25 Best Places to Study Abroad



If you love to travel and experience new cultures, studying abroad in college is an essential experience. Rarely in your life will you be afforded the opportunity to spend months immersing yourself in a different culture like you can when you study abroad. While 55 percent of American students choose to study in Europe, every country has something to offer to the adventurous student. 

Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite study abroad destinations for American students, based on a variety of factors, including culture, sightseeing, safety, education, cost of living, and more.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

One of Europe’s most unconventional cities, Amsterdam is known for its laid-back atmosphere, exciting nightlife, winding canals, and bike-friendly layout. With over 165 canals and over 1,000 bridges, the city is known as the “Venice of Northern Europe.” But the city is known as much for its liberal culture as its unique infrastructure. The city is home to countless museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, and the Rijksmuseum. American students typically study at CIEE Amsterdam or the University of Amsterdam (UvA), one of the largest universities in all of Europe.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is known far and wide as one of the world’s liveliest cities due to its never-ending nightlife, bustling marketplaces, and vibrant plaza culture. The city has one of Europe’s best live music scenes and an active art world. The city that Gaudi built features some of Europe’s most interesting architecture and one of the best contemporary art museums in Europe, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA). Located on the coast of the Balearic Sea, it is also a beach town, featuring several beaches accessible by public transport. Several universities call Barcelona home, including the University of Barcelona, considered by many to be the best university in Spain and one of the best in Europe.

Beijing, China

China’s capital city is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Bolstered by the rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the past few decades, Beijing has become one of the world’s economic and cultural centers. The city is home to flourishing yet under-the-radar art and music scenes that involve both locals and expatriates. Beijing is a truly international city, with residents from all over China as well as one of the world’s largest expat communities. Study at some of China’s best institutions, including Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Beijing Normal University.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is widely known as one of the best cities in the world for expats, and for good reason. The city is known for hosting a non-conformist and active culture that embraces people of all backgrounds and lifestyles. It is exceptionally easy for American students to live in, as most Berliners speak English very well. It boasts a strong economy, infamous nightlife, and (not to be overlooked) an exceptional public transportation system. Furthermore, the city is one of the cheaper European capitals, centrally located in Europe, and one of the most multicultural cities in the world. American students can study at nearly 40 universities, including the Free University of Berlin, the Technical University of Berlin, and Humboldt University.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is one of South America’s most vibrant cities and surely one of the best study abroad destinations for Spanish-speaking students. The capital city of Argentina is distinguished by its energetic, fast-paced lifestyle, warm and outgoing people, and tolerant culture. It has been called the Paris of Latin America due to its vibrant art and music scenes and bustling street culture. Carnivores will love the food in Argentina, known around the world for its high-quality beef. It is also one of the safest cities in South America and generally very friendly to tourists. Students should look into attending Universidad de Buenos Aires, one of the top universities in all of South America.

Cape Town, South Africa

Boasting many of Africa’s top-rated universities, South Africa is the most popular African country for American students to study abroad in. Cape Town, the capital and second most populous city in South Africa, sits right on the coast and features incredible beaches overlooked by towering mountain peaks. The natural beauty in Cape Town and its surrounding areas is truly spectacular, making it a dream destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. While it is not the safest study abroad location on this list, if you are an experienced and aware traveler, you can easily navigate the country. American students should look into studying at the picturesque University of Cape Town (UCT). Located next to Table Mountain, UCT is the oldest university in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the most diverse in South Africa.

Copenhagen, Denmark

The capital of one of the world’s happiest countries, Copenhagen is one of the safest and wealthiest cities in Europe. Like Amsterdam, it is known for its colorful, canal-lined streets and liberal culture. Study at the University of Copenhagen, a storied institution that claims luminaries of science and philosophy such as Niels Bohr, Tycho Brahe, and Søren Kierkegaard as alumni.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Known for its futuristic architecture and vibrant nightlife, Dubai is one of the wealthiest and most glamorous cities in the world. The most well-known city in the UAE and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East, Dubai is a safe and hospitable country with an active international community. The city is home to some of the region’s best universities, including Zayed University, American University in Dubai, and Al Falah University. Located in the heart of the Arabian desert, Dubai’s natural beauty is astounding. Visitors can take a safari along the desert dunes or enjoy a day on the water at some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Dublin, Ireland

