History is a living thing that links the past, present, and future of every aspect of our lives – our common and divergent cultures and histories, our languages, societies, governments, economies, religions, and day-to-day customs and beliefs. To make history come alive and put it into context, you must see where it happened, think about why it happened, and witness the effects it has had on the place and people where it occurred. Studying history abroad isn’t just valuable for history majors, it can also be useful for those studying a range of other fields, because history affects society on a global scale.
History is taught worldwide and has hundreds of areas of specialization, so where you choose to study history abroad depends largely on what your areas of interest are and what career path you hope to follow.
If your specialty is ancient, classical history, Egypt or Jordan are logical choices, and both are also good if you’re interested in doing field study or want a scientific edge to your experience abroad, such as working on archaeological or anthropological digs. Most history study abroad programs in Egypt are based in Cairo, which is a fairly inexpensive city to live in by international standards, with plentiful housing and good public transportation. Many universities in Cairo offer history courses in English, as well as some in Alexandria.
For students who want to combine the exploration of ancient history with modern-day emerging political and economic powerhouses, China or India are good choices for studying history abroad. China’s role in the world – politically, economically and culturally – continues to grow, as it is one of the most rapidly changing countries in the world. Consequently, study abroad programs in China are also on the rise. Beijing and Shanghai are cultural centers and have the largest range of study abroad program choices as well as incredible access to the nation’s history. Yet Xi’an, as one of the ancient capitals of China and a major stopping point on the Silk Road, provides outstanding opportunities for studying history in China too.
To help understand how rapidly the world has changed over the past three centuries, or delve into the golden age of art, architecture, music, and literature, while having access to some of the world’s finest museums, libraries, and archives, Europe is the place for you to study history abroad. Italy is Europe’s center, when it comes to history. Home to history’s most iconic and most well-preserved ancient landmarks, Italy also hosts a myriad of history study abroad programs to choose from. Italy is the birthplace of the Renaissance, the home of the lost city of Pompeii and the Vatican City. Most history study abroad programs in Italy offer the chance for students to travel through Italy to multiple destinations to further expand learning, which is definitely a bonus component to consider.
Courses & Programs
Almost every American university that offers a history major offers the option for a semester – or more – of study abroad, and most have campuses or affiliations with universities abroad. Non-profits and service organizations also provide study abroad programs that combine history and cultural exploration through international trips that can even provide academic credit to participants. The possibilities for history study abroad are nearly endless, and it’s possible to combine many disciplines of history with other areas of study, most often foreign languages.
The type program you choose is limited only by your area of interest and your career goals. You can specialize in the history of any continent or country, and any time period from the Stone Age to the Cold War. Many study abroad programs focus on a history-sociology mix, such as African-American Studies, Islamic History, European Politics, or Latin American History, or any specific time period, like the World Wars, the Age of Exploration, or Medieval History.
There are also some newer specialities geared toward specific career paths, some examples are:
Diplomatic History. For careers in law, foreign service, civil service, national security fields, or politics, these programs specialize in diplomatic and military history, often focusing on post-World War II and Cold War issues.
Women’s History & Gender Studies. For teachers, sociologists, researchers, and writers, these programs focus on the study of gender, race, class, ethnicity and sexuality -- generally, but not always, from a U.S. or European point of view.
Latin American Studies. These programs are wide-ranging, with focuses on everything from early exploration and colonial history to sociology, anthropology, the fine arts, and emerging immigration, political, and economical issues. Latin American Studies programs often go hand-in-hand with foreign language studies.
The benefits of studying history abroad are both personal and professional. On a personal level, studying abroad provides a more comprehensive way to see the world and bring history off the page of your textbook or out of the shadows created by modern day life. We are our past, and there’s no better way to understand how the past has shaped our futures than by seeing, feeling, hearing, and experiencing the places where history was made. Studying history abroad is also a way to make history tangible, and see the world from another country’s perspective.
Studying abroad in general will allow students to experience different styles and philosophies of teaching too, which may help you grasp historical concepts more clearly.
From a professional point of view, employers and graduate admission boards look for people with a broad range of experience, language skills, an open mind, and a willingness to work and to learn, all of which can be gained by studying history abroad.