Unlocking the World: Your Guide to Choosing the Perfect Study Abroad Program

Last updated on July 19th, 2024 at 10:28 am

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Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to continue your education while seeing the world, meeting new people, and experiencing other cultures. However, the sheer number of study-abroad destinations and programs can make choosing one daunting.

That’s why our team here at Remitly put together this guide to choosing a study abroad program. Read on to get tips on how to select a location and school so that you can make an informed decision regarding international study.

How to choose a study abroad location

When considering study abroad programs, location is a good starting point. Once you have an idea of where you want to study, you can determine whether direct enrollment at a foreign university in that country or a program through a third-party provider is the right fit for you.

If you want to study abroad, ask yourself these questions to narrow your destination options.

What are your travel goals?

Is there a specific country or region you have always wanted to visit? If so, studying abroad can allow you to experience it for a semester or an entire academic year.

What does your home university offer?

Many universities have a study abroad office. Get in touch with yours to learn about your school’s featured study abroad programs. While there are other opportunities to travel abroad for higher education, making arrangements through your current school may simplify planning.

What are your academic goals?

Many students look for a study abroad program that fits their college curriculum. For example, you could take courses for your major during the summer while learning about new cultures or study in another country to fulfill a specific requirement.

Where are you from?

Your home country will determine what steps you need to take to obtain a student visa to attend a study abroad program. What languages you speak may also influence your decision. You may want to go to a place where you already speak the native language or think the best country is one where you don’t know the language and can learn while abroad.

Study Abroad Programs

What are your personal preferences?

Do you prefer somewhere warm or cold? Would you like to be in a big city, a smaller town, or a mostly rural area? Are you hoping to stay in on-campus housing for convenience, rent an apartment for more freedom, or live with a host family to immerse yourself in a new culture?

What financial resources are available to you?

Financial aid may be available through your university to spend the school year or a semester in particular countries. There are also study-abroad scholarships for specific programs and studying in certain countries. In addition, some countries offer free or low-cost tuition for international students.

Top 4 places to study abroad for language immersion

If language learning is your goal, consider studying abroad in one of the following countries, which are regarded as among the best for commonly studied languages due to the number of speakers in the country and the quality of education.

Spain (Spanish)

More than 360 million people speak Spanish worldwide, and if you want to be able to communicate with them, Spain is a great place for your studies.

You can study abroad and enjoy the big city life in Madrid while studying at AIL Madrid. Learn about Spanish cultural traditions and history in Cadiz, or immerse yourself in a smaller city that moves at a slower pace by studying in Salamanca.

France (French)

The official language of more than 25 countries, French is one of the most commonly spoken romance languages, and France is an excellent place to learn it.

See the sights and enjoy the flavors of Paris while studying at Accord. Be mere miles from the Mediterranean Sea in Montpellier.

Japan (Japanese)

If you want to learn Japanese and experience a brand new local culture, Japan may be the ideal place for your studies.

In addition to studying at universities, you can enroll directly in language learning schools like KCP International Japanese Language School in Tokyo, Hokkaido Japanese Language School in Sapporo, or Genki Japanese & Culture School with multiple campuses in Japan.

Brazil (Portuguese)

To learn Portuguese and explore one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, Brazil may be the place for you to study abroad. Get the big city experience in São Paulo, soak in the sun between college classes on beautiful beaches in Salvador, or take courses at the prestigious Federal University of São Carlos in São Carlos.

Top 4 places to study abroad for STEM fields

Students pursuing degrees in fields related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics have the opportunity to learn at some of the world’s top universities while studying abroad.

Here are some notable standout destinations if you’re looking to study STEM abroad.

United States

With Silicon Valley on one coast and innovative New York City on the other, the U.S. is a natural choice for STEM study abroad programs. Some top universities to consider include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in the Boston, Massachusetts, area; Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, near Silicon Valley; and the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

United Kingdom

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are two of the most well-known universities for STEM in the world, but they’re only some of what the United Kingdom has to offer. Other colleges in the UK that have earned top ratings for STEM include Imperial College London in London and the University of Manchester in Manchester.


Germany is a major center for STEM research and development, and many universities offer students low-cost tuition worldwide. Some top-rated STEM schools include Ludwig Maximilian University Munich in Munich, Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Berlin.


For STEM students interested in seeing tomorrow’s green technologies today, Iceland is an excellent destination. The Green Program offered through a partnership with Reykjavik University provides a unique opportunity to learn about biofuels and geothermal and hydroelectric power through hands-on study.