Ireland’s capital city is noted for its exciting nightlife, charming cobblestone streets, gorgeous parks, and some of the world’s friendliest locals. Literature students will find themselves enamored with Dublin’s storied literary legacy, as the city counts luminaries such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Oscar Wilde among its most famed denizens. A short day trip through the lush countryside will take you to spectacular nature sights such as the Cliffs of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, and the Wicklow Mountains. Look for study abroad opportunities at some of Dublin’s local universities, such as University College Dublin (UCD), Trinity College Dublin, and Dublin City University.
For tips on how to enjoy the city on a student budget, check Ireland On A Budget: Cheap Flights, Budget Eats, Nightlife & Sightseeing.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland’s capital city is a quaint and active city beloved for its rolling hills, historic architecture, and buzzing nightlife. Nestled in the picturesque Scottish highlands, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the British Isles, distinguished by its cobblestone alleyways, gothic architecture, and the lush greenery in the surrounding countryside. Edinburgh is also a cultural hub lined with active bars, restaurants, and music venues frequented by students at the University of Edinburgh, one of the world’s top universities.

For tips on how to enjoy the city on a student budget, check Traveling To Edinburgh On A Student Budget.

Florence, Italy

One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Florence is decorated with ornate Renaissance buildings and spectacular artworks. The city is home to 70 museums housing masterworks by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Ghiberti, Donatello, and others, but the city’s proud artistic traditions can also be seen in the fountains and sculptures decorating its many piazzas. As a result, the city is a dream destination for those interested in art, architecture, and history. Many American universities have study abroad programs centered in Florence, particularly programs in art and architecture, but students can also attend local institutions such as the University of Florence and the European University Institute (EUI).

For tips on how to enjoy Florence and other cities on a student budget, check My One-Week Adventure In Italy On A Budget.

Geneva, Switzerland

The financial center of Switzerland and the home of the United Nations, Geneva is one of Europe’s most international cities. A remarkable 40 percent of its population are born internationally. Moreover, 25 percent of the entire population are international students, making it one of the most welcoming study abroad destinations. Its central location in Europe makes it an excellent home base for students who want to spend their study abroad experience traveling across European countries. The University of Geneva is one of the best universities in all of Europe and is particularly well-suited for business students, who have the opportunity to study their craft in one of the global centers of commerce.

Istanbul, Turkey

Historically known as Constantinople and Byzantium, the city of Istanbul served as an imperial capital city for 16 centuries through the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. While Istanbul is not the capital city of the modern Turkish state, it is Turkey’s most populous city, and its long, storied history permeates through the buildings and culture of the city. Split between continental Asia and Europe, Istanbul is one of the most diverse cities in the world, home to immigrants hailing from every continent and a very diverse homegrown population. Featuring spectacular architecture, ancient markets, and delicious mediterranean foods, Istanbul is one of the world’s most distinctive cities and a fantastic study abroad destination. American students should look into studying at Boğaziçi University, Middle East Technical University, or Istanbul Technical University.

Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal’s capital city is best known for its ornate architecture, beautiful weather, and friendly locals. Many cash-strapped students will be delighted to hear that it is also one of the cheapest cities in all of Europe. The picturesque streets are distinguished by cobbled alleyways and building facades covered in hand-painted tiles. A short train ride will take you to the historic coastal town of Sintra, known for its historic architecture, estates, villas, gardens, and palaces. American students should look into studying at Universidade de Lisboa or Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

London, England

Britain’s most international city, London is one of the cultural capitals of the world. This historic city is home to about 40 universities, including some of the world’s leading institutions, such as University College London, Imperial College London, and the London School of Economics (LSE). London also features the  West End theater district, iconic music venues, and spectacular museums such as the National Gallery, the National History Museum, the British Museum, and the Tate Modern, all of which are free to attend. The city is lined with historic and charming pubs, some of which date as far back as the 17th century. And though English food is a common target of derision, London is home to countless world-class restaurants and food markets where you can find a wide array of delicious and diverse international cuisines.

For tips on how to enjoy the city on a student budget, check Traveling To London On A Student Budget.

Madrid, Spain

Warm, affordable, friendly, and diverse, Madrid is one of the best cities for American students to study abroad in. The capital of Spain is a global city that hosts over 10,000 international students annually. It features some of Spain’s best universities, including the internationally recognized Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. Like the other Spanish city on this list, Madrid has one of the most exciting nightlife scenes in all of Europe and some of the continent’s best restaurants. It is also one of Europe’s economic centers, making it a great place to pursue a career after graduation.

For tips on how to enjoy Madrid and other cities on a student budget, check Traveling To Spain On A Student Budget.

