University. A fantastic opportunity to enrich our minds with knowledge whilst simultaneously killing our brain cells with excess alcohol and questionable energy drinks. People are always telling you to ‘make the most’ of your university experience, and a great way to do so is to study abroad.
For any travel fanatic, having the chance to experience life as a student in another country and instantly ingrain yourself in a foreign community makes studying abroad a no-brainer! But where should you go?
With study abroad the world (quite literally) is your oyster, which makes it difficult to choose just one place to spend your studies in. That’s why we’ve scoured the globe and rounded up the best countries to study abroad for students who want to embrace new cultures – and have a little fun along the way!
Whether you’re a party loving booze hound, or a rather sophisticated soul, (it’s France for you darling), we’ve covered all bases to give you a great insight into the best places to study abroad. Expect historic cities, artsy cities, foodie cities and obviously party cities!
So here are 10 of the best countries to study abroad:
El Palentino bar, Madrid 📷: @ababolico
Spain recommended by Hannah Mezheretzy.
Spain is pretty much made for studying abroad. People just don’t really *do* mornings in Spain, meaning you don’t have to worry about sleeping through those pesky 9am lectures! Long afternoons, dangerously delicious oily food, and never-ending nightlife await any Spanish student. Spanish cities are thriving, bustling hubs of excitement but at the same time enjoy a laid back and relaxed atmosphere.
With the cost of tuition and the cost of living in Spain lower than other European countries, and particularly cheap compared to the US, Spain is actually one of the cheapest places to study abroad in Europe! So you can pocket those extra pennies… or just spend them on Sangria and Paella instead!
Beautiful Barcelona! 📷: @kkkate_kot)
Barcelona is an extremely popular study abroad city, and with good reason! Barcelona has the culture, the history, the music scene and some of the best restaurants in the world. Spend your free days wandering around the city and admiring the iconic Cathedral, and spend your evenings dancing into the early hours of the morning. Barcelona’s nightlife scene is wild!
We’d be taking photos too! 📷: @victor.racariu)
Famous for Flamenco dancing and the cobbled streets of the city’s old town, Seville has (dare we say it) a more authentic Spanish feel to the city. Spend your weekends in Plaza de Espana wandering along the gorgeous winding river and admiring the historic architecture while you study abroad.
My host family called the culture ‘street culture’ in the sense that everyone is always out, meeting with their families and neighbors at local bars and restaurants, the whole neighborhood knows each other and it’s so tightly connected. No one ever sits at home and watches TV, everyone’s always out getting beers with people or just sitting in cafes for hours at a time.
The UK’s Lake District is truly stunning 📷:@amielw_
The UK recommended by Amalie Jonsson.
Ask someone from outside of the UK about university in England and they’ll most likely think of Oxbridge students smugly rowing boats down the River Cam and discussing politics whilst smoking cigars. Ask anyone from inside the UK about university in England and you’ll hear a very different story. British students are loud, rowdy and absolutely LOVE a bev. So much so that British universities even have a week long introduction to the nightlife of the city, a boozy night by night crawl of the various clubs and bars. This tradition is known as ‘Freshers,’ and its arrival is long awaited by aspiring British students.
One of the best things about studying in the UK, especially if only for a short time, is the size of the place. The UK is small which makes travelling between cities so easy and gives you a great chance to see more of the country. The UK also serves as a fantastic gateway into Europe, with flights to France, Ireland and the Netherlands less than an hour away!
Iconic sights in London.📷: @margo_pickford
Of course, most students who study abroad in the UK tend to opt for London; the classic choice, the Big Smoke, the Razzle Dazzle… (‘n all that jazz). London has the history, it has the culture and it has the glamour, but London also has an edgier scene adored by students. Shoreditch street art and amazing outdoor food markets. Rooftop bars and underground art galleries. London is as diverse as it is famous. London is also home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world. Kings College, LSE and Imperial are among the highest ranked in the world, so you’ll earn some serious bragging rights if you study at one of these!
