If you’re leaving the country for a semester, make it count!
When it comes to college, we’re all about getting the most out of the experience. One of the best ways to capitalize on those unique four years? Study abroad. Whether it’s for a semester, a summer, or an inter-term month, skipping town for a bit is a means of immersing yourself in a new culture, learning a foreign language, and meeting lifelong friends. Once you’ve decided totake on the adventure, however, you’ll probably be left a big question: Where should I go? The possibilities may seem endless, but readers gave us on the dish on the very best places to study abroad.
Hong Kong, China
“Living in a city of Hong Kong’s magnitude really does something to you. The most overwhelming part is the population density, closely followed by the brightest, most impressive skyline in the world. The overall infrastructure is incredible. From high-speed trains to over-water trams to insane skyscrapers, you really feel like you’re in an episode of the Jetsons, but cooler. My program allowed me to visit the stock exchange, the port of Hong Kong (the busiest import and export facility in the world), and a number of large corporations and financial institutions. We split our time between learning in the classroom and participating in site visits, board meetings, and panel discussions with real-life business leaders. It was amazing! Also, you haven’t Dim Summed until you’ve done it in HK.” —Courtney G., 23
“Madrid is a cosmopolitan city known not for its sights, but for its energy. It’s not that the landmarks aren’t cool—I especially loved the Plaza Mayor, the grand Prado Museum, and the Royal Palace—but the Spanish way is what makes the biggest impact on you. You’ll adjust to the fact that stores and restaurants close for a two-hour period in the middle of the day, and you won’t wait until the end of the week to do any shopping since most places are closed on Sundays. Most importantly though, life in Madrid is lived out in the open. You’ll see Spaniards energetically walking and talking, sipping cafes for hours, and eating dinner until what we would consider far past our bedtimes. The community of people celebrating no matter the occasion is truly the best thing about the city.” —Martin L., 23
Cape Town, South Africa
“My semester in Cape Town was my first time in Africa. My program toured around, and we saw everything from the beautiful beaches to the townships where we helped build a house. South Africa has a lot of history and culture that can be seen just by exploring all the different neighborhoods, but there are also really great museums and other historic sites. For me, the highlights were playing soccer with local kids in the townships, petting a baby lion, and being in an underwater cage surrounded by great white sharks. Really, animals are everywhere! When you’re walking down the street, you’ll see hippo and wild boar crossing signs and warnings about monkeys that will break into your room and steal your hats and jewelry if you don’t lock the doors.” —Alyssa B., 25
“I studied French for eight years before spending a fall in Paris. My favorite class was my daily language lesson, which was held in the most charming little classroom. The professor was a Parisian woman who had more impact on my grammar, vocabulary, and accent than any of the teachers who attempted to force French on me for nearly a decade. Rather than traveling on weekends, I chose to spend every free second of my time soaking up the city. As a result, I racked up a number of favorite spots to visit—neighborhood museums, local cafes, late-night haunts. By the time I left—in tears, of course—I could navigate Paris’s winding streets blindfolded!” —Dena S., 22
Prague, Czech Republic
“The main reason I chose to study abroad in Prague was because I knew nothing about it before I went. I can now confidently say that it’s one of the most underrated cities in Europe; it’s small, and by the end of your time there, you’ll get to know it extremely well. But despite its size, there’s so much to do! You can visit the Prague Castle and the Communist Museum, and take a boat tour down the Charles River. Another great thing about Prague is how easy it is to travel around the rest of the continent; I was able to go to Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Florence, Berlin, Munich, London, and Budapest all in one semester.” —Sydney S., 22
“I studied at the University of Sydney, which is located right in the middle of the city and is only 15 minutes from the beach. I would take a surf lesson at Bondi in the morning, attend classes in the afternoon, and have a fun night out on the town all in one day. Whether you’re in the mood for kayaking or skydiving, open-air cinemas or shopping at the local markets, this place has it all. There are the best organic cafes and free freshwater swimming pools located on every beach.The public transportation is really easy to use, but the best way to see the city is by water! Grab your friends and take a day trip to Manly by ferry; you’ll be able to snap a photo of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge all in one take. And when you’d rather check them out on land, be sure to book tickets to see an outdoor concert on the steps of the awesome venue.” —Olivia O., 23
Buenos Aires, Argentina
“I studied Spanish for eight years and decided South America would be a great place to go, not to mention the fact that people call Buenos Aires the ‘Paris’ of the continent. The schools are unlike anything a typical American student would expect, but there’s no better way to learn than oral exams in another language! BA definitely lives up to its reputation with regard to its beauty, architecture, cafe culture, and high fashion. I also loved exploring the city’s street fairs and seeing outdoor tango performances. I was even able to travel to 11 of the 13 provinces and basically see the entire country! One of my favorites was Patagonia, which is located at the southern tip and is full of glaciers, penguins, and sea lions. It was also cool to see the Andes Mountains and Mendoza, the beautiful wine country.” —Marisa S., 20
“Rich in art, culture, and fashion, Florence quickly transformed from a small foreign city into my home. From attending church in the exquisite Duomo to watching the sun set at Piazza Michelangelo, Italy truly captured my heart. And don’t get me started on the food! I highly recommend taking an authentic cooking class or two. I also loved the slower pace of life—I really learned to appreciate it so much! And while, yes, classes are required, I didn’t have to take any boring lectures. In my intro to journalism class, I had the opportunity to go out and interview one of Italy’s finest leather makers and my segment aired on TV!” —Aubrey S., 23
“I chose to study in Beijing because it’s about as different from the States as you can get when it comes to study abroad destinations. Being there ripped me from my comfort zone and opened my eyes to a totally foreign culture. Did you know there are more than 21 million people in Beijing? You definitely have to be OK with being in a crowd every moment of every day. The city is very easy to get around thanks to great public transportation, and there are hundreds of street markets and alleyways filled with exotic foods. I even ate a deep fried scorpion!” —Alexia C., 23
“My six months in London were the most challenging and life-changing ones to date. It’s an amazing city! The museums are all free and totally incredible. The theater scene is great, as is the shopping. There are also tons of exchange students, so if you’re at a large school like University College London, you can reach out to the kids from other countries. I met a lot of Parisian students who, just like me, were spending the semester in England. Just don’t be mad when Londoners impersonate you as a Valley Girl! It’s not that you’re obnoxious, it’s just the equivalent of your awful British accent.” —Beth P., 21
See the piece in Teen Vogue.