Thanks to social media like Instagram and Pinterest, it feels like new and awesome places are popping up onto our radar every day. Gone are the days of everyone studying French in France and Spanish in Spain… we’re now in the world of “how extreme can I get?” While any study abroad program is fantastic, it’s hard to feel special or challenged when you’re surrounded by fellow English-speakers in a place everyone and their grandma has been to (*cough* England *cough*).
Rather than stick to the standard study abroad route, check out these five unique and downright cool places to study abroad instead! You’ll be a top contender for big man or woman on campus after spending time studying in any of these locales:
From the picturesque Roman cities lining the Adriatic coast to the historic and cosmopolitan areas inland surrounded by rural beauty, Croatia has everything and easily makes the list of coolest places to study abroad. This small country is often overlooked for its dominant Italian neighbors, making it a totally underrated (and not very touristy) place. Known for its absolutely spectacular beaches and cobbled, rustic port towns, summer lovers are sure to never want to leave. Even Game of Thrones agrees, as much of the country has been used as filming locations!
Pros: Because of its proximity and history of rule by Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Austria, Croatia is like a mini version of all of these countries combined into one region, with half the price tag and half the tourists. Studying here is a great way to soak up all of this diverse culture and history, all while enjoying some of the best beach towns in the world!
Cons: While Croatia has been a free country for a few decades and most of the country has recovered from its 70 years of harsh rule, there are still areas of the country that are struggling to recuperate. This shouldn’t deter you from studying in this beautiful region, as a country’s history is what makes it so unique!
- Academic Programs International - Based in the port city of Dubrovnik, students will enroll at the Libertas International University, the country’s first private university, and can study international business, diplomacy, trade relations, or civilization and art. Is there anything better than studying in an ancient, walled city right on the coast of the Adriatic Sea?
- Florida State University International - Also located in Dubrovnik, this program focuses on security and cooperation in southeastern Europe. Students spend several weeks designing their own research projects on the wars of the 1990s and expansions of NATO and the EU. Studying conflict and resolution next to the beach? Sign us up!
Scandinavia in general has absolutely exploded in popularity in recent years, making it a natural contender for our cool places to study abroad list. It’s easy to understand why— their standard of living, highly-developed and innovative cities, and unparalleled natural beauty make Scandinavian countries leaders. Norway in particular leads the pack…they were crossing the Atlantic and dominating the European seas before most of our ancestors could read and write! Not to mention, too, the incredible natural surroundings just outside of major cities, such as Oslo. Hard to beat!
Pros: There are so many pros to studying in Norway that it’s difficult to sum them up! The biggest one has to be the ridiculous geography, though. One look at the fjords, or narrow inlet of sea surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains, is enough to convince us!
Cons: Because of the super high quality of life, areas of Norway (particularly Oslo) can be pretty expensive to live in. With that said, there are always ways to make something a bit more budget-friendly, so don’t let this keep you from studying in this magnificent country!
- USAC Norway - Based in Oslo and surrounded by fjords and mountains, students will have the time of their lives studying math and science, Scandinavian studies, education, medicine, law, peace and conflict, or Nordic languages, among other subjects. Enrolled in the University of Oslo (Norway’s oldest and largest academic institution), students are sure to enjoy living in the exciting city of Oslo and having access to tons of natural adventures.
- University at Albany, SUNY - Located in the smaller and much more northern city of Bergen, this program enrolls students at the second largest university in the country, which happens to be perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. Bergen is the definition of charming, and students will love having the opportunity to study anthropology, history, languages, music, math and science, or politics (just to name a few…) in a region known for its views of the Northern Lights.
Tired of hearing about most students only considering China or Japan when heading to Asia? Us, too! Mongolia is an awesome alternative to the typical Asian study abroad locations and is frequently overlooked and underrated. While much of the country is considered “nomad territory,” the bustling capital city of Ulaanbaatar is home to over 1.3 million ethnic Mongols, Russians, Chinese, Kazakhs, Tuvans, Koreans, and Americans. Guess centuries of dominating its neighbors can create quite a melting pot, right?
Pros: Mongolia really does have an exceptional history, and students can learn so much from being in this area. From the rulers that founded the largest continuous land empire in history to today’s Buddhist nomads ruling the land on horseback, this country offers so much diversity and ridiculous natural beauty.
