations, you give yourself the opportunity to gain insight into lesser known perspectives around the world. Dive deep into the fascinating stories of south African history, and learn all you can about the important political and financial situations of Namibia and surrounding African countries. Studying abroad in Namibia also gives you the option to study an African language, a skill that is rare and awesome on a resume.

Get involved with humanitarian projects or find yourself living in rural dung huts in the company of Namibians. A study abroad experience like this is all about the people – and this is a remarkable opportunity to better understand the successes and shortcomings of Namibians during its short history.

Challenges: 

While studying abroad in an African country is not going to be as simple or as easy as a trip to England or Spain might be, its benefits still certainly outweigh the challenges. Some important things to consider: staying safe by being smart about where and when you travel (not at night to avoid crime and wildlife), avoiding crime in bigger cities, and making sure your health and vaccinations are up-to-date before embarking on your African adventure. Taking precautions is a smart and easy way to ensure that you and your mind are fully prepared for the experience!

Sign up for one of these unique study abroad programs in Namibia:

7. Qatar

Qatar is becoming an increasingly popular destination for international students who are looking for a location that’s unique, provides amazing cultural immersion, and is a Middle Eastern destination that’s more than towering skyscrapers, luxurious malls, and sparkling city lights. As the importance of the Middle East in the world economy is ever growing, Qatar has become one of the areas most stable economies, making it an even more attractive place to study abroad for the money-minded student.

Landscape view of downtown Doha skyline
With views like these, it might be hard to focus on your studies in Doha!

Benefits:

Besides being a great fit for the business-savvy student, Qatar provides some serious appeal for students interested in learning about Islamic culture and history. For those blessed with linguistic genes, tackling Arabic (and mastering pronunciation AND calligraphy) is a formidable, yet surmountable, challenge. With busy souks and endless supplies of grape leaves, your admiration for one of the world’s oldest cultures (not to mention the Mediterranean diet) will grow tenfold.

Challenges:

Despite the relative modernity of big cities, like Doha, students in Qatar cannot hide from inevitable culture shock. With a modest dress code, homophobic taboos and legislature, general conservative attitudes, and sheer lavishness, students might be left scratching their heads (and itching for the familiar) more often than in other study abroad destinations. But you’re up for the challenge and this is what it’s all about!

Sign up for one of these unique study abroad programs in Qatar:

Studying abroad anywhere in the world is an education enhancing experience for any and every individual who takes the chance. While any study abroad location will award you with memories and perspectives you will never forget, these unique study abroad destinations just may change your life forever. As an international student of the world, recognize the privilege of that title, make the most out of your opportunity, and take the chance on the road less traveled.

Find the perfect study abroad program with MyGoAbroad today!