Top 4 places to study abroad for life sciences

Most students who study abroad want to have new experiences during their time in a foreign country, and outdoor activities are one way to try new things and make lasting memories. The following are some of the best study-abroad destinations for those with an adventurous spirit who also wish to study biology and other sciences.

Study Abroad Programs

New Zealand

New Zealand’s picturesque landscapes were made famous by The Lord of the Rings films, and tourists from all over the world now come to see them in person. While you study abroad in New Zealand, you can ride an inner tube through caves illuminated by glowworms, soak in the scenery on Mount Victoria, cruise the waters of the Milford Sound, and more. For your coursework, consider the University of New Hampshire, which offers 5- and 15-week ecology study abroad programs open to students from other universities.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to half a million species of plants and wildlife, making it one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. An outdoor lover’s paradise, the country boasts excellent snorkeling and scuba diving, hiking through rain forests and over volcanoes, zip lining, horseback riding, white water rafting, and many other activities. CIEE makes the tropical rainforest of Monteverde the classroom for its unique Tropical Ecology and Conservation program, which lasts for 16 weeks.


Covering more than 9.9 million square kilometers, Canada offers plenty of places to discover. You can hike, paddle, climb, cycle, fish, ski, snowboard, and more at Banff National Park while taking classes as a part of Wildland Studies’ Wildlife Corridors field study program for international students.


Switzerland is famous for skiing, but the outdoor excitement continues beyond there. While attending a study abroad program in the nation, you can try paragliding, mountain climbing, hiking, whitewater rafting, sledging, and more. Plus, Switzerland’s central location in Europe makes visiting other countries during your time abroad convenient. Many universities in Switzerland offer programs in life sciences with courses taught in English, including the University of Fribourg and the University of Geneva.

Top 4 places to study abroad for history and culture

While all study abroad programs allow you to immerse yourself in a new culture, living in some countries can significantly expand your cultural awareness due to their rich history and traditions. To broaden your horizons, one of the following might be the best country for studying abroad.


India is a land of cultural diversity, home to many cultural groups and more than two dozen languages. Attending a study abroad program in India can allow you to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds and learn about many different cultures at once. The Pennsylvania Center for International Exchange and Partnership offers a culture-focused program in cooperation with Madras Christian College in Chennai that explores India’s ancient history, modern society, and cultural traditions.


In China, you can steep yourself in a culture unlike any other.

Visit ancient temples to learn about the country’s rich history and spend time in bustling high-tech cities. Taste new foods, experience new customs, and learn Mandarin or Cantonese. To make Chinese culture the focus of your studies, consider the University Studies Abroad Consortium program in Chengdu, which includes coursework on the ancient history, political system, and culinary traditions of China.


A study abroad program in Peru can give you a chance to tour 13 different UNESCO World Heritage sites and experience stunning landscapes like Colca Canyon. At the same time, you can learn Spanish and attend performances, art exhibits, and other events in a major city like Lima. To see how ancient traditions continue in Peru today, consider the School for International Training’s Indigenous Peoples and Globalization program in Cusco.

South Africa

With 11 official languages, each representing a different ethnic group, South Africa offers a wealth of cultural experiences. Life in the African nation is also affordable for those hoping to study abroad on a budget. Learn about South Africa’s unique heritage can consider the School for International Training’s program in Multiculturalism and Human Rights.

Study abroad programs

Why should I study abroad?

There are countless benefits to studying in a foreign country. Here are some of the biggest ones for students:

  • Learning a foreign language: Study abroad programs may fulfill your university’s language requirement and give you a chance to learn a local language by becoming fully immersed in it.
  • Gaining a new perspective: Life abroad allows you to experience a new culture and can change the way you see the world. You can see what city life is like in a new environment or learn in a more rural location that you might never visit otherwise.
  • Achieving your academic goals: International education opportunities can give you a chance to study at top universities in your field.
  • Accessing career opportunities: Studying abroad can allow you to make international contacts that might one day open the doors to a job.
  • Learning about yourself: Travel can teach you as much about yourself as it does about different countries. You may find a new passion, discover a new interest, or uncover unique strengths you didn’t know you possessed when moving outside your comfort zone.
  • Making new friends: While studying at a university overseas, you’ll have the chance to meet other international students and students from your host country. Living abroad can expand your social circle and build relationships with people from around the globe.


Whether your goal is to study a new language, learn about history and culture, explore the great outdoors, or further your study in a STEM field, there are study abroad opportunities out there that are a great fit for you. Use the popular destinations outlined above as a starting point for your research, and get on your way to studying abroad.

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