Melbourne, Australia

Australia is an increasingly popular study abroad destination for American students, and with good reason. Sunny skies, beautiful beaches, and unique nature and wildlife make the land down under one of the most unique visits on earth. Sydney may be Australia’s most-visited city, but Melbourne is its cultural capital, boasting world-renowned coffee shops, delicious food, colorful street art, countless galleries, and one of the world’s fastest-growing music scenes. Moreover, the University of Melbourne is Australia’s top university, and the 25th-ranked university in the world, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is one of the most diverse and exciting cities in Latin America. One of the largest cities in the world, it is home to more than 150 museums and many more historical and cultural sites. Built on the ancient ruins of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City and its surrounding areas feature many astounding archaeological sites, including the Templo Mayor, and Tlatelolco. The city is also one of the world’s architectural capitals, with countless astounding examples of colonial and modern architecture. It is also an underrated food city, with three of the world’s top 50 restaurants and a plethora of delicious street food options. Students can study at eight of the world’s top ranked universities, including the city’s leading institution, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

Milan, Italy

One of the global capitals of fashion, design, and finance, Milan is one of Italy’s busiest cities and home to Italy’s best universities, including Bocconi University, Politecnico de Milano, and Accademia di Brera. This fast-paced city is steeped in history yet at the cutting edge of many industries. Its positioning in northern Italy and status as an international hub makes it easy to travel throughout Europe. Furthermore, as a center of business, students interested in working internationally will find a plethora of post-graduate employment opportunities here.

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya’s capital city is one of Africa’s major cities and one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. The city is known for its astounding natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Nairobi is home to Kenya’s most important museums, which house countless examples of traditional art from around Africa. Nature and animal lovers will also be amazed by Kenya’s natural beauty; visitors can do a safari through the city’s massive national park, where they can see lions, giraffes, zebras, and lions living in their natural habitat. American students should look into studying at one of Nairobi’s two major universities, the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University, both of which host international students.

Paris, France

The city of romance is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and it’s not hard to understand why. France’s capital city is filled with iconic sights, spectacular art and architecture, and rich food. The city has long been an inspiration for and home to some of the most celebrated artists, writers, musicians, and fashion designers. It boasts 130 (!!!) museums, winding sidewalks, beautiful parks, and one of the world’s greatest café cultures. Students studying abroad in Paris will quickly learn to love the Parisian sights, sounds, and lifestyle. Look into study abroad opportunities at some of Paris’ internationally renowned universities, such as Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL), École Polytechnique, or Sorbonne University.

Prague, Czech Republic

The capital city of the Czech Republic is one of the most storied cities in Europe. The city is home to some of the most unique and spectacular architecture in the world. Much of its historic architecture has been preserved for centuries, including the 600-year old Charles Bridge, the 600-year old Prague Astronomical Clock, and the 1,100-year old Prague Castle, which also happens to be the largest castle complex in the world. In addition to a well-preserved history, Prague is decorated with countless beer gardens, restaurants, cafés, and art galleries. To top it off, as one of the cheapest cities in Europe, Prague is one of the most wallet-friendly cities in Europe. Students often study at local universities like Charles University or at branches of U.S. universities such as NYU Prague.

For tips on how to enjoy the city on a student budget, check A Broke Student’s Travel Guide to Prague.

Seoul, South Korea

South Korea’s capital city is one of the fastest-growing cities and economies in the world. Home to three internationally-renowned universities — Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University — Seoul is an outstanding study abroad destination for ambitious students. It is a city where strong, ancient traditions co-mingle with modernity. This balance of new and old can be seen in the architecture, music, and delicious food. The buzzing, fast-paced city also features some of the best nightlife in the world, with many clubs that are open through the early morning. South Korea is a small country, making it easy to travel from your home base in Seoul to other cities and towns. A short train ride will bring you to the seaside port city of Busan, and a one hour plane ride will bring you to the holiday destination Jeju Island. A trip to either will give you a taste of coastal living in South Korea.

For tips on how to enjoy the city on a student budget, check Travel Seoul Like A Local With A Budget.

Shanghai, China

The commercial center of one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Shanghai is an exciting study abroad destination for students interested in living in East Asia. As a travel hub for Asia, it is a very international city with a large expat community. Fudan University, one of China’s best institutions of higher education, hosts around 2,500 international students annually. If you are interested in living in China after graduation, Shanghai is a dynamic business center home to major international corporations and plenty of post-graduate opportunities.

Tokyo, Japan

In Tokyo, the past and future coexist seamlessly. Like Seoul, the city is lined with ultramodern skyscrapers and bright lights, but built upon an ancient and well-preserved culture apparent in sights like the Meiji Shrine and Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest buddhist temple. Tokyo is the world’s best food city, with the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any city in the world and unparalleled street food. It also boasts one of the world’s greatest nightlife scenes in neighborhoods such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, Roppongi, and others. Tokyo is also frequently ranked as the safest big city in the world. American students can study at some of the best universities in the world, including the University of Tokyo, Osaka University, and Nagoya University.


Studying abroad in college is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture. Use your college education as a springboard to experience the world.

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