With so many exciting and exotic countries to choose from, offering you anything from sunny climes and beautiful beaches to snow and cosy coffee houses or bars, choosing where to study abroad certainly isn’t easy.
Of course, if you are doing a sandwich degree at university and studying a language, your options will be fewer, but even then, spanish for example can take you to a whole host of wildly different countries.
To study abroad is to experience new things. What type of new experiences you are looking for can definitely affect where you ultimately end up moving, but there are also other factors to bear in mind when you pick your foreign destination.
So if you’re all in on the idea of studying abroad, you've read up on the important information for studying abroad and have asked yourself the question ‘which university should I go to?’ more than a few times, then this article should help you narrow down your options!
Choosing a continent
As seems to be the logical way of thinking, we’re going to start with choosing the right continent, and then think about the individual countries and universities.
In order to answer the question as to which continent will be your best bet, it’s important to ask why you want to study abroad.
What you expect to gain from the experience should play a very important role in the continent you end up in.
If you are down to have a completely new experience of life in a land far away from your own, you might opt for Asia for example.
Or say your focus is language - let’s take Spanish as an example - but you have already been to Spain on holiday several times, maybe studying abroad somewhere in the Americas could be the right move for you.
Then there’s the richly diverse continent of Europe which provides vast scope for easy travel, and a wide variety of cultures and countries to explore!
Most popular continents for studying abroad
With that said, what makes these particular continents the most popular for studying abroad?
Perhaps the most popular continent for studying abroad - for both Europeans and Americans alike - Europe has it all.
- The diversity
A study abroad experience in Europe is whatever you want it to be. With more opportunities to travel than you can shake a stick at, Europe is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes, the most incredible gastronomy, and fascinating history.
What’s great about travel in Europe is that you can find yourself deep within the mountains and forests of Bavaria, skiing in the high snow-capped peaks of Switzerland, or sunbathing on the white sand beaches of Andalusia.
This diversity is reflected throughout the continent, with myriad climates and environments (both natural and man-made) to make sure you never lose that incredible feeling of wanderlust that comes with any study abroad experience.
- The languages
In Europe, there are 24 official languages, and over 200 in total.
If you are a language lover like me, this is an exciting prospect. Studying abroad in Europe opens the doors for communication in many different languages.
What’s more, a lot of these languages are grouped together, like the romantic or the slavic languages. This means that if you go to Spain and pick up spanish, you can then go to Portugal and in theory you will at least be able to understand some written word if not spoken.
If you don’t yet have the language-learning bug, you might just contract it during your stay in Europe. The urge to be able to communicate and converse with those around you will become so great that you’ll find yourself wanting to get as immersed as possible to better engage with the people around you.
With the most incredible scenery and natural environments, the Americas are a fantastic place to unlock your creative side and come out of your shell.
- The nature
If hiking or being in nature are things that you value at all, then studying abroad in the Americas is unlikely to disappoint!
Take the surreal vistas and treks of Patagonia in Chile as an example, the paradisiacal island of Costa Rica with its coral reefs and exotic wildlife, or the ancient settlement of Machu Picchu hidden deep within the Peruvian mountains.
If your idea of a perfect term studying abroad involves a lot of memorable hikes and outdoor activities, combined with the rich cultural expression that can be found in the cities of the continent, then look no further than the Americas.
- The culture
In many countries in the Americas, the cultural expression is strong and the experiences that can be had coming into contact with various cultures have the potential to be fantastic.
From the world-renowned mouthwatering cuisine of Mexico, typically enjoyed from street vendors, to the numerous awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Sites and ostentatious celebrations and all-out parties such as Brazil’s Carnival.
The nature in the Americas might draw you in, but the people and the culture are what can convince you to stick around.
Asia has the potential to turn your life on its head, and show you a completely new life to that which you currently know.
- Step outside your comfort zone
If the furthest you’ve ever travelled is France or a few hours flight from wherever you currently live, then chances are a move to Asia will be a big step outside of your comfort zone.
This is a big positive for a number of reasons.
First, as we’ll cover in the next point, it will bolster your CV and give you the confidence to go out and apply for jobs you might not have otherwise considered.