University of Nottingham serving campus goals realness 📷: @nicoleamy5
A general rule of thumb for the UK: the further North you go the more you’ll get for your money. If you fancy sampling a more representative taste of life as a British student, venture out of London. Nottingham is a super cool city and with two huge universities it has a great student scene as well. Take advantage of the independent cinemas, student drinks deals, and beautiful campus at The University of Nottingham.
Compared to other cities, you get more a greater sense of campus spirit. You feel like you’re a part of something. Living on campus, meeting new people I really loved that sort of ‘I belong to this uni’ kinda feeling. The uni also has great ties with other universities around the world, so if you’re looking to strengthen your ties with China and Malaysia, amongst others, then this is definitely one of the best places to study abroad.
China recommended by Ursalaan Khan.
If you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone, then studying abroad in China is the best way to make this leap! While the food may not resemble the beef in black bean sauce from your local Chinese takeout, authentic Chinese food is amazing. Expat classics include gongbao chicken and hand pulled noodles, but if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous there’s always solidified duck blood, or even some rabbit head… #FoodPorn?
Being such a vast country, China is an extremely diverse place. There are 33 provinces in China, each one like its own little country. Each province speaks its own dialect and maintains its own unique traditions, so travelling around China never gets boring.
While the food and culture are huge factors, the biggest advantage of studying abroad in China is the price! The cost of living is famously cheap, so essentially it’s perfect for students and most definitely one of the cheapest places to study abroad. The cost of food, drink, and travel are all extremely low – so expect to live pretty lavishly without having to splash the cash!
Shanghai after dark 📷: @zhucebuliaobinbin)
Stepping out in Shanghai feels like stepping out into a futurist city. The lights are brighter, the buildings are taller and the streets are more crowded. If you value adventure over fresh air and experiences more than personal space, you should fit into Shanghai nicely. Shanghai is a great city for international students due to its big expat population and noticeable foreign presence, so there are always home comforts if you look hard enough.
Shanghai’s nightlife is some of the best in the world. With a growing music scene and amazing bars and nightclubs, any nocturnal party animal will have a riot of a time in the true city that never sleeps – move over NYC!
Norvin Green State Forest 📷: @annabelusher
The USA recommended by Annabel Usher.
Studying abroad in the USA gives students the chance to sample a taste of the classic American college experience. Although the drinking age is ~technically~ 21, pesky trivialities such as the law don’t seem to get in the way of American students thirst for… knowledge. Although many American universities are prestigious and renowned throughout the world, there is another aspect of US college life that seems to have gained notoriety: The Frat Parties.
Think huge kegs of cheap beer, red solo cups, and hundreds of students dancing on make-shift podiums. The best thing about these iconic Fraternity parties is that they are totally free! Yup, that’s right. No club fees or expensive cocktails here, meaning the US is the perfect study destination for riotous students on a budget!
A key factor of studying abroad in America is the campus life. US colleges are almost always based on a campus which becomes the hub for students. Students of all ages live on campus, attend classes on campus and eat meals on campus too! Don’t worry if you’re more of a city bird, most campuses are basically student cities and have a real buzz about them. College campuses in the US are usually pretty easy on the eyes too!
Red Brick Campuses are gorgeous! UCLA, Los Angeles.📷: @ffff_sx)
Los Angeles is a diverse city boasting an impressive music scene. Home to Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach as well as world famous universities such as UCLA, California State and the Los Angeles Film School, LA is a total haven for creative students. As the international centre of film and television, LA is always buzzing with tourists, students, locals and, of course, world famous movie stars! Live here long enough and you’ll probably spot a celeb out in the wild!
LA also boasts a huge foodie scene and some of the most innovative restaurants reside here. Venture to Downtown LA for a more artsy scene and expect pop-up galleries, vintage clothes stores and the iconic In-n-Out burger chain!
Let’s go to the beach, beach. Let’s go get away!📷: @eloisejulier
Australia recommended by Alice Gosling.
The huge draw of studying in Australia is the weather… obviously! Even the winter has glorious sunshine. If you’re only going for a semester then cheat the cold and study in Australia’s summer months from November to March. The big question you face is whether to study on the East or West coast because both are beautiful. Australia has some of the most stunning beaches in the world and plenty of outdoor activities for adventure seekers. Surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving around the Great Barrier Reef – Ozzies have it pretty good as far as water sports go!
