The Best Places To Study Abroad: Where Should You Go? (2024)

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As if attending college isn’t enough of a transformative experience, imagine how life-changing it would be to live and study in another country for part of it. Studying abroad provides learners with a global perspective on both their majors and their role as a citizen of the planet.

On a professional level, employers highly value students with study abroad experience because it demonstrates a willingness to get out of their comfort zone, enhance their foreign language skills and learn more about a different culture. Alums of study abroad programs are seen as mature, culturally intelligent and open-minded individuals who can thrive in a diverse workforce.

On a personal level, studying abroad is simply a lot of fun. It can help you learn more about yourself and make new friends. Studying abroad can even impact your relationship with your home country. You might find yourself more critical of it but also more patriotic about its strengths and unique culture.

But where should you study abroad? The choice is yours. In this article, we review some of the best places to study abroad to help you in your search. Keep reading to learn about the top places for studying abroad.

Who Should Consider Studying Abroad?

Students who are ready to challenge themselves on a social, intellectual and physical level should consider studying abroad.

A semester overseas can help you become a global citizen, make lifelong friends and apply the knowledge you’ve gained in college to a society that’s different from your own.

Many universities offer faculty-led study abroad programs; these can be as quick as a spring break or as long as a full calendar year. Some colleges have signed memorandums of understanding with foreign universities, agreeing to exchange a group of students each semester. Other schools offer programs that meet on university campuses overseas but still offer classes taught by the visiting university’s professors.

The easiest way to study abroad is by going through your university’s study abroad office. Each university sets its own requirements about how, when and where students can receive credit while studying abroad and whether online students are eligible to participate.

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Top Places To Study Abroad

Encompassing Europe, Latin America and Asia, below are the 10 most popular study abroad destinations for U.S. students, according to the “2023 Open Doors Report on International Student Exchange”:

Italy

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 30,610
Portion of all study abroad students: 16.2%
Whether a student wants to experience Milan’s fashion industry, study Rome’s ancient architecture or learn how Florence birthed the Renaissance, Italy provides students with an up-close view of how history impacts the present and will shape the future.

United Kingdom

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 27,503
Portion of all study abroad students: 14.6%
Good news about the UK: They already speak English. Whether visiting the countless museums and historic sites of London, day-tripping to Stonehenge and Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon or studying alongside the students of Oxford and Cambridge, learners who study abroad in the United Kingdom find a wealth of international adventures.

Spain

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 25,348
Portion of all study abroad students: 13.4%
Spain has beckoned both Spanish speakers and Spanish learners for decades as a popular study abroad destination. With cities as culturally rich and diverse as Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Bilbao, Granada and Salamanca to choose from, students enjoy an eclectic mix of experiences.

France

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 14,397
Portion of all study abroad students: 7.6%
Students eager to learn why France is the world’s most popular tourist destination can choose the urban allure of Paris or more bucolic locations like the French Riviera and Provence. Either way, learners can see how food, fashion and Francophone pride make a visit to France an unforgettable experience.

Germany

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 7,644
Portion of all study abroad students: 4.0%
German is the most widely understood first language of the European Union, which makes a semester in Germany a great investment for those aiming to learn a new language that will help them excel in one of the world’s largest economies. From the cosmopolitan capital of Berlin to the traditional Bavarian flavors of Munich, students have a variety of urban experiences to choose from in Germany.

Ireland

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 7,031
Portion of all study abroad students: 3.7%
Ireland offers lush landscapes, unique nightlife and a booming tech industry to its student visitors. Since it’s an English-speaking country, getting around is a breeze, but students can still dive into the original Irish language for a cultural challenge. As more and more U.S. students are finding, studying abroad in Ireland is good craic.

Costa Rica

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 4,751
Portion of all study abroad students: 2.5%
Known for its “pura vida” motto, Costa Rica has long been a hub for those interested in perfecting their Spanish and learning about the country’s fierce commitment to protecting its biodiversity. Given that one third of the country is protected as an environmentally sensitive area and that the nation has committed to decarbonizing, Costa Rica is an ideal place for students who are conscientious about their impact on the environment and want to learn how to implement green policies back home.