Next, if you can pack up your life and move to Asia for however long your term is, what can’t you do?
Proving to yourself that you’re capable of moving to the other side of the world where the food, language, and just about everything else is different from your own is a big step to boosting self-confidence.
- Improve your employability
A study abroad experience in Asia will look impressive on any CV or job application, that’s a fact.
Being bold enough to live somewhere the language is hugely different from your own halfway across the world, with culture shock ramped up to the maximum, reads well for potential employers.
It also speaks volumes for your independence and initiative, which are both highly sought after skills by companies.
Choosing a country
Choosing a country becomes a lot easier once you know what continent you want to live in.
Like the decision you made about which continent to go to, choosing a country should include similar factors.
Do you want to live somewhere the sun is always shining like the Canary Islands in Spain? Somewhere you can observe ancient history in the streets like Rome in Italy? Somewhere you can go on unforgettable hikes like Patagonia in Chile?
One thing to bear in mind though when making this choice is that just because Spain for example has a reputation for tapas, flamenco, and sunshine, it doesn’t mean that is the case all through the country. Go to Galicia in the north(as I did) and you will find a very different experience, more comparable with Ireland than Spain.
Plus you will need to factor in costs, but that shouldn't deter you from one particular country, since financial help is available.
Let’s take a quick look at one of the more popular countries from each of the most popular continents.
Studying in Spain
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit biased here, since I’ve been living in Spain for 3 years already, with nothing but good things to say about the country (aside from the bureaucracy at times).
One little known fact about Spain is that tapas, flamenco, and sunshine aren’t the norm. This stereotype of Spain is derived wholly from the south of Spain, namely the large region of Andalusia, where you can find all of those things in abundance!
Spain is actually a country made up of many different regions which each have their own strong cultural identity, and some even with their own language.
Studying abroad in Spain is worth it just for the epic festivals. You have the pure silly fun of ‘la tomatina’, which involves hurling tomatoes at strangers in the streets of a small town, ‘Las Fallas’ in Valencia which is bonfire night x100, and ‘La feria’ in most Andalusian cities which is a huge deal to the locals.
These are just a few of the standout festivals, not to mention the bull run in Pamplona etc.
Aside from that, good food, fantastic plazas and outdoor eating, and a very laid back outlook on life make Spain a stellar choice.
Studying in Japan
One of the most popular Asian destinations for studying abroad is Japan, and it’s easy to see why.
With its reverence for ritual and respect, the Japanese culture is one which is easy to like, and alluring in equal measure.
I’m sure you’ve tried popular Japanese sushi and ramen dishes before, but nothing quite compares to the exquisite cuisine on the island country, where your money will stretch much further than normal.
Japan itself can provide quite a contrast too, while home to some of the most beautiful, tranquil temples on earth and the remarkable cherry blossom trees, it also boasts some of the liveliest cities which are at the forefront of technology.
Studying in Argentina
Argentina is an exciting country with a lot to offer for any study abroad experience.
Pick up an expressive new dance in the form of tango, practise your spanish, or trek through the breathtaking landscapes including one of the largest waterfalls in the world Iguazu falls.
Argentinian cuisine is excellent, and the steakhouses will blow you away, especially when your meal is paired with one of the country’s great wines produced from the Mendoza region.
The country is best described as a mix of European and Latin American elements, providing the best of both continents, with an amazing arts scene, impressive architecture, the walkability of European cities, and the vast nature of Latin American countries.
Choosing a university
The university you choose to study at also has a big impact on how your experience will be, since one of the main reasons you will be abroad is to study of course.
Whether you base your study abroad destination decision on the country or the university is up to you, but if you decide to do the latter there are a few factors to consider.
First of course, look up the best universities for your area of study. If you’re looking for the best education possible, then that’s your best bet to find it.
You can also do this by checking the international study rankings, to see where they rank on a global scale.
If, however, you are going abroad as part of a language degree, you might be better off considering which country you’re most likely to get on with, since your best chance of improving your language skills is speaking to the locals.
Lastly it’s worth seeing what other people have said, who are perhaps interested in the same field of study as you, since they will have an opinion on the university they studied at.