Deciding Where to Study Abroad – Not as Easy as it Sounds

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Where should I study abroad?

Trying to decide where to study abroad? Not such an easy thing to figure out. Are you at uni, but stuck in a rut? Can’t get out of bed to go to your classes? Fed up of the same old, same old? Maybe you need a change of scenery. Why not study abroad?

Studying in another country can offer a new perspective and motivation to complete your degree program. Maybe it will inspire you to change directions, change your major, or even change your career goals.

As they say in real estate, it’s always location, location, location. Where you study abroad can make or break your study abroad experience, so how do you decide? Here are a few pointers to help you hone in on where to study abroad.

Deciding Where to Study Abroad  Not as Easy as it Sounds

How do you choose where to study abroad? 

You need to start by asking yourself some very real questions. Get down to the root of why you want to study abroad and where. 

Where Have You Always Dreamed of Traveling?

Is there a particular region that’s been calling your name since birth? If you aren’t that picky, which geographical area has caught your eye? What cultures fascinate you? Do you prefer to study abroad in Africa or the Middle East? Want to check out the penguins in Antarctica? Or, learn a different kind of English in Australia and Oceania? What about the diversity of Asia? How about Central America or South America to brush up on your Spanish pronto? Or do you prefer to explore the original seat of Western civilization in Western Europe or further afield in Eastern Europe and Russia?

Once you narrow in on a region you’d like to study in, decide on the specific country you’d like to go to. If you’re bent on Asia, should you brush up on your Mandarin in China, your Cantonese in Hong Kong, or learn to bow like a pro in Japan? If you’re more into Europe, should you cross the pond and study in jolly olde United Kingdom or channel chow down on paella in Spain? Perhaps you’d prefer to study far away from all in the land down under.

A handful of awesome places to study abroad (and recommended programs to match!) 

If you’re not sure where to start looking for study abroad programs, check out these always-popular locales. 

The U.K.

London, UK, sunset at Westminster along the Thames
Study abroad in London, a classic that never goes out of style!

This study abroad destination is as hot and poppin’ as a fresh order of fish’n’chips. An ideal spot for Potterheads, literary buffs, art and history nerds, music aficionados, future business moguls, and pretty much anyone looking for a great study abroad experience (without the added stress of a language requirement.

Check out this program: Spend your summer in London with IES Abroad

[Browse all study abroad programs in the U.K.]

France

Calanque de Sormiou, Marseille, France, clear blue water and white sand on a sunny day
Not to sound cheesy, but you’ll literally never want to leave France once you step foot in this foodie paradise.

Come for the bread, stay for even more bread! Fashionistas and Francophiles will find themselves right at home in France. Whether you end up strolling along the Seine and spending your days wandering around the Left Bank with the ghosts of your favorite artists, or perusing fresh-market finds with an ocean breeze along the coast, France has always had a little something-something for everyone.

Check out this program: Brush up on l’imparfait studying French with Boston University.

[Browse all study abroad programs in France]

China

The Great Wall nestled in lush, green hillsides on a clear blue-sky day
Well, they don’t call it “Great” for nothin’!

Two words: hot. Pot. Grumbling tummies aside, taking on a study abroad program in China is no easy feat, but will prove wildly beneficial long term. Pick up a little Mandarin, and learn from the best in global business in this world power on the rise. The dumplings are really just a bonus.

Check out this program: Be the best in the biz studying in Shanghai with CIEE.

[Browse all study abroad programs in China]

New Zealand 

4 sheep grazing in a green field in New Zealand
It’s tough to have a ba(a-a-a)d time studying abroad in New Zealand.

If you’ve ever wanted to go on your own hero’s journey, a sweet as semester in New Zealand is just the ticket. With rolling green hills dotted with sheep, towering fjords, and beaches littered with adorable fur seals, you really can’t go wrong.

Check out this program: Explore Middle Earth for a semester with AIFS.

[Browse all study abroad programs in New Zealand]

Off-the-Beaten-Track Locales & Recommended Programs

If you’re looking to blaze your own trail, and go where only few study abroad students have gone before you, start here. 

Thailand 

Tuktuk in Bangkok, Thailand
Jet in and out of infamous Thai traffic on a Tuk tuk as you race to find the best noodles in Bangkok.

Drink in a tall glass of Thai coffee along with all the country and culture has to offer. Beaches, jungles, noodles for days. Thailand is affordable, delicious, and has so much to teach you— it’s the adventurous student’s paradise!

Check out this program: Spend a semester nomming the best street food with CISabroad.

[Browse all study abroad programs in Thailand]

Oman 

Sprawling desert sand in Muscat, Oman
Studying abroad has never been hotter (literally— but don’t let that stop you!).

While it might not be considered a major study abroad hot spot, the weather in Oman tends to differ. For students ready to beat the heat and get down in the sand with their Arabic studies, Oman is the place to do it. Experience the influence of both Islam and the West on local culture, and learn more about relationships between nations in the Middle East.

Check out this program: Dive into Arabic abroad with the Center for International Learning

[Browse all study abroad programs in Oman]

Nicaragua

Brightly painted buildings along a street in Leon, Nicaragua
There’s a 40 percent chance of rain and a 100 percent chance of you falling in love with Nicaragua.

