Study abroad can be a life-changing experience for a college student. I’ll never forget my experience in Zimbabwe, for instance. Before I spent a semester during my junior year at Colorado College studying in this Southern African nation, I was sure I wanted to go to medical school and work in a major U.S. city. But when I returned from Zimbabwe, I was smitten with a desire to explore more of the world. As a result, I ended up joining the student newspaper and pursuing a career in journalism rather than medicine. I then spent the better part of the decade after I graduated from college continent hopping around the globe, including multiple returns trips to Africa, writing more than 30 travel guides for Lonely Planet.
I’m far from the only one who had a transformative study abroad program. Today Eric Stoen runs a popular family travel blog,
Travel Babbo which has roots in his experience studying in Italy and Germany while at Pepperdine University.
“After Pepperdine, I got my Masters in International Management, largely as a result of my studies in Europe, and I kept traveling,” Stoen says. “A long weekend – why not go to Australia? A friend’s birthday in Lithuania? Absolutely. And now with kids, I’ve continued to travel. My 10-year-old has been to all seven continents. My eight-year-old has been to 37 countries. I’ve never gotten tired of traveling, and it all started with my year abroad in Florence.”
Not everyone who participates in a study abroad program ends up globetrotting for a living, of course, many settles down into traditional careers, but still, credit their experience in another country as beneficial on many different levels. Study abroad can boost a resume, give you something to talk about with future employers, prove your ability to yourself to thrive in a foreign environment or simply allow you to immerse yourself completely in a new culture to learn its point of view. It’s been a tradition at American colleges and universities for about 100 years now.
Today nearly every college and university in the U.S. offer some kind of study abroad program, although, according to the University of Arkansas less than 3% of the total college population in the U.S. takes advantage of this chance to be a citizen of the world, at least for a semester. And not all study abroad programs are created equal. While some schools offer hand-tailored, often faculty-led programs that are academically rigorous, others are essentially just an excuse to party in another country. Here we focus on the programs that will give you the best bang for you buck, so to say. Schools that focus on academics as well as broadening a student’s horizon, and provide experiences that will be beneficial in the real world, whether it comes to snagging your dream job post graduation, or in my case, a program that changes not only your world view but also your career path. From small liberal arts colleges to state universities, here are 25 schools to look at for their standout study abroad programs.
University of San Diego
A large number of students at the University of San Diego choose to study abroad during their undergraduate education and as such the school offers 135 programs in 44 different countries, offering something for nearly every kind of student, including options for individual research and internships that look great on
The Madrid Center is USD’s first permanent, international campus. Opened in Nov. 2014, it is located in the heart of Madrid, just steps from the famous Prado Museum, and is the new anchor at the center of the university’s study abroad program. Students that choose to study abroad here for a semester will find the courses offered are similar to those at the San Diego campus and are taught by USD faculty and staff living on-site.
Middlebury Schools Abroad offers students at this small liberal arts college “an authentic experience through guided independence, allowing students to immerse themselves as fully as they wish in the host language and culture,” according to the school’s website.
Middlebury has 16 different study abroad programs at sites affiliated with local university, and each varies regarding size and what is studied, but the school is careful only to choose international institutions that remain true to Middlebury’s core values of small classes and individualized attention to students.
Additionally, a Middlebury staff member oversees each site ready to offer academic and personal support. Students are allowed to tailor their study abroad experience to meet their credit needs and goals but must do so under the oversight of the site staff member.
Students at Boston University can choose to study abroad in more than 30 cities in programs located on six continents. While the majority of BU’s programs are open to qualified students from other universities if space allows, there are 14 programs open only to students enrolled in BU. These include options to live, study and travel in Paris, London, Sydney and Quito among other locales. The BU programs are multi-focused with an expansive course choice in a variety of subjects.
Programs include opportunities to be totally immersed in the local language and culture through home-stays or courses in the native tongue as well as options to study science, business, engineering, and fine arts among other disciplines.
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas is another excellent public school option for study abroad. It offers students a chance to join faculty-led programs around the globe that let students explore a specific subject matter in depth. This includes faculty-led programs in apparel merchandising and =product development in Milan to global community development in Mozambique to international business in Brazil.
The university also has an exclusive center in Rome. Located in the heart of this historic global city, students take core classes offered through the university plus upper-level electives in Italian language, culture, art, and history.
Beyond faculty-led programs, students can also choose from programs at affiliated universities.
Sarah Lawrence College
More than 50% of Sarah Lawrence College students study abroad and the school boasts the longest-running Cuba study program in the U.S. The college prides its global study abroad programs run by its faculty for allowing students to receive the same small seminar-style classes and individual work with faculty that they’d get at SLC, while at the same time experiencing a new culture.
Besides the Cuba program, the small liberal arts college offers programs in the UK, including London, Paris, Peru, Japan, and China.
