The 12 Best Places to Study Abroad

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Picking a destination may be the hardest part of getting ready to study abroad.  With 196 countries scattered across the globe, it’s hard to pick just one to be your home for a summer, a semester, or even a year. HC is here to help you narrow it down, with a complete guide to the top 12 study abroad destinations based on a CBS news report from last year that tracked the number of students that study abroad in each country in a given year.

#12: South Africa

Why it’s awesome: Looking to experience more diversity when you go abroad? South Africa should be your first stop. It’s one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in Africa, and it also has a super interesting history. Struggles with apartheid, colonization, and the aftereffects of both make it a haven for anyone interested in observing how different cultures interact. It’s also a friendly place to be—Cape Town was ranked as one of the top 10 friendliest cities by Abroad101. Plus, who wouldn’t want to share their space with zebras, lions, giraffes, and more during a semester?

What to study there: South Africa is a great place to go if you’re looking to study politics or international studies, with such a turbulent history in both of those fields.  It’s also a great place to study linguistics (they have 11 official languages!) or anything involving nature and the environment since many universities are close to nature preserves or areas where tons of different wildlife roam free.

Know before you go: You need to have at least three blank pages in your passport in order to enter South Africa to meet the country-specific requirement imposed by the South African government. You’ll also have to apply for a visa if you’re going to study in South Africa before you embark on your adventure, and will have to meet certain health requirements before you can apply.  Of course, Her Campus can be a good source to start figuring out visa requirements as well.

#11: India

Why it’s awesome: If you’re looking for an adventurous semester abroad, India is for you. It’s a country filled with new sights, smells, and sounds every time you turn around. If you can’t make up your mind about what exactly you’re looking for in a study abroad location, India can be a great place. Since it’s such a big country, it has a lot to offer in terms of study locations, experiences, and cultural opportunities.

What to study there: Keep India in mind if you’re studying anything related to history, religious studies, medicine, technology, or business. Public health programs and concentrations, along with programs that focus on development (especially green, earth-friendly practices!) are also great options for students looking to study abroad in India. As a country that’s rapidly undergoing development in a lot of regions, these are all fields where new advances are being made every day, meaning you’re in a great place to experience your chosen field hands-on and make some significant contributions, depending on the program you go through.

Know before you go: You’ll need a passport that expires at least six months out from your return date to study abroad in India. You’ll also need to apply for a visa regardless of how long you’ll be there. This process could take a month or two, so be sure to apply early.

#10: Argentina

Why it’s awesome: Argentina is awesome if you hablar espanol. It’s the largest (in terms of land area) Spanish-speaking country in the world. As an added bonus, it also has a great mix of beautiful rural areas to explore, along with some fun, vibrant cities to experience at a fraction of the cost you’d spend in bigger European centers.

What to study there: If you’re majoring in art or a social science, Argentina might be a great study abroad fit. Many people living in Argentina descended from European settlers, and have kept certain European cultural products and traditions alive and well in the country. Other than the obvious choice of Spanish, Argentina is also a great place to study subjects like politics, history, and culture, especially if you’re looking for a Latin American perspective in these areas. The country was also home to Juan and Eva Perón, two major political figures in the 20th century.

Know before you go: Everyone from the U.S. is required to pay a reciprocity fee of $160 when entering the country. Argentina also requires a visa in addition to your passport if you’ll be there for more than 90 days. Because of the country’s unique entrance requirements, it’s also suggested that you bring clear proof that you have no criminal history (think background check) with you in checked baggage to get your visa without too much of a hassle.

#9: Ireland

Why it’s awesome: The weather may not be all that nice, but the feel of this country more than makes up for a rainy day here and there. You’ll be amazed at how much pride the Irish can pack into a country, with lots of love shown on a daily basis for their sports teams, their food and drink, their history and heritage, and, of course, the luck of the Irish! (Plus, their accents are adorbs – see Jonathan Rhys Meyers if you need further convincing!)

What to study there: Know that regardless of what you end up studying, a lot of Irish universities put a lot of the responsibility for learning material on students, and won’t necessarily cover everything in a lecture that you’ll be tested on or expected to know later down the road. Ireland is well-known for strong literature and writing programs. With the ongoing Northern Ireland conflict (tensions in a part of the country based on different religious and ethnicity qualms that have been going on since the 1960s), it can also be an interesting place to go if you’re interested in international politics or peace and conflict studies.

Know before you go: Students from the U.S. do not need a visa to study abroad in Ireland. You do, however, need to register with a local Garda National Immigration Bureau after you arrive. Double check on what this requires before you leave. Students also sometimes get issued a visa upon arrival in one of two categories. More information about those can be found here.

#8: Costa Rica

Why it’s awesome: Little known fact to many Americans: Costa Rica has a killer higher education system! With a very literate population, (96 percent according to the most recent stats the demand for quality universities is pretty high. This translates into great programs for more Spanish-speaking students.

What to study there: With such a lush, tropical environment, Costa Rica is a great place to study anything science-related, especially ecology, biology, and other fields related to the environment. It’s also home to many university-sponsored programs that offer special trips and unparalleled research opportunities to explore some of the country’s natural resources.   

Know before you go: Visas in Costa Rica are a bit tricky. Since no U.S.-based Costa Rican embassy can issue a valid student visa for American students studying in Costa Rica, you can only apply for one once you arrive. However, student visa status is typically reserved only for students studying at Costa Rica all four years of their college careers. For this reason, most study abroad programs recommend you enter the country as a tourist, a status that only requires a passport upon entry. 

#7: Germany

Why it’s awesome: Some people may not think German is the sexiest language on the planet, but that’s no reason to shy away from such a schön (German for nice!) study abroad destination! Germany is actually a leader in the science and technology industries, is home to the world’s fourth largest economy, and is the most populated state in the European Union. Plus, the country provides some subsidies to students studying abroad, making it a more affordable destination for many.

What to study there: Clearly this is the most obvious choice to brush up on some Deutsch. It’s also a good location to study engineering, business, or European politics. Germany is a leader in Europe in all of those fields.

Know before you go: You’ll need both a visa and a passport to enter Germany. What type of visa you’ll need and the paperwork that goes along with it depends on how long you’re staying and what type of work you’ll complete while there. This site offers a great explanation of all the different types of visas.

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About The Author

Sydney is a junior double majoring in Media and Cultural Studies and Political Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., a short trip away from Minneapolis, her hometown. When Sydney is not producing content for a variety of platforms, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, reading, and indulging in a smoothie or tea from Caribou Coffee, the MN-based version of Starbucks.