Cons: There’s no escaping this - Mongolia is not the powerhouse country it used to be. The days of Genghis Khan and his formidable empire are long gone, and much of the country lives in poverty today. However, Mongolians take great pride in their largely nomadic lifestyle, so their different way of living is something to be embraced, not run from!
- SIT Study Abroad - Based in Ulaanbaatar, this program focuses on geopolitics and the environment. In addition to both rural and urban homestays, students have the opportunity to become immersed through four-week independent research studies on top of their seminars.
- Round-River Conservation Studies - The Mongolia Conservation Program is based in the mountainous regions of Mongolia and focuses on wildlife research, ecosystem processes improvement, and natural conservation. Students receive up to 15 credits to live the nomadic lifestyle and study the environment. Way better than sitting in a classroom!
All we have to say about Romania is that it is super underrated, almost earning itself the #1 spot on our list of cool places to study abroad. Long-associated with the Dracula legend (it is the home of Transylvania after all!), this Eastern European country offers so much more. From some of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe surrounded by the rugged Carpathian mountain range to the rich and oftentimes dark history of its metropolitan areas, Romania offers way more than reaches the eye.
Pros: Romania really is the best of both worlds. Home to some of the truest and most historic beauty in Europe and living examples of extreme power, Romania is every student’s dream. Seriously, check out the Palace of the Parliament if you don’t believe us… this gigantic, communist-era palace is the largest government building in the world!
Cons: Romania’s difficult history of fascist regime then dictatorships has left a mark on the country that will naturally take time to overcome. The country and its people have worked hard to rise above and make their home once again into a peaceful and powerful place, but the remains of these difficult times can still be found. Not a good enough reason not to come study in this beautiful country, though!
- Center for Study Abroad - Interested in Romanian culture and language? Study at the University of Bucharest this summer! Known for being a low-cost option, this program offers students language workshops and lectures on Romanian civilization and culture, as well as several cultural outings in and around the city.
Most people think all Latin American countries are more or less the same… they all eat salsa and speak Spanish south of the border, right? Argentina is one of those places that proves this to be 400% wrong. Just like most huge countries, Argentina offers more diversity than you thought possible. That’s why it tops our list of coolest places to study abroad Go from the lush rainforests of the Brazilian border down to the ends of the Earth at the southernmost civilization in the world (complete with penguins!). If that doesn’t do it for you, head east to the coast or west through gaucho-territory until you reach the magnificent Andes and miles upon miles of vineyards. But yes, Latin America is all the same!
Pros: Argentines speak Castellano, a Spanish dialect originating in Castille. Known to be one of the harder Spanish dialects, even the most prepared student will struggle at first. This is a good thing, though, as understanding all other Spanish dialects will be super easy after conquering this feat!
Cons: Because Argentina is so big and offers just about everything, you are sure to feel like you barely scratched the surface of this amazing place, even after spending a semester or year here! Guess that just means you’ll have to come back, right?
- Academic Programs International - API is a bit of a powerhouse in Argentina, offering four different programs in the cities of Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Students can choose between enrolling in universities in the second largest metropolitan area after São Paulo, or the smaller city of Mendoza surrounded by the Andes. Tough but awesome choice, right?
- Spanish Studies Abroad - Located in Córdoba, the second largest city in the country and virtually untouched by tourists, this provider offers four different programs. Students will become immersed in the local culture and gain a rapid understanding of the Spanish language, all from the foothills of the Cordoban Sierras mountain range.
Next steps to study abroad
So you know you want to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in one of the coolest places to study abroad… awesome! How do you narrow it down from there, though? Check out some of these free resources to help you in your decision:
- Have an Online Advisor give you a short list of programs that match your preferences, budget, goals, and adventure cred.
- Size up the programs. Read program reviews, reach out to alumni, talk to a study abroad advisor. Pros know that MyGoAbroad can streamline this process — it practically does your homework for you!
- Apply for some study abroad scholarships! There’s hundreds out there, and surely your name is on one of ‘em!
- Get mom and dad on board, sort your credits, get prepared (you’ll love this handy checklist), and sign the dotted line.
- Pack your bags and get outta town!
Prepare for the experience of a lifetime
These may be the most interesting places to study abroad, but they’re actually barely scratching the surface of the coolest places to study abroad — so be sure to get creative and don’t settle for your “standard” study abroad route. The Paris and London’s of the world will always be there, but if you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, pick somewhere that will be sure to both challenge and change you… and provide some truly unique adventures while you’re at it — bon voyage!