Study Foreign Languages Abroad

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Studying Foreign Languages Abroad

Have you tried to learn a language and something about it just doesn’t click with you? Do the words “Rosetta Stone” make you cringe? Are you going to scream if you have to make one more set of vocab flash cards? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, what you probably need is a change of language-learning scenery! Languages are meant to be learned by interacting with people, not by memorizing words out of a textbook, so why not head right to the source and study a foreign language abroad?

Why Study Foreign Languages Abroad

No matter where you come from or what you plan on doing with your life, the ability to communicate with others is the most important skill one can possess. Without simple communication, no progress would ever be made. Studying a foreign language abroad takes this concept one step further, as students who choose to go abroad will not only learn the language, but they will also learn the culture and people that surround a specific language. The skills and global perspective gained from this type of experience will turn you into a competitive candidate for better jobs, a more well-rounded student, and a more conscious and responsible global citizen.

Studying a foreign language in a classroom filled with people just like you is one of the most boring and unproductive ways to learn a new language. You can sit in a Spanish class all day long staring at a whiteboard covered in ser versus estar rules, or you can head to a different country and learn these rules simply by talking with locals. Studying a foreign language abroad is the only way to truly learn a language, so if you are going put the time in, why not do it the right (and fun) way?


The best place to start when choosing a location to study a foreign language abroad in is to first decide which language you want to learn; then choosing which country can best support the specific dialect and finally honing in on a city within that country, will be a piece of cake. Many students make the unfortunate error of automatically thinking that the best and only place to learn French in France, while you can actually study French in anywhere from Haiti to Canada to Madagascar. Oftentimes, by selecting a less obvious place to study a foreign language abroad, you will have a much richer cultural experience and ultimately learn the language better.

The most popular languages to study abroad include Spanish, Mandarin, French, and Arabic, so naturally the most popular locations to study foreign languages abroad include Madrid, Beijing, Paris, and Cairo. The benefit of being in a large city is that students will have the opportunity to be exposed to all types of people and languages, and ultimately obtain a very global experience.  

If after these considerations you are still struggling to narrow down your search to one location, think about what you are looking to gain besides just language skills. How do you ultimately want to use the language you will be studying for? If you are a musician and want to learn German to better understand your sheet music, pick a city like Vienna, which has a bustling music scene, so the German you learn will not be out of context for your goals. There is nothing worse than going abroad to learn a foreign language and then coming home and forgetting the language within six months because you are not using it in the way you thought you would.

Courses & Programs

There are many routes you can take to studying a foreign language abroad, and fortunately there is no right or wrong way (except, of course, by studying in a country that only speaks your native language). Once you have selected the language and region you want to become immersed in, think about the academic setting that will be best for you to really strengthen your language skills.

The most popular option for language study abroad is at a university. In today’s society, there are thousands of programs all over the world that enroll students in a large university with a great reputation and options for all levels of language learners, so finding a fitting university setting for you will not be challenging. While each university is different, most offer the same basic structure, types of classes, and support services. Whether you’re enrolling in only grammar-intensive courses or a mixture of subjects, students will integrate quickly into their universities and have plenty of options.

The university setting is not for everyone, which is why private language schools have also gained a lot of popularity. This type of environment usually focuses on creating fluency as quickly as possible, but many also offer a much more flexible schedule for students than a typical university. Language schools frequently include cultural excursions and other activities to ensure students receive a well-rounded education.

Regardless of the academic setting, there are many courses that language students can take that are not your standard Italian Grammar 101. Region-specific history or literature courses, such as a Jorge Luis Borges poetry class if you are studying Spanish in Argentina, are a great way to learn more about a foreign language as well as about an important author, piece of work, or event for that specific culture. Challenge yourself to take classes that are outside of the language study “box” and will make you learn about your host culture and history. As long as the course is being taught primarily in the language you are trying to learn, you will still become more fluent in the language, regardless of the subject matter.

Benefits & Challenges

Tangible Skills. If you were an employer and had the option to hire one person who could do the job of two, wouldn’t you hire that person? Having a transferable skill like being multilingual is one of the best ways you can ensure a stable future for yourself, as well as form much more meaningful connections with customers, partners, and co-workers. 

