The World's Best Cities to Study Abroad

by Published

Where is the best city to study abroad?

We city slickers know that the heart and soul of a country’s culture can be found in its mega-cities. Why? The confluence of diverse peoples and the amenities that make us swoon — not to mention their natural cosmopolitan flair — makes becoming an international student in any one of these cities an absolute “Duh!”.

But now which study abroad city to choose?!

The best city to study abroad ultimately depends on your personal goals and needs, but overall, these top spots never disappoint:

10. Beijing, China

Temple in China
Beijing ranks consistently as one of the world’s best cities for study abroad.

Famous for it’s healthy dose of historic sites — the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and more — the Northern Capital is also carving a name for itself in its burgeoning arts and nightclub scenes. All in all, Beijing is every sinophiles dream and one of the best study abroad cities.

Pros: Beijing retains historic charm without sacrificing a peek into China’s leap into a modernized society. The local spoken Mandarin dialect is the nation’s standard, making for easy conversational transitions between the classroom and the streets.

Cons: Few can think of “Beijing” without thinking of “smog” these days — but lucky for you, face masks are en vogue. Further, Beijing’s geographic location in the north makes travel around the rich south of the country a bit more of a jaunt.

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Beijing

9. Mexico City, Mexico

Altar in Mexico
It’s a sweet study abroad life when your biggest problem is fitting the entire Aztec altar into your photo screen.

Between stuffing your face with street tacos and musing the many exhibits at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City’s warmth and energy can only be described in one way — addicting.

Pros: Mexico City’s massive size and progressive charm lends students immense opportunity for exposure to modern Mexico. Studying in the epicenter of the world’s largest Spanish speaking country means mucho chances to improve your own language skills. No wonder it’s one of the best cities to study abroad!

Cons: Well, for one, it is a sinking city. But besides the occasional slanted street, the only other major threats to consider are the crime (true of most major cities) and the temptation to chow down on mole all day (it’s #tooreal).

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Mexico City

8. Florence, Italy

Man with an orange umbrella in florence
Don’t worry, every day won’t be rainy while studying abroad in Italy.

Ah, Florence. The land of influential artistry, skylines that would make even Scrooge’s heart melt, and a natural contender for top spots on the list of best cities to study abroad. As if the chance to stuff your face with meatballs between classes wasn’t enough, you’ll make dozens of new friends since Florence lures fascinating, hungry international students (like you!) in droves.

Pros: Italian language skills aren’t required for studying in Florence, but keep in mind it creates distance between you and the myriad of immersive language learning opportunities. Florence is less crowded than Rome, yet is still highly connected with neighboring cities — perfect for vespa trips to neighboring villas.

Cons: Though not as roaring as Rome, Florence remains a popular tourist spot (AKA crowded) during the summer. As well, there aren’t too many trees in the city center, making respite from the summer heat hard to come by (don’t worry, though — gelato more than makes up for the lack of shade).

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Florence

7. Wellington, New Zealand

Waterfront in Wellington, New Zealand
Who wouldn’t want these adorably colored boat houses as neighbors?

All’s well in Wellington, the coolest little capital in the world (according to Lonely Planet). While kiwi spottings are few — we mean the actual bird, not the locals — the city more than makes up for it with it’s hip enclaves and collection of trendy coffee shops that rival Portland, OR.

Pros: The relatively small size of Wellington makes it easy to navigate for a student. It’s the southernmost point on the North Island, making both islands accessible to students who love a good weekend getaway while calling one of the best cities to study abroad home.

Cons: Even though a hop across the Strait is reasonable enough, experiencing the South Island’s riches is still a logistical hurdle. This means slightly less access to the Great Walks, the Remarkables, and the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown.

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Wellington

6. Barcelona, Spain

Waterfront in Barcelona, Spain
*Waves.* Hi dream life abroad!

What do you and Gaudí architecture have in common? Nothing yet, but if you study in Barcelona (one of the best study abroad locations in the world!), you’ll at least share a zip code. Your semester abroad will be a string of rooftop sunsets overlooking the Mediterranean, bottomless tapas, and Spanish verb conjugations with a lispth.

Pros: You’ll finally understand the difference between Castilian Spanish vs. Catalan and have a newfound understanding of what it means to celebrate religious holidays with fervor.

Cons: Though studying in Spain connects you with “Spanish Spanish” (the heart of it all!), it doesn’t connect you with neighboring Spanish speaking countries quite like Mexico or other Latin American destinations. The temptation for easy-peasy weekend travel to other places in Europe can be hard to ignore, also making language immersion more difficult.

