Study abroad in Western Europe is overwhelmingly popular. This is, in part, because studying in Western Europe puts students in close proximity to many different countries (and travel destinations!) as well as immense cultural variety; these are two huge factors that attract international students to study abroad in Western Europe (as evidenced by nearly every alumni review). Students can choose to study in one country, but still have easy access to many other countries via a short plane flight or train ride, and this freedom to move about is enticing. Not only will students be able to learn from their host country, they will also have the chance to learn from exploring the entire region!
The most commonly held definition of Western Europe encompasses the following countries (though keep in mind this is somewhat debatable): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Clearly there are many countries to choose from if you decide to study abroad in Western Europe, so the decision can be tough. To help you choose the ideal place for you, check out the following popular destinations for starters:
Italy is one of the world’s most influential countries, when it comes to fashion and food, and is booming with culture and history. Students who choose to study abroad in Italy will have plenty of options in terms of both universities and programs. International students are welcomed with a smile and a warm Ciao! by locals. Rome and Florence tend to be the most popular cities for study abroad in Italy, and not surprisingly since they are also two of the largest cities in the country.
France is centrally located and a country that many students are drawn to for study abroad in Western Europe. Bordered by nine different countries, France instantly creates a network of possible travel destinations for students. France has a rich history and tradition when it comes to education, and there are consequently many different locations for students to choose from. Two popular, and yet very different, destinations for study abroad in France are the capital city of Paris and Aix-en-Provence, in the South of France. France is a particularly good option for students who are drawn to stinky cheese!
As one of the top destinations for study abroad in the world, Spain draws students from all around the world. Greatly influenced by Europe as well as Northern Africa, Spain has a warm, unique blend of culture and history. International students generally flock to Spain’s major cities for study abroad, including Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, and Granada. Spain also prides itself on its fantastic leisure time. From delicious tapas dinners with sobremesa to long lunches followed by a siesta, studying abroad there is sure to be a delight!
Germany boasts over 300 institutions of higher learning, so you will definitely find somewhere to study abroad in Germany! Since the 1980s, Germany has become a unified country and built a booming economy across many sectors, making it an even more prosperous place for study abroad. The two most popular cities for study abroad in Germany are Berlin and Munich; with low tuition fees and a reasonable cost of living, Germany is a wonderful option for anyone looking to experience study abroad in Western Europe on a budget.
Study Abroad in Western Europe
A lot of students are drawn to study abroad in Western Europe because of the region’s history, languages, and conviviality. These characteristics give students the opportunity to choose from a variety of subjects across many different fields of study.
Students can take art history in Florence and study Michelangelo's David as well as all the great renaissance artists. In Paris, students can learn French language while taking fashion design courses, all while being inspired by the same city that inspired Coco Chanel. In Granada, students can learn about the history of Flamenco and Spanish music, and then go watch the locals perform before these traditions in person. Those who study abroad in Germany will be able to explore European history and then go outside and see the locations mentioned in their textbooks. All of these opportunities to witness the subjects you are studying first hand are one of the many reasons students dream of studying abroad in Western Europe, and benefit so immensely from doing so.
There is no particular time of the year when it is best to study abroad in Western Europe as a whole; it is best to decide what works best for you and what time of the year your program of interest is available. However, students should keep in mind that most Western European countries experience four seasons. Aside from seasonal considerations, students should be aware that the traditional school year is about the same across the entire region, with classes starting around the beginning of September and running until early to mid-June. There are usually breaks over the winter holidays and in the spring, as well as a fall break in the beginning of November.
Depending on what study abroad program or university students choose, knowing the local language may or may not be required. Typically universities instruct all classes in the national language of the country, so a certain level of fluency is required of international students. On the other hand, study abroad programs in Western Europe offered by third-party providers usually offer courses in English. If you are taking courses at a local university, you should make sure to adhere to the local classroom culture, whether that be more strict or more relaxed than what you are used to. In general, trying to learn the basics of a country’s language will help you not only in the classroom but also outside of it. The locals will definitely recognize your effort!
Accommodation & Visas
Living arrangements in both rural and urban areas will typically be comfortable for international students studying in Western Europe. Accommodations can range from apartments with other students to homestays. Usually program providers or universities will ask students what their preferred housing is prior to arrival, and if you have any special requests or limitations (i.e. if you have a disability or a food allergy).
Visa requirements and costs will vary from country to country and you should check with your local embassy or consulate to determine what you will need. If you are studying abroad through a program provider they will be able to help you with obtaining a visa. Usually your home institution will help you with this process as well. You will absolutely need a passport that is valid six months after your stay, no matter what country you are going to.
Benefits & Challenges
Diversity. With the variety of countries in this region, students will be able to learn from all sorts of backgrounds. Being able to immerse themselves in Western Europe’s history and culture is an opportunity that you cannot find elsewhere due to how easy it is to travel and explore!
Price. Although there is so much to learn and discover, Western Europe is a bit pricey. Students should take into account how much they have to spend and budget wisely. This way they can get the most out of their time abroad!