For many programs, students need to have elementary proficiency in the host country’s language. For instance, the Beijing program requires one year of Chinese at the college level while for the Lima program, students need a high level of Spanish fluency to participate in classes that are not taught in English. The college also offers some less intense summer study abroad options.
With eight of its own programs around the globe in Florence, London, Madrid, Strasbourg, Istanbul, Beijing, Hong Kong and Santiago, as well as some 60 partner programs around the globe, Syracuse University places a strong emphasis on study abroad.
In its eight centers, students design their own academic programs based on language abilities and study goals with the assistance of an academic director and a support staff at the center. And the Syracuse operated programs include home-stay portions, internships, field studies and community engagement led by this staff.
The school also offers affiliated programs for students that want a more specific study abroad program – for instance, you can attend film school in Prague or study biodiversity in Madagascar.
West Virginia University
One of a handful of state schools to make our list, West Virginia University has a diverse study abroad program that has been in operation for nearly a 100-years now. They offer a large number of faculty-led programs to all corners of the globe – from Trinidad & Tobago to Turkey, Romania to Vietnam, Greece to Poland — as well as a strong financial aid program to give any student who wants to spend a semester abroad the chance to do so.
“In today’s interconnected and global world, having an international experience can help set you apart and give you valuable skills that will help you in the future. WVU is committed to providing unique,educational, and rewarding international opportunities to its students” the university website’s study abroad page states.
Studying in another country and culture is the best way to gain knowledge of that place. Nothing besides the experience itself will teach the nuances of cultural norms, expectations, and perspectives.
Beyond its faculty-led programs, the university also offers exchange programs and programs for credit through affiliated schools.
About 900 students earn academic credit in over 40 countries through Georgetown University study abroad programs. Students have opportunities to earn academic credit in a semester, full year, or summer study abroad programs that are catered to undergraduates in Georgetown College, the Walsh School of Foreign Service, the McDonough School of Business, and the School of Nursing and Health Studies.
The university also has three international satellite campuses: in Alanya, Turkey, Fiesole, Italy and Doha, Qatar. Here students take the same courses offered at the D.C. campus, just taught by visiting faculty.
These satellite campuses provide a living meets learning community for students. And both locations have Georgetown hired staff that supports students and help plan excursions to regional locations.
More than half of Connecticut College students study abroad during their time at the liberal arts college. Students can select from either carefully selected affiliated study abroad programs or through their own Study Away/Teach Away programs (SATA).
The SATA programs are offered in South Africa, Vietnam, Italy, Cuba and Peru offer a group of ten to twenty students the unique opportunity to join Connecticut College professors in a joint educational enterprise that is designed to enhance their knowledge and appreciation of political, economic and social systems significantly different from their own.
During the SATA semester, students carry a regular course load, taking classes offered by the Connecticut College professors as well as faculty at the host institution.
The academic focus varies, depending on the location and the academic interests of the professors leading the program that semester. Most of the SATA programs also include field trips
dedicated to helping students develop a greater appreciation for the region in which they are studying.
Students also have the choice of staying with host families or in the dorms of the host university (note you won’t be taking general classes, just using the university grounds for studies with your group).
When it comes to studying abroad, this Ivy League university offers dozens of programs around the world led by Dartmouth faculty. Some programs focus on language fluency with total immersion, where students live with host families while studying the culture, history, and language of the country they are living in.
Known as Language Study Abroad, these programs are offered in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Peru, Argentina, China, Brazil, Japan and Russia, and include several excursions to surrounding regions during the semester.
The school also runs Foreign Study Programs that are designed to bring the Dartmouth classroom abroad. On these programs, professors take students on specific academic adventures at the source: study theater in London, biology in Costa Rica, or environmental studies in southern Africa, for instance.
At Guilford College, a very lucky 14 students are chosen to study each semester inside a medieval 12th-century castle in the Italian Alps in what is known as the Brunnenburg Semester. The castle is on a hill above the town of Merano, which is near the Austrian border, and students regularly head into the South Tyrol region of Austria on foot for learning excursions with professors.
During the semester students also take more extended outings via various European landmarks, cities and historic sites. Weekends are reserved for explorations with other students with iconic destinations from Venice to Vienna just a short train-ride away.
The Brunnenburg Semester is just one of the dozens of programs offered around the world either directly through the college or with affiliated schools where credits are sure to transfer. Guilford also offers financial help in the form of scholarships to qualifying students.
University of Denver
This private liberal arts school in Denver city limits is also known for having a large percentage of its students study abroad during their time at DU and offers programs around the world. The school works hard to make these programs accessible to students regardless of the financial situation through its Cherrington Global Scholars program that offers scholarships to offset costs to qualifying students.