Particularly Awesome Study Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Barcelona

5. Dublin, Ireland

old timey church in Dublin, Ireland
Tap into your inner-viking as you explore ancient Dublin between classes and pints.

Rolling green hills, rainbows, freshly pulled stouts, Viking lore. Need we say more on why Dublin is one of the best study abroad locations?

Pros: Dublin is a historic little capital, brimming with old-timey churches and cobblestones, that is now making huge waves in the startup and tech worlds. Mingle in pubs with entrepreneurs and scholars alike!

Cons: Weirdly enough, the founders of Dublin city didn’t plan for modern vehicles to ever be invented. As such, it’s small, unwieldy streets create considerable traffic problems that international students unfortunately can’t escape from.

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Dublin

4. Paris, France

Sweet view of the Eiffel Tower
Waking up to this view is an instant jolt of “I love life” feelings.

Ooh lala! Paris is a regular inclusion on lists as the best city to study abroad. This year, it comes in at the number four slot, mostly because it reminds us of our four favorite things: bread, cheese, bread and cheese, and baguette et fromage.

Pros: France has long enchanted international students, thanks in large part to its central-European location, the readily available freshly-baked carbs (see above), and its culture’s incredible ongoing worldwide influence.

Cons: Living in France without having a good grasp of the French language can prove challenging. Further, living on a student budget is harder here than in some of these other contenders for best study abroad locations.

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Paris

3. Sydney, Australia 

City view of Sydney
Between the surf and the skyline, Sydney has all you could want as a best city to study abroad.

What’s not to love about a city that perfectly integrates laidback surf culture with the wild intensity of a major metropolis? Sydney packs a punch, and students who can shift quickly between flip flops (er, thongs) and finer footwear will be happy campers here.

Pros: Sydney’s proximity to the Blue Mountains and the Pacific Ocean means your relationship with nature isn’t lost amidst your city slicker-ing. Students can easily travel to other fabulous destinations in the wonderful land of Oz, like Cairns (Great Barrier Reef!) and Alice Springs (Outback!).

Cons: I guess too much sun can be a bad thing? But for real, it’s hard to drum up major cons for studying in Sydney. Keep an eye out for kangaroos, we hear they’re common roadkill.

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Sydney

2. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Street cafe in Buenos Aires
Cafe life isn’t reserved for France. Have a taste as part of your fabulous semester in Argentina!

Calling all carnivores! If you want your semester or summer abroad served with a hearty side of protein, daydreaming south was a good move. But there’s more than beef in Buenos Aires. There are incredible mountain vistas, wine that envies the south of France, and a melting pot of cultures unlike anywhere in the world.

Pros: Buenos Aires is a magical city for study abroad, as it weaves between histories linked to Italy, Spain, and the indigenous Amerindians. Between tango lessons and snapping photos of adorable barrios, you can start to peel back these complex cultural layers.

Cons: The Spanish accent is unlike anywhere in the world, meaning beginner students might be unintentionally set up for communication challenges in the future. It’s hard to study here during Argentina’s summer since its seasons are flipped, so we hope you like the cold!

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in Buenos Aires

1. London, England

Nightfall on the Thames in London
The king of study abroad, London is the world’s most popular destination for international students for a reason.

Foggy London town remains the number one spot for the world’s best cities to study abroad. Maybe it’s the access to unrivaled education opportunities, maybe it’s the cozy cups of milky tea, maybe it’s the incredible diversity of thought and people. Or maybe it’s that badass clock tower. Who can say?

Pros: London is truly the crème de la crème of international education, home to no-less than forty reputable universities. Tackle any subject under the sun in the company of some of the world’s brightest minds and thinkers. London is to die for — and not just because of meat pies.

Cons: The epic nature of studying in London comes with quite the price tag. For the budget conscious traveler, this can present quite the challenge. However, a variety of study abroad scholarships are available to help release some of that financial pressure.

Particularly Awesome Study Abroad Programs:

See all programs for studying abroad in London

The best cities to study abroad are beckoning!

No matter your preferred city flavor, there’s treasure to discover in these incredible world class cities — from the steamy noodles of Beijing and the blue hues of the Mediterranean all the way to the fuzzy koalas down under and the perfect wellies for exploring Kings Cross in London. These study abroad destinations continue to impress and attract international students from all over the world. So, why don’t you join ‘em!

The perfect study abroad program is out there - find it now!