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A Guide to Asian Studies Degrees Abroad

Completing an Asian studies degrees is a culturally-immersive, theoretical adventure in itself. And doing so abroad? Well, that’s having your Chinese moon cake and eating it too (with an extra serving of bubble tea on the side!). Home to two-thirds of the global population, the Asian continent is hugely influential around the world — a lush culture that spans multiple religions, ancient civilizations, and pioneering developmental strategies. Whatever country you choose to study in, by completing international Asian studies programs, you’ll gain valuable knowledge about Asia and its influential status while having the adventure of a lifetime!

Why Earn an Asian Studies Degree Abroad

A degree abroad in Asian studies encompasses a huge range of topics, almost as diverse as the continent itself, where the financial powerhouses of Beijing, Tokyo, and Singapore share borders with some of the world’s lowest-income countries, such as Bhutan and Myanmar. With so much to learn, completing your degree in Asia itself may seem almost too obvious a choice. The inherent advantages (i.e. you experience what you learn while you learn) offer unarguable benefits which certainly cannot be overlooked.

That being said, experience of living and studying overseas in any location will prove beneficial for an Asian studies major. You’ll have no option but to develop transferable skills like the ability to communicate across cultural and linguistic barriers. Whether it’s navigating a new language altogether or just a strong accent divide, this skill is going to be key to helping you get by during your time overseas.

You’ll also develop teamwork competencies and the ability to lead a team as well as icons like Lady Trieu who fought off Chinese invaders in the third century Vietnam. Furthermore, things like cultural knowledge, adaptability, understanding of diversity, and different belief systems will be essential to a degree in this discipline — and readily adopted through life experiences in a new geographical location.


When deciding where to study your degree abroad in Asian studies, the answer might seem obvious — well at least when it comes to the continent; however, that still leaves almost as many options available to you as there are noodle dishes on a Chinese menu! You’ll need to also consider the quality of the institution hosting the course and the curriculum design. With such a range of possibilities with regards to content, be sure to do your research before grasping the nearest Cantonese phrasebook and maybe take note of the tuition language while you’re researching options!

Going right to the heart of the Asian development boom, Singapore might just be one of the most exciting, fastest-growing places in the world and a great gateway to understanding the continent through a degree in Asian studies. What better place to study than an isle of true diversity, home to Chinese, Indian and Malay residents, host to believers of multiple religions, and speakers of several languages?! You’ll learn about the broader region through first-hand experience in this hybrid location. Singapore offers an ideal learning environment and high quality universities with Asian studies programs.

In contrast, Thailand continues to develop at a slightly slower pace, maintaining much of its traditional culture in rural areas while thriving in the bigger cities. Pursuing your degree in Asian studies here will ground you in paradise with its stunning white beaches of the islands in the south to its rolling mountains dotted with hill tribe communities (and the occasional elephant!) in the north! The biggest question is when you will find time to study away from all these bucket-list attractions? Thailand’s continuing growth has also meant expansion and development of its education system thanks to more Thai students seeking to pursue degrees and keep up with the pace of development of their country. 

On the other hand, Australia offers an opportunity to study Asia from the outside looking in. Home to millions of Asian migrants, the culture is not lost in the Land Down Under, and you will even be suitably close for Asian vacations if you manage to save some spare dollars for your break. With world-class universities, endless sunshine, and a laidback approach to life, you won’t struggle for new friends and a good time in Oz.

Asian Studies Degrees

As previously mentioned, for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, a key consideration will be the focus of the degree. Asian studies courses are almost as diverse as the continent itself, so you will need to ensure that your chosen course checks all of your must-haves — like a bucket-list for the serious stuff!

The main areas that are likely to be covered include politics, development, culture, religion, and history, but there could be more specialized options as well, so be sure to identify and prioritize carefully. Many courses require you to complete a baseline of foundation modules to begin with but then to select your preferences as you advance. Just like making a banh mi sandwich in Vietnam, you lay a bread-based foundation, then adorn it with lots of delicious fillings — just be sure that the vendor has your preferred ingredients before you start or you might quickly lose your appetite!

The study style can also be varied at all levels, with some courses focusing more on classroom-based learning and lectures while others encourage personal study and self-lead learning styles. Everyone learns in a different way, so make sure you find a course that balances your needs — the yin to your yang!

Thinking outside the classroom, there may also be possibilities for travel during the course, be it a placement, research or study-based program, so if you are keen to explore further (who isn’t?), consider the availability of such options before you select your program, and be sure to leave plenty of blank pages in your passport ready for all those fresh and exciting stamps!

Benefits & Challenges

Even if you are not completing Asian studies programs in Asia itself, pursuing a degree in the subject will allow you to learn about broader global issues and to frame and contextualize your study materials through real life experiences. You’ll be able to access a wider range of study materials and course options by expanding your choice of schools to the whole world. This gives you access to the knowledge of a wider cohort of professors and peers from whom you will learn a great deal. These advantages will all help to deepen the knowledge gained from your degree, which will open up opportunities for Asian studies’ major jobs and career progression in the future as you solidify a diverse and complex skill set.

No awe-inspiring experience comes without a few challenges though, so be prepared for the usual difficulties associated with a new lifestyle in a new country. This might be things like learning to adapt to the culture, tackling those same language barriers, and of course, homesickness, all of which will in fact add further depth to the experience as you learn to overcome them and thrive in your new environment. A degree abroad can also be a costly undertaking, so you will need to research funding opportunities thoroughly and seek advice from tutors before you start packing your suitcase!

Overall, earning your Asian studies degree internationally, as you have little to lose and a world of opportunities as spicy and exciting as the local food to gain — from cultural knowledge and application of theory to real life scenarios. The biggest question is where you’ll go with so many astounding options open to you, so start spinning that globe!

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A Guide To
Asian Studies Degrees Abroad


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