Ask any meaningful traveler...studying abroad makes you legit. From learning new languages and cultures to experiencing every type of adventure under the sun, there is nothing cooler and more beneficial that students can do. Why would anyone ever turn down an opportunity to get academic credit for learning to tango or trying shark meat?
Opportunities to study abroad are so much more than what happens in the classroom, so you should always aim for a program that focuses on holistic experiences! To help you pick a kick-ass program that will fit your academic and adventure needs, we’ve rounded up some of our most exciting programs to give you an incredible study abroad experience.
Why take advantage of opportunities to study abroad?
Why the heck not?! Study abroad isn’t something you can take advantage of at any ol’ time of life. The best time to study abroad is while you’re in a high school or college, and if you don’t actively seek the opportunities to study abroad, you might (*gasp*) idly let them slip by.
But for real, study abroad has some pretty sizeable benefits. It helps you:
- Develop soft skills, like empathy and intercultural community
- Become more competitive in the workforce, because future employers LOVE to hire folks with demonstrable abilities to overcome challenges
- Clarify your goals and purpose, to allow you to lead a more fulfilling and productive life
- Challenge your comfort zone, that silly ol’ thing needs to be pushed and stressed anyway
- Cultivate cultural awareness and smash your notions of “normal,” especially for your home country’s culture
With all these great reasons, it’s no wonder so many young people are flocking to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.
We are LOVIN’ these opportunities to study abroad
From rainforests, volcanoes, mountains ranges, cosmopolitan cities, and miles and miles of stunning coastline, Costa Rica is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. It’s no surprise that ISA’s study abroad program in Costa Rica is so popular! Between the huge variety of outdoor recreation and the excellent academic options, ISA really provides their students with an opportunity to become immersed in la pura vida. Choose from a semester, year, summer, or intensive month in exciting locations such as San Jose, Heredia, or Santa Cruz.
Pros: Costa Ricans speak what is known as a “clean” dialect of Spanish, meaning that it’s easier to understand than most other Spanish dialects and accents. This is an excellent location for beginner Spanish speakers to get their language bearings!
Cons: The Costa Rican way of life is addicting. You’ll return home and definitely want to immediately reject anything that doesn’t comply with the pura vida lifestyle! Or, alternatively, maybe you won’t return home at all!
2. Visit Forbidden Palaces by Day, Chill Beneath Ultra-Mod Skyscrapers by Night - Study in China with IES Abroad
Are you a best-of-both-worlds type adventurer? Have you been dying to explore an ancient culture surrounded by innovation oozing from every corner? China is your answer! IES Abroad has been a monster in the study abroad world for over 65 years, and their programs in Beijing and Shanghai are top-notch. Study here for a semester or summer and focus on contemporary China, Chinese dialects, global economics, business, or engineering.
Pros: China is a global leader in so many things, and IES Abroad’s programs do a great job of getting students involved in the best of the best to really experience an international hub. Beyond the magic of Beijing or Shanghai, you will have access to centuries of history at your fingertips as well as all kinds of out-of-this-world natural wonders and travel opportunities, including a week-long trip to Tibet covered by your program fees!
Cons: Because China is just so big, it can be overwhelming at first and lead to a good deal of culture shock. Especially in China’s larger cities, students can be thrown for a real loop until they begin to immerse themselves and adapt. Being in this type of environment is awesome, though, as you’ll be exposed to anything and everything and really have your perspectives challenged. Don’t be afraid to get involved in as much as possible to really soak up all of the amazing things China has to offer!
Do you want to build a snowman? Study abroad in the world’s winter wonderland: Iceland! Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not actually that cold, so even if you’re more of a beach bum than a ski bunny, you should still consider this exciting study abroad opportunity! API offers their program in the capital city of Reykjavik, and students enroll directly with Icelandic and fellow international students to study business, engineering, computer science, history, Icelandic language, and several other topics!
Pros: Iceland is crazy beautiful. There is really no other way to put it. A true leader in environmental sciences and renewable initiatives, the rest of the world has a lot to learn from this small but vibrant culture. Students will have the opportunity to see first-hand how important the natural world is and will definitely have their perspectives flipped.