Get your feet wet in pristine tropical waters while diving into political and social issues, advocacy, and expression across generations of Nicaraguans. Engage with your local community to understand how revolution has shaped this nation, but remember to take the time to go out and explore the land of lakes and volcanoes!

Check out this program: Immerse yourself in political discourse for a semester in Nicaragua with SIT Study Abroad.

[Browse all study abroad programs in Nicaragua]

Namibia 

silhouette of person standing on top of jeep against starry night sky in Namibia
Your mom says it’s too remote. We say Namibia is the perfect place to see the stars for a little self-reflection.

Close your eyes and bask in the hot African sun. Anyone looking for room to grow in the field of international development should look no further than Namibia. It may not be a cakewalk, but you’ll be exposed to the sweeping beauty of Namibia and the African continent, while taking the time to reflect on the impact of international development and humanitarian work in a hands-on way.

Check out this program: Gain deeper understanding of nation-building with the Center for Global Education and Experience.

[Browse all study abroad programs in Namibia]

You've selected a country, but still need to figure WHERE in that country you'd like to study

Once you’ve chosen your host country, next you have to decide between the city, town, or countryside? The great thing about cities is that they’re usually so accessible. Many urban centers have great transportation hubs and networks to get around the nooks and crannies of the rest of the country. Others, like London, Paris, and Tokyo, make the whole world your oyster with planes, trains, and automobiles heading to your dream destinations.

Choose a City

What city would you like to study in? Better yet, ask yourself: what are the world's best cities to study abroad in? How does hitting up El Prado and other museums and sampling churros in Madrid sound? Does the distinct Catalan culture of Barcelona float your boat? Maybe you dream of learning italiano over a cup of espresso in the Eternal City, Rome, or walking in the footsteps of Leonardo Da Vinci in always photogenic Florence? What about learning business in the alpha global city, London or reading L’Etranger on the banks of the river Seine in Paris?

Or...Try on Country Life

On the other hand, don’t think that studying abroad means you have to study in a city. Maybe you already live in a city and want to get away from it all: the crowds, the traffic, the hussle, the pollution. Are you all about wide open spaces? Does studying in a charming hamlet or small town appeal to you?

The added advantage of studying in a more rural location is the slower pace of life which means you’ll really get a chance to immerse in the local language and have the time to rub shoulders with the people who speak it. Another great thing about studying off the beaten path is that you get to discover a place not many people know about. People will stroll through your Instagram feed and ask, where is this?! Maybe they’ll even be inspired to visit you while you’re there!

[Still struggling? Let an Online Advisor help you out!]

Now that you have a specific place, here's how to find study abroad programs there

Now that you know where you want to go, you need to figure out which program you want to study abroad with. One question you should definitely ask yourself is "How long do you want to study abroad?" Long enough to experience once in a lifetime events like Carnaval in Rio or La Tomatina in Spain? What about choosing a place based on your major? Why not study Buddhism and other Eastern religions in Thailand, archaeology in Peru, or environmental conservation in Antarctica?

Since your choices for study abroad are many, we definitely recommend reaching out to your immediate resources, consulting the internet (Hint: GoAbroad's info on study abroad is unmatched on the web!), and trying to chat with program alumni. We also recommend that you...

Talk to Your University

One of the first places you should check out is your university’s international or study abroad office. Which universities does your home college partner with abroad? Will the credits you earn abroad be transferable? Have a chat with your profs to ensure that every course you want to take abroad will count to your final transcript.

Consider Direct Enrollment

What if your university doesn’t have a study abroad office? That’s okay! Find one that does and will accept students from other institutions. If that’s not an option, consider direct enrollment. What does direct enrollment mean? It’s when you can enroll directly with a uni abroad as an exchange student. Prepare to do a lot of leg work if you choose this option.

Study Abroad with a Third Party Organization (aka Program Provider)

On the other hand, if that’s too much of a hassle, or not quite what you’re looking for, find an affiliate program or third party provider to do all the work for you. Many study abroad alumni just love programs like IES Abroad, API Study Abroad, and CIEE. Programs like these operate in hundreds of countries, for a myriad of durations (think: summer, winter, 1-2 weeks, whole semesters, etc.) and oftentimes have relationships with universities that make transferring credits a cinch.

Still confused? No worries! Here’s a great article that breaks down the difference between direct enrollment and affiliate programs for studying abroad. If you'd like one-on-one advice to help you match with your perfect program, don't hesitate to reach out to our Online Advisor.

Inside of airplane looking at seats and passengers putting luggage in overhead bins.
All that’s left is to pack your bags, watch for the fasten seatbelt sign, and have the adventure of a lifetime.

That's it! You know where to study abroad

Hopefully we’ve helped to clear up a lot of the gobbledygook out there about deciding where to study abroad— so, what are you waiting for? Hit the ground running, send in your applications, write some dope scholarship essays, and get out there and start living. Enjoy your time overseas to the max and make memories!

Browse ALL study abroad programs now!