Australia is a great place to study if you want to travel into Asia with a flights to Bali, India, or Sri Lanka under 4 hours from parts of Oz.
En route ➡️ 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. 📷: @ninkendo)
Sydney is the ultimate cosmopolitan beach city: a real lifestyle hot spot with sunshine, beaches, and healthy eats, matched with cool bars and a vibrant arts and culture scene. It’s the perfect destination for studying abroad as it’s large enough to keep you interested all year without being overwhelming. Plus, it has 3 great universities in the city centre – Sydney University, UTS and UNSW – which means when studying in Sydney you’ll be right in the heart of the action!
University of Western Australia Campus 📷: @min.liao
Perth is a much smaller city than the major ones on east coast which gives it a really cool and vibey atmosphere. Students should definitely check out Fremantle, a super chic port city with bouquet shops, delightful brunch restaurants, and craft breweries. Perth is an impressive cocktail of urban metropolis and chilled out beach town, combine this with endless sunshine and you can understand why it’s so popular among students. There are plenty of universities to chose from, including the prestigious University of Western Australia. Before your deadlines start to pile up, be sure to take a boat trip from Perth to Rottnest Island and walk the amazing beaches. With summer food festivals, day trips to wineries and rooftop cinemas we’d be surprised if you actually find any time to study in Perth!
My favourite part of the year was the road trip I took with the friends I met. It was so fun hiring a van and driving up the West coast stopping at the major cities.
Amazing graffiti at Teufelsberg 📷@karagra
Germany recommended by Naomi Green.
Quaint traditions, extensive historic relevance and a seriously delicious beer obsession, Germany is a truly wonderful place to study abroad. With a great public transportation system Germany is relatively easy to travel around, hitting every major city and experiencing the unique draw of each one. As well as modern cities, German also has some lovely nature spots in the expansive rolling countryside.
Who doesn’t love Berlin? The impressive architecture, the tankards of beer and some of the best nightlife in the world, it’s a no-brainer as to why Berlin is such a popular study abroad destination. The clubs in Berlin are world renowned and are as crazy as the stories you’ll hear about them. If nightlife is your cup of tea, Berlin is the sugar lump on top!
Universitat Heidelberg basking in that glorious sunset📷: @paaaaaaolo
Heidelberg is home to the most prestigious university in Germany, and is simply the most beautiful city. Heidelberg university itself is archaic and has a real historic feel. The architecture of city is still well preserved despite the wars, giving the city an old fashioned and quaint charm. Heidelberg is a huge student city and attracts a lot of intentional students. There’s a true international hub meaning it’s easy to meet people and make friends of all nationalities.
Party fever!📷: @brunaabreubrasil
Brazil recommended by Adam Khwaja.
A vibrant culture and some of the world’s friendliest people live in Brazil. Brazil is most famous for its party culture and love of carnivals – hey – what student can say no to this?
Rio de Janeiro
Casa Tuxi Hostel
Rio de Janeiro is a must-visit destination for any traveler because of the sheer range of activities to keep you occupied from morning to night. In the daytime, one of the most spectacular settings of any city on Earth provides plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure. Days can be spent enjoying the famous beaches, surfing and football, and for something a bit different, hikes and rock climbs in Tijuca National Park provide amazing views over the city and bay – without having to fight the hordes at Christ the Redeemer.
After dark, you can enjoy Rio’s eclectic culinary scene. At the lower end, there are greasy spoons selling cheap meals of rice, feijão (Brazilian black beans) and (occasionally questionable) cuts of meat; at the top end, more upmarket restaurants serve cuisines from all four corners of the globe. Finally, Rio’s world-famous nightlife does not disappoint. Whole streets in livelier neighbourhoods are often shut down in the evenings and packed with tourists and locals enjoying live music. If you prefer a nightclub, there are plenty of those too, busy most nights of the week and often serving cheap caipirinhas, the sugary rum cocktail beloved by Rio natives.
Posing up a storm at Collonges-La-Rouge📷@handluggageonly
Recommended by Colleen Alexander.