Why does the school offer scholarship options? Well, the university believes the study abroad experience is integral to a deeper understanding of other cultures as well as your own.
“At the University of Denver, we strive to develop cross-cultural connections–and the new perspectives that come with them–by encouraging students to study and live abroad for at least one quarter. We want our graduates to appreciate and understand the differences and interdependencies that characterize our world,” according to the school’s website.
This small college affiliated with the United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi encourages all its students to study abroad, believing it is a “powerful tool for understanding and appreciating our complex world,”according to Millsap College’s website.
And the school has a really unique option in its campus on a 4,500-acre Biocultural Reserve on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. A hugely varied number of courses for a study abroad program are offered at the Yucatan campus, ranging from archaeology to ecology, geology to history, business and education, literature to social-cultural anthropology.
The Reserve also boasts an off-the-grid Research and Learning Center, which is a laboratory and research facility in the nearby town of Oxkutzcab, and a dormitory-classroom facility. Students can also choose to return for multiple semesters and conduct research at the facility while continuing to take classes, making it truly a one-of-a-kind college study abroad program.
Duke University offers 150 University administered programs around the globe for its students. The school offers, even more, options through affiliated university programs, meaning that no corner of the world is left unturned.
One of the newest Duke sponsored programs is a semester in India that focuses on both urban and rural life. During the first half of the semester, students live in a village and research poverty and global health.
For the second half of the semester, they head to Bangalore, one of India’s largest cities, to study health and development issues, urban environments and slums, and income disparities in the sub-continent. One of the most special parts of this program for animal-loving students, however, is the week spent at the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve. Here the focus is on learning about endangered species and the link between conservation and development.
St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College has six of their own study abroad programs for students, and also participates in a consortium program with other colleges of similar academic standards and philosophies. This allows the small liberal arts college to offer more diversity in the international programs it offers, without sacrificing the mission of integrating academic and experiential education.
The school believes the experiential component of study abroad amplifies and extends the liberal learning that occurs on campus while enhancing “students’ global perspective by helping them encounter and understand changes confronting our world in a context of global community and world citizenship,” according to the St Olaf College website.
St Olaf run programs include a semester in Turkey and Morocco, comparing three Asian cultures in Asia or, a “Global Semester,” where students studying in Europe, the Mideast and Asia over the course of the term, as well as options to study in environmental science in Australia, biology in India and Chinese society and culture in China.
University of Chicago
Whether it is neuroscience at the Center in Paris, which is known as the University of Chicago’s research and teaching arm in Europe or colonization in Hong Kong, the University of Chicago is known for its study abroad options, many of which are led by its own faculty. Students also have the option of directly enrolling in specially selected programs at local universities in cities from Beijing to Berlin.
The Center in Paris, however, is the center of the university’s study abroad universe with more than 200 undergraduates studying here each year at what is essentially a mini version of the Chicago campus. A full range of courses, taught by University of Chicago professors, is offered covering social sciences, natural sciences, the humanities, and physical sciences.
More than 65% of Earlham College students will spend a semester or year in another country, and the college places a big emphasis on its study abroad opportunities. These include both Earlham specific and affiliated programs in everywhere from Tanzania to France, Germany to Austria.
Earlham itself sponsors programs in Japan, Ecuador, India, New Zealand, London, and Spain. Each program is unique with a distinct focus. For instance, in India, you’ll be studying Tibet. Based in Dharamsala, home to the Dalai Lama and his exiled government, and considered the cultural and intellectual capital of the Tibetan exile community, students in this program gain in-depth, first-hand understanding of issues Tibetan refugees face.
If you want to spend a year studying in another country, consider Pepperdine, where the majority of students study abroad for a full academic year during their sophomore year. The school offers programs in Florence, Heidelberg, London, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, and Lausanne. Students live and study in Pepperdine-owned facilities with faculty from the school’s Malibu campus, ensuring high academic standards.
“Each program had between 35 and 50 students in university-owned residences,” says Alum Eric Stoen, who spent a full year in Florence and a summer in Heidelberg while earning his bachelor’s degree at the University.
“It wasn’t an immersion program, and our language fluency suffered a little as a result, but the bonding was incredible. I loved all the experiences. Every weekend was three days, so we would leave Thursday night to explore Europe, coming back before classes started on Monday morning.”
From Dakar, Senegal to Perth, Australia, Chiang Mai, Thailand to Quito, Ecuador, Kalamazoo College students have options to study in far-flung corners of the globe, both in programs offered directly through the school’s Center for International Programs or with an affiliated program at an academically comparable college. There are 42 programs available in 23 countries, and most students at Kalamazoo spend at least six months out of the country before graduation.
Many of the Kalamazoo study abroad programs also allow students to earn credit for participating in an “Integrative Cultural Research Project.” These students interact with the local community in a structured project manner to create results and compose an essay for a grade at the end of the program. It’s another way for students to be able to immerse themselves in the culture and practice the language skills of the region being studied.