Cons: When you’re studying abroad on an Island in the middle of the Arctic Circle, the cost of living will probably be higher than you’re accustomed to. Don’t let this deter you, though, as API does a good job of giving you the best bang for your buck, and with budget airlines like WowAir, you can now travel very inexpensively to other areas in Europe!
Journey to the past and live out all of your royal fantasies by studying in Russia! AIFS, one of the largest study abroad program providers, offers semester, year, and summer programs in historic and beautiful St. Petersburg. Study history, political science, art, sociology, and Russian language, among other topics, while traipsing through one of the richest and most diverse areas of the country. Included in the cost is tuition, housing, meals, airfare, and cultural excursions, so all you’ll need to focus on while abroad is just having a good time!
Pros: Russia is huge. Spanning across two continents, Russia is the largest country in the world. As such, there is an incredible amount of diversity both in its people and its landscapes. AIFS is fantastic at immersing its students in the local culture as well as exposing students to what’s around. Included in the program fees are several excursions, featuring neighbors as unique as Estonia and Finland. Sign us up!
Cons: It is no secret that Russia has its political and social issues. While we advocate that no one let fear deter them from meaningful travel, we also recognize that Russia is working through conflict. However, a lot can be gained from studying in a region that is not always picture-perfect, and the global perspective and unique experiences that you’ll come home with will prove very valuable in the long-run.
Larger-than-life mountain peaks, beaches straight from paradise, plains and jungles full of wild animals, archeological sites older than dirt...is this a mythical land of adventure? Nope, just South Africa! Unlike your average South Africa study abroad experience in Cape Town, CISabroad’s program is based in Stellenbosch, the oldest college town in the country and a real melting pot of languages and cultures. Stellenbosch is located in the center of the Cape Winelands, one of the best wine areas in the world due to the Mediterranean-like climate, and is surrounded by huge mountains just waiting to be explored.
Pros: South Africa has had its ups and downs throughout history, and will teach students so much about struggles for equality, social and political growth, and cultural adaptations. South Africa is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation” because of its diversity, and with 11 official languages, you will definitely be exposed to all types of people and backgrounds. Why settle for one foreign language when you can learn almost a dozen?
Cons: Due to South Africa’s previous political instability, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a high rate of economic disparity throughout the country. Serious poverty can lead to safety concerns, with petty theft being the most common crime. Students should stay aware of their surroundings and use their best judgement, and you shouldn’t have any issues. Studying in an impoverished area means more opportunities to get involved in a volunteer or research project that will benefit the local community, and allow you to meet more locals!
Calling all Jack Sparrow wannabes! Did you know that you can study abroad on a floating university? If you’re feeling nautical, check out Semester at Sea! Sail across the globe for three months while obtaining university credit and participating in university visits, service learning programs, and homestays around the world. This program is perfect for anyone who wants to travel extensively during their semester abroad and experience places that are way off the grid, plus make some whale and dolphin friends along the way!
Pros: You’ll return home with at least 12 passport stamps, 15 academic credits, and 25,000 nautical miles under your belt, plus 700 new friends and circumnavigation bragging rights. Seriously, do you need anything else?
Cons: As you could probably imagine, attending a floating university comes with quite the price tag. BUT - before you’re quick to cross it off your list, consider what you get for your money. Imagine the cost of going on a cruise plus the cost of attending a university for a semester including tuition and room/board. This total easily comes close to what this program costs, plus you are literally traveling the entire world while you’re at it. Where else could you get an entire semester’s worth of credit while sailing around the world on a luxurious cruise ship? Suddenly not super expensive, huh?
Ready to take on these opportunities to study abroad?
There are truly no limits when it comes to studying abroad nowadays. With programs from Canada to India and Iceland to Antarctica (yes, really!), students have an overwhelming amount of options. There are all kinds of unique, thrilling, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to study abroad that you should never feel like you have to settle for something that ain’t legit. You’ll probably find that most study abroad opportunities are simply #toolegittoquit, and you’ll most likely never come home!