Two cavers near the mouth of a lava cave in Iceland.
The last place anyone wants while studying abroad is living in a boring location. By boring, I don’t just mean the place has little to offer, but also by the total of your friends and fellow American college students who have been there.
So often it seems that students from the U.S. tend to go to the same handful of places again and again when studying overseas. Those places are all fine choices, but aren’t original picks by any means.
Studying abroad in a unique location could do wonders for your street cred on campus. You might become known as an exotic world traveler or a brave explorer who sets off without fear for the great unknown – which are both true anyway, right?
So, check out these locales to kick your sense of adventure going into high gear:
This incredibly intriguing island has, among other things, a near-perfect location. It’s not only a gateway to Europe — being only a short flight away from other European destinations — but it’s also a mere five to six hour flight from American shores as well – much closer than the rest of Europe.
Not that you will want to leave the Land of Fire and Ice much anyway – I mean, with a nickname like that, you’ve clearly got lots of discovering to do.
The best base for student life is Reykjavik, the artsy and modern capital city where most of Iceland’s population lives, and where the University of Iceland lies within walking distance of all of the downtown’s best offerings – even thermal swimming spots, an Icelandic specialty.
Other schools can also be found in town, and for a small sampling of study programs offered, check out this study abroad review site.
Summer study programs are recommended for this icy isle, because you get the advantage of 24 hours of daylight – off-roading across lava rock at midnight, anyone? On the flip side, the dark winter months do at least have the legendary northern lights to keep them company, so a traditional semester program wouldn’t be a total loss.
As the only nation in the Central American region to use English as the official language, Belize already has one perk for U.S. students who aren’t studying Spanish or just prefer to use their mother tongue. There’s also that little additional plus of it being a popular cruise ship stop thanks to fine beaches, beckoning waters, fascinating tropical flora and ghostly ancient ruins.
After class, feast on the fruits of some of these flora, by picking up fresh local produce like pineapple, papaya and mango at one of the many outdoor markets.
If you go during spring semester, there’s really no need to take a spring break trip, because you’d already be at the beach.
But there are plenty of neighboring areas that could fit the bill, too, like Mexico’s Riviera Maya just to the northeast. For students studying in any field related to ecology, ecotourism, conservation or the like, this country is the place to be, as it has a long tradition of being on the cutting edge of preserving its natural assets.
This particular location is very special to me, as it is where I am currently living and going to graduate school. To say it is a student-friendly city would be quite an understatement – upwards of 180,000 students dwell is this academic and cultural hub of the Old World and some of the world’s older universities are here. Jagiellonian University, the city’s largest at around 50,000 students, was founded in 1364.
One handy benefit is that this school and several others are based in the Old Town area, which is where the largest medieval square in Europe pulses with life at all hours and in every season of the year. And by all hours, I DO mean all hours – the city also has the distinction of having the highest concentration of bars in the world – so those of you that are afraid of missing the college nightlife while abroad won’t need to worry.
Taking a leisurely stroll on foot is the best way to soak the city in — and by the way, getting around on foot is also the easiest way in the center of town.
Also, don’t miss the neighboring district of Kazimierz on your walking tour. The former-Jewish neighborhood is where the film Schindler’s List takes place and was filmed. For those who are interested in continuing to learn more about that dark period in history, Auschwitz-Birkenau is not far outside of Krakow.
Have a look at this list of study options to start making all of your Krakovian dreams come true.
Krakow’s bustling and broad main square, with its ever-present horses & carriages.
Wellington, New Zealand
If you were contemplating a semester in Australia, don’t forget about its smaller neighbor to the southeast. Inhabitants still have similar (amazing) accents, but on top of that, there is the added draw for Lord of the Rings fans to have a chance to see the actual astonishing landscapes that served as dramatic backdrops for the famed film series.
Wellington, the second largest city — whose slogan is “New Zealand’s Capital of Cool” — has a hip and funky vibe, the city’s pristine harbor framed by nearby mountains presents a natural oasis intertwined with an urban one.
In between classes, make sure and stop in to one of the numerous unique cafes, or take a longer break and ride the cable car up the hillside towards the clean blue skies and find fantastic photo ops at the summit.
Oh, and just in case you’re into sheep, New Zealand’s got tons of them. Even if you’re not, they can at least aid you in falling asleep at night, with ample supply for counting.
Before you get too sleepy thinking of sheep though, swing by GoAbroad’s Wellington page first.
Wait, what?? You can do that? Sure you can! Remember, when you’ve got the mindset of a true explorer, anything is possible… but, luckily a few programs exist already to make things a little easier for you.
Check out AUIP’s and SUNY Brockport’s to get you started in your South Pole quest, and to have your mind racing with thoughts of meeting penguin friends, encountering the unknown wilderness and seeing enough snow for endless snow angels and snowmen.
Usually, these study experiences are set up as a shorter study tour or a full semester that is done partially in South America. Then, you can go south either by ship or plane, so those who would like to combine their studies with a chance to take to the high seas may just have the opportunity.
So many fabulous choices there are these days! No matter which way you do it, you are sure to have the journey of a lifetime on the planet’s final great frontier.
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