Multilingual Understanding. Before you shout “duh!” at the screen, there is way more to learning a new language than just being able to speak two languages. By studying a foreign language abroad, you will not only learn a foreign language, but you will also learn more about your native language. You will be strengthening all of your language skills, including verbal and written skills. As the very wise Goethe once said, “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”

Studying a foreign language abroad is not easy. Anyone can memorize vocabulary on a flashcard in preparation for a test, but it takes a whole different type of person to be able to understand what someone is saying, remember the proper vocab and grammar, put that vocab and grammar into the proper context, and reply back, all on the spot and in a timely manner. The challenges of learning a language in a real-world setting will force you to really have to interpret and remember the language, so you obtain a much fuller understanding and ultimately create more concrete skills. Study a foreign language abroad and learn how to truly communicate with others!

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A Guide To

Studying Foreign Languages Abroad


925 Foreign Language Study Abroad Programs


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During your semester in London, you won't just read Shakespeare in the classroom; you'll go see it performed live in the Globe Theatre. The city is your classroom! On Semester at University of Westminster, London, you can take classes for your major or as electives at an internationally recognized institution while exploring this lively, diverse city. You can also intern at one of the city's ma...


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Spend the summer in the picturesque city of Prague with AIFS. You’ll earn up to 9 credits through a variety of courses studying at Charles University. Courses are taught in English or Czech, and no previous Czech language study is required. Study at the historic Charles University, taking liberal arts courses in a range of fields including art history, Czech language, economics, film studies...


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XJTLU short courses offer you the opportunity to delve into Chinese culture, society and language. Experience China in the summer, or master the Chinese language one semester at a time. XJTLU’s home is Suzhou, a mix of the ancient and the hypermodern that tells the story of twenty-first century China. A hub of global business, research and innovation just 25 minutes from Shanghai sits alon...


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Athena's partner school in Florence, Italy, Lorenzo de' Medici (LdM), is a private institution located among several buildings in the center of this charming Renaissance city. The campus' main building dates back to the 13th century and, before being renovated, was originally a convent and church. Florence was the heart of the Renaissance, and its artistic flair is still tangible. With that ...


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Language acquisition and cultural immersion are always at the forefront of Adelante Abroad's programs. In Seville, Spain, students are sure to develop their Spanish language, conversation, and reading composition skills. There may not be a better place to do it either. You have the option to take up to 5 courses in a wide range of subjects. Each course is also offered at various levels of Sp...


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Study in Madrid at the Nebrija University. Spanish Language & Culture, plus Electives taught in English. Low cost. Open to all students worldwide. Earn college credit. Low cost campus housing. Cultural activities and excursions included. Electives taught in English include subjects in Spanish Culture, Business, and European Studies. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring terms. Early registration i...


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Come experience this international campus in one of Europes most exciting cities! Ideal for students who are focused heavily on academics and want to attend a distinguished, global university in a charming city, this program will offer students an incredible introduction into Irish culture and life. With access to a wide range of courses at a top ranked university as well as outstanding on...


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Madrid (pop. 3 million), the capital and geographic center of Spain, is a wonderfully vibrant city with rich cultural, artistic, and intellectual activity. Students will be captivated by Madrid's impressive universities, royal palaces, pristine parks, and world-famous art museums. The city itself is a unique combination of old and new. Madrid's cultural diversity, world-famous art and architect...


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The Madrid program is ideal for students who wish to study Spanish and European Studies in one of the world's great capitals. Madrid is a fascinating city and has a vibrant culture that provides the perfect setting for language study or art history studies. You will be able to study Spanish language and the complexities of Spanish and contemporary European societies through a wide selection of ...


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Program Overview This summer come develop your Spanish language skills and immerse yourself in local culture in the beautiful, dynamic capital of Andalusia. Through intensive language study, area studies courses, offered in English and Spanish, homestays, and a variety of cultural activities and excursions, summer study abroad Seville offers you a unique and exciting international experience. ...


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Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity to build your resume while you experience the world, learn a new language, and make international friends. As an American university in the historic center of Rome, Italy, John Cabot University allows you to become a part of our international campus community representing 70 countries while you experience the incredible city of Rome. We accept st...


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In three of the world's most beautiful countries—Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru—Maximo Nivel offers its unique Native Spanish Program. Join our "Country Jumper" program and begin your Spanish studies in one of our countries and then jump to another and another. Experience different aspects of each country's culture and Spanish dialect. Our Native Spanish Program, curriculum, and materials a...