Northwestern students can choose to study all over the globe with more than a hundred different program choices run by the well-respected school in the Chicago suburbs itself or partner programs with affiliated American colleges and universities.
Many of the programs run by Northwestern are theme-based and include options like public health programs in Cuba, Israel, China and South Africa among other countries and global engagement studies in the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Kenya, and India.
Northwestern also offers a number of study abroad opportunities through its top-rated Medill School of Journalism that includes journalism residency programs in South Africa, Argentina, and Qatar among others.
Other options include a semester in Oman, where students learn about Islam and the Middle East while living in a peaceful, Arab country. Here, students study and live in Muttrah, which is the old part of the capital city of Muscat, and courses include Christian-Muslim relations and Arabic. Best of all, you’ll get to spend time traveling throughout the region – from climbing the Wahiba sand dunes to riding camels or watching sea turtles lay eggs – experiencing a destination not always accessible to tourists.
At Emerson College 85 lucky students get to spend a semester living and studying European cultures, civilizations, and languages at Kasteel Well, a beautifully restored 14th-century medieval castle, complete with two moats, in The Netherlands.
Students must apply a year in advance for the program, and are selected by a random lottery (it’s that popular!) for the school’s premier study abroad program.
The program, which lasts for a semester and is offered twice a year, focuses not only on rigorous classroom education but also on exploring beyond the castle’s lush grounds. As such the program has three-day weekends where independent travel is encouraged. There are also two group trips per semester to Amsterdam and either Vienna or Madrid.
Trinity College celebrated the 45th anniversary of its study abroad program in Rome in 2015 and the college in Connecticut’s capital offers its students a number of different options for international travel, including summer, semester and year-long study away programs in locations from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, Trinidad & Tobago to Paris, Shanghai to Cape Town.
Established in 1998, just a few short years after Apartheid ended, the Trinity-in- Cape Town program offers students to spend a semester or a year abroad in my favorite city in the world, Cape Town. Known for its exceptional natural beauty, striking architecture, and diverse population, it is a cultural epicenter with a diverse population that spans a rainbow of colors. From an amazingly diverse live music scene to world-class restaurants, beautiful beaches, and regional explorations that include safari adventures, Cape Town is a fantastic, dynamic study abroad destination.
The Trinity College programs require students to enroll in a for-credit academic internship at a local school, museum, medical clinic, or other institution that allows for direct engagement with the local community.
University of Washington
Whether you are studying indigenous Sami culture and connections to the land in Arctic Europe or island migrations, health, and social justice in Sardinia, the University of Washington offers many faculty-led study abroad programs that let students work closely with trusted university faculty members in small group settings.
“The programs really work to integrate travel, education, and service-learning. It’s decidedly not, ‘Just go overseas and (play) around for a few months of credit,” says Adam Karlin, who participated in one of the university’s studies abroad programs. “It was some of the most challenging, rewarding, and fun experience I had in school.”
Another rewarding aspect of the University of Washington programs is that the professor leading the study abroad adventure is responsible for designing the semester’s curriculum. Programs are open to students from any of the three University of Washington campuses.
More than 80% of students will study abroad while at Colorado College, a unique liberal arts college in Colorado Springs that operates on the block plan, where students take one class at a time for 3 ½ weeks, each of which is equivalent to a semester’s worth of credit at the traditional university.
As such, the school has an incredible amount of flexibility when it comes to studying abroad, and some of its most prized programs take students directly into the field for a block – so you can study tropical coral reef ecology in Belize or head to Paris to take an English class that studies the 20th-century African-American literature created in the City of Light at the source. The school also offers semester-long programs, led by either its own faculty or as part of a consortium of approved schools with similar academic standards.
“Colorado College believes in the value of an international, interculturally explorative education for its students,” according to the school’s study abroad website. “There is a wide world out there waiting to be explored — a rich and dazzling array of cultures and subjects, languages, and people. An educational experience that purposefully immerses its student in something entirely different from what they know is an education that can put your entire college career into a new light.”
Goucher College prides itself on its top-notch study abroad program. So much so that this innovative, small liberal arts college just outside of Baltimore, MD mandates all students study outside the country at least once before graduation.
“At Goucher College, we believe that no matter who you are or what you want to do in life, the global community of the 21st century demands that you have an international perspective,” according to the school’s study abroad page.
And with some 60 programs in 32 different countries lasting from three weeks to a year in length, Goucher offers endless possibilities: go to college in Australia, intern in London, practice peacebuilding in Africa, or enhance second language skills over a summer in Argentina or France, China or Jordan. Best of all, if once is not enough, Goucher also offers a list of additional international fellowship and volunteer opportunities for students craving more global immersion.