France can keep any student, or backpacker, entertained for months. Even in the pricier cities such as Paris, there are ways that thrifty students and travellers can thrive and make their budget go further. Prepare yourself for a semester, or year, filled with cheese, wine, and good times!
Floating and drinking, drinking and floating 📷@cityinsidersparis
Studying in the city of love is an unforgettable experience. As well as the desire to learn French, the food is a big draw for those wanting to study in Paris. Crispy baguettes, soft pastries, escargot, and gooey brie, each accompanied by a full-bodied Chateaueneuf-de-Pape. The iconic tourist spots are, of course, worth ticking off the bucketlist, but Parisian charm also inhabits the winding, cobbled back streets and lesser known art galleries. Being a capital city, Paris is a little pricier than students might be comfortable with, but with most museums and galleries free on the first Sunday of every month, and plenty of walking tours and affordable dive bars, you can still find a happy home for yourself in Paris.
Picking France as a study abroad destination was an easy choice for me because I already spoke the language, however I also think it is a great place for beginner French speakers as well. Studying in the city of Tours, I came across people everyday who spoke both English and French, as well as many other languages which became an amazing international hub for me. What I really enjoyed about Tours was how many universities there were in one city, and through my American university, I was able to take classes at multiple schools. I took a French literature course and an art history course at the Université François-Rabelais, a sustainable transportation engineering course at the école de Polytechnique, and a cooking and gastronomie course at the Centre de formation par alternance, apprentissage et formation continue. I made friends very quickly because of the welcoming and encouraging nature of the French university students in Tours.
The architecture in Florence is unreal 📷@lola.photography
Italy recommended by Claire Benktander.
Italy is a place like no other. There’s so much character in that little boot. Aside from the cities that resemble a scene from classical literature, Italy’s countryside is truly breathtaking. Fields full of vineyards, rolling hills partnered with trickling streams. Picture yourself riding a vesper through the long open roads in the beautiful countryside.
Obviously, we can’t talk to you about Italy without addressing the country’s biggest attraction: the food. Italy is a heaven for carb lovers, and a nightmare for easily tempted vegans. Authentic pizza, pasta, meats and – of course – gelato await you in this red white and green wonderland. Grab a slice of the action and let Italy steal a lil’ pizza your heart.
Yes, it’s touristy, but there’s a reason the Colosseum is so popular! 📷@lola.photography
Aside from the aforementioned culinary delights which are of course the MVP in Rome, the city’s true pull is the history. Walk the streets of Rome and be transported back to a time when Julius Caesar walked the same streets. Visit the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Baths of Diocletian. Anyone interested in Ancient History or classical literature can’t go wrong with a semester in Rome.
10. South Korea
South Korea recommended by Ross Brooks.
South Korea might not be your first choice of study abroad destinations, but it’s a country that blends a rich culture and history with high-tech cities and unbeatable modern conveniences. There are beaches in the south, mountains in the north and islands off the coast covered in volcanic landscapes that resemble an alien world. Getting around is effortless on the high-speed rail network, plus you’re always within easy reach of exotic destinations in Southeast Asia.
Even though it’s not nice to pick favourites, Seoul is the place to be if you’re planning to study in South Korea. The city is one of the most advanced in the world and has a thriving community of expats, which means you’ll be able to make new friends in no time and always have a support group to fall back on when the culture shock kicks in. Things change fast though, so make sure to cherish the friendships while they last!
As for how to keep yourself amused when you’re not engrossed in your studies, there’s world-class food and entertainment options to explore. Korean BBQ is a worldwide phenomenon, but this is where it all started. One of the best things to do is invite a few friends and do as the locals do, which means soju bombs. Lots and lots of soju bombs. If you’re with local friends, make sure to look up the local drinking customs as it’s an important part of Korean culture.
Studying in South Korea isn’t all about delicious food and drinking. There are Buddhist temples dotted around the city for when you need a moment of calm, amazing hiking trails just outside the city centre, plus world-class shopping for anyone who would rather de-stress with a bit of retail therapy. We’ve only just scratched the surface of this relatively unknown study abroad destination, so if you’re still not convinced, check out some of the best things to do in Seoul.