The Most Popular Study Abroad Destinations of All Time

Andrew Dunkle
Topic Expert

After graduating with a degree in Art History, Andrew decided to teach English in Taiwan. He grew up in Australia and has studied abroad in Italy.

10 Most Popular Study Abroad Destinations in 2009

Deciding where to study abroad is either an easy decision or a hard one. Some students have a very clear vision of where they want to go and what they want to study, while other students remain open to different locations and experiences. Not knowing where you want to study abroad should not be looked down upon, and the following information is to help these students look for ideas and find inspiration. Each of the selected countries was ordered from the 2008/2009 academic year (last year currently available). The top positions shouldn't surprise you, but those further down the list certainly surprised us!

1. United Kingdom

study abroad in the UK

The U.K. has long been the top study abroad destination, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why – for English-speaking students going abroad, it’s one of the places where you don’t have to be studying a foreign language to get by. Learning a language is hard, right? So if you can get away with doing less work and still studying overseas, all the better! The U.K. is one of the most popular destinations for first-time vacationers, so it’s not surprising that it would also be popular with students.

2. Italy

study abroad in Italy

With Italy coming in near the top of the list for vacationers, it’s not a surprise to find it near the top of the list for students. You can easily choose to study in some of the country’s most famous cities – amazing places like Rome or Florence – but don’t limit yourself to the cities you’ve already heard of. For instance, did you know that Europe’s oldest university is in Italy? It is – but it’s not in one of the big tourist centers. Instead, it’s in Bologna. And while Pisa may be most well-known for it’s leaning tower, the city is also home to a popular university. Other Italian cities worth looking into for their study abroad programs are Verona and Milan.

3. Spain

study abroad in Spain

Since so many college students are taking Spanish as their foreign language, it makes sense that Spain should rank so highly on a list of places to study overseas. In addition to the language-learning and other schooling reasons for spending a term or a year in Spain, there are the more travel-oriented reasons – Spain is, after all, a backpacker’s delight. The cities of Barcelona and Madrid are veritable magnets for young people, and the fact that the parties last all night is only one thing drawing them. The combination of European culture and a Mediterranean climate are just too good to pass up.

4. France

study abroad in France

The French don’t have the best reputation when it comes to tolerating foreigners mangling their language; but that reputation is largely an exaggeration, and isn’t that why you’re studying in France to begin with? To perfect your French language skills? Students of art, cuisine, fashion, and history are well-suited to enjoy their time studying in France.

5. China

study abroad in China

China has been on the rise as a popular place to study abroad for many years now, probably mostly due to the country’s overall rise on the world stage as an economic power. Learning one of the Chinese languages, while incredibly challenging, is one big step on the road to international business success in the modern world – and there’s no better way to get a leg up on the language thing than going straight to the source in China.

6. Australia

study abroad in Australia

Sydney and Melbourne are two of the more popular cities in which to study in Australia, but Australia’s a big country. Even though the huge central region isn’t anyplace you’re going to find a university, the western city of Perth is another option if you want to get beyond where most students go. If you’re studying marine biology, you can’t do much better than to be near the Great Barrier Reef, but students of just about any subject can find lots to enjoy in Australia.

7. Mexico

study abroad in Mexico

Maybe you’re studying Spanish but you’re not really interested in following the student hordes to Barcelona. Whatever your reason, students of Spanish in North America definitely shouldn’t overlook the big Spanish-speaking country just south of the U.S. border. It’s a different kind of Spanish language you’ll be learning, but Mexico is a country with a rich culture and distinct history that makes it an excellent place to study abroad.

8. Germany

study abroad in Germany

Students of German only have a few options when it comes to studying abroad, but that’s not why you should consider studying in Germany. It’s a fascinating country with an interesting history that leads right up into the recent memory of people you know. And because Germany has undergone so many changes in recent decades, it’s even more interesting to witness the continual changes the country is dealing with.

9. Ireland

study abroad in Ireland

Ireland is notorious for being a land of impossibly green landscapes, great beers, fantastically bad weather, and some of the warmest people you could ever hope to meet. English is also predominantly spoken, making it a popular destination for students without a strong foreign language background.

10. Costa Rica

study abroad in Costa Rica

In addition to Spain and Mexico, Costa Rica ranks highly on the list of potential study abroad destinations for students of Spanish. The country is famous for its lack of a standing army, its general acceptance of foreigners (it’s a popular place for expats to retire), and its plethora of ecotourism opportunities. Oh, and if you’re cultivating a burgeoning addiction to coffee, you can’t go wrong in Costa Rica.

What do you think of this list? Do you think it will hold steady for the next five years, or do you see new countries on the rise? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

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