Greece

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 4,484
Portion of all study abroad students: 2.4%
Greece’s year-round temperate climate is a popular draw for students. Known as the birthplace of democracy, Greece holds a special place in Western historical narratives and schools of thought. With its borders straddling the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Turkey, Greece offers students easy weekend trips to encounter Europe’s peripheries.

Denmark

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 4,393
Portion of all study abroad students: 2.3%
While Denmark is one of Europe’s smallest countries by size and population, it punches above its weight in terms of quality of life. Denmark is often at the top of lists that rank formal education levels, generous social welfare policies and citizens who report being happy. A champion of equal rights in the modern era, it became the first country to legalize same-sex unions in 1989.

South Korea

Number of study abroad students in 2021–22: 4,304
Portion of all study abroad students: 2.3%
Gen Zers’ fascination with K-Pop music, K-drama series and manhwa (Korean comics) has fueled interest in studying abroad in South Korea. With South Korea’s economy booming, employers with an international portfolio might look favorably upon an application from someone familiar with the country and its language.

Why Should You Study Abroad?

Yes, studying abroad is fun and can even make you stand out in your post-graduation job search. But the benefits don’t stop there. Consider studying abroad for the following reasons.

Global Experience

The global perspective a student gains while studying in another country prepares them to compete in an international marketplace that values familiarity with other countries, cultures and languages.

More importantly, living abroad—even for as short as a month—can be a humbling experience. Students learn about other ways of viewing the world and their place in it. To boot, those who study abroad can become more attuned to the struggles facing immigrants at home.

Language Acquisition

When it comes to learning a new language, nothing beats immersion—the kind that requires you to order food, figure out public transportation and even flirt in a language other than your own.

Even for students who study in a country where they already speak the language, navigating the nuances of regional dialects and idioms can enhance their critical thinking skills.

Fostering New Friendships

Even the shyest wallflower will be inspired to take a risk and make friends when studying abroad.

Without the familiar faces and creature comforts of home, students often crave new connections. They might create deeper bonds with their college peers or forge new friendships with locals. Given the unique context of living abroad and the daily surprises that come with it, these new friendships can last a lifetime.

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Studying Abroad by the Numbers

Let’s dive into some fast facts about studying abroad, all sourced from the 2023 Open Doors Report.

Academic Level

Students can usually study abroad at any point of their college degree as an undergraduate or graduate student.

  • Juniors and seniors make up 60% of study abroad students.
  • The portion of first-years who study abroad increased by 61% between the 2000–01 and 2021–22 academic years.
  • Graduate students made up about 10% of study abroad students as of the 2021–22 school year.

Destination Region

Europe has consistently topped the list of popular study abroad destinations, but other regions are growing in popularity.

  • Study abroad rebounded to more than 50% of pre-Covid levels in the 2021–22 academic year.
  • Seventy-three percent of students who studied abroad went to Europe.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean were the second-most popular destination region.

Field of Study

Study abroad programs are popular with students of all majors.

  • STEM fields and business are the most popular majors among study abroad students.
  • In the STEM pack, students majoring in physical or life sciences are most likely to be found studying abroad.
  • Students studying foreign languages and international studies make up 7% of the study abroad population.

Length of Stay

Study abroad opportunities are available to meet the financial and scheduling needs of most students.

  • Forty-nine percent of students study abroad for a summer term.
  • Thirty percent of students study abroad for a full semester.
  • Just 2.4% of students study abroad for a full year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Best Places To Study Abroad

Which is the best place to study abroad?

Students should consult their college’s study abroad office to determine which program and country will best meet their personal needs and professional goals while helping them stay on track to graduate on time.

Where do most American students go to study abroad?

Most students study abroad in European countries such as Spain, Italy and France. Countries such as South Korea, New Zealand and Chile are becoming increasingly popular as well.

Where should I study abroad?

You should study abroad in a country you want to learn more about. Equally important is choosing a country where your university has a partner program so you can stay on track toward graduation.

The Best Places To Study Abroad: Where Should You Go? (2024)

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