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3 Offbeat Study Abroad Ideas for College Students

As technology and communication capabilities continue to improve, the world is becoming increasingly globalized. Many businesses and organizations operate on an international scale.

For today’s college students, that means an understanding of other places, cultures, and languages is highly beneficial.

One way to develop your understanding of the world and gain new perspectives is to study abroad. And by choosing a unique, out-of-the-box experience, you can expand your horizons even more.

What Is Study Abroad?

You probably get the general idea: Studying abroad means living and learning in a different country at a different university.

Most students study abroad during their junior year, but it is possible to study abroad at other points in your college career. Programs are available independently or through your university and typically last for a semester or a full year. Summer study abroad programs are another option. Summer programs are usually shorter and more affordable.

Benefits of studying abroad include:

  • A new and exciting experience
  • Personal development
  • Improved language skills
  • New friendships and international networking
  • Learning about new cultures and perspectives
  • Seeing the world
  • Impressing employers
  • Studying and learning differently
  • Gaining independence and self-reliance
  • Discovering international job prospects

Studying abroad is a fun, enlightening, and fascinating experience that appeals to many undergraduate students.

3 Out-of-the-Box Study Abroad Ideas

If you’re interested in an experience that isn’t your typical study abroad adventure, consider these three out-of-the-box study abroad ideas.

1. Study in Multiple Countries

If you don’t want to limit yourself to one country, there are several country-hopping opportunities available.

For example, the American Institute for Study Abroad (AIFSA) offers two four-week summer study abroad programs that give students the chance to study in up to five locations throughout Europe.

The British Fantasy Literature program takes students on a journey through Scotland, London, and Taunton. Participants in the European Art and Architecture program make stops in Venice, London, Paris, Rome, and other major European cities. Centuries of Genocide: A History includes stays in London, Berlin, Prague, Krakow, and Warsaw.

There’s also Semester at Sea, a multi-country study abroad program on a seven deck, 590-foot ship. In addition to taking classes at sea, students engage in hands-on, experiential learning opportunities at every port. Destinations vary every semester, but participants may learn about emerging markets in Ghana, participate in tea ceremonies in Japan, or study poetry at the Acropolis.

They’ve also volunteered in Brazilian orphanages, hiked the Great Wall of China, and visited elephant conservatories in India. In total, Semester at Sea usually takes students to about 12 cities in 11 countries.

Some colleges also offer multi-country study abroad opportunities. Butler University, for instance, has a Global Adventures in the Liberal Arts (GALA) program. In the GALA program, 20 students spend a semester traveling to several different locations with a resident Butler faculty member, who teaches one course. Guest Butler faculty members join the students for short periods to teach other courses relevant to the locale.

Soaking up the sights and cultures of multiple countries during your study abroad experience is one way to make it especially memorable and unique.

2. Travel to a Unique Destination

About 54% of U.S. study abroad destinations are in Europe. In fact, 40% of students study in five countries: the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany.

About 15% of students head to Latin America, with 11% studying in Asia. Consider traveling to a less popular destination to have a truly out-of-the-box study abroad adventure.  

The American Universities International Programs (AIUP), for instance, offers a six-credit course researching sustainability in Antarctica. Participants study biology and wildlife, ecology, geography, and natural resources on the frozen tundra.

Trinity College gives students the opportunity to spend a semester or year in Cape Town, South Africa’s capital. Students take a Trinity course called “Imagining South Africa,” participate in a community engagement internship, and take additional courses at a prestigious South African university.

Millsaps College offers programs in Mexico, Peru, and Indonesia. At the University of Washington, students have the option to study abroad in Morocco. Georgetown students can take courses at a satellite campus in Qatar. West Virginia University takes students to Fiji, New Zealand, and Costa Rica. And at St. Olaf College, students journey to Egypt, Chile, and Japan.

At most colleges, you can find an atypical study abroad destination. If not, you can turn to an independent program like AIUP’s Antarctica trip. But if you want to think outside the box, you might be interested in venturing outside of Europe. 

3. Engage in Out-of-the-Box Activities

Another way to have an out-of-the-box study abroad experience is to engage in more dynamic activities.

At Trinity’s Cape Town program mentioned above, for example, students who are interested in social justice can intern at organizations that make a difference in the community. This can include promoting human rights, women’s rights, or HIV education. Students also assist with tutoring and afterschool programming.

Millsaps College has a Biocultural Reserve in Yucatan, Mexico that includes research facilities and labs. Students study archaeology, ecology, anthropology, and more on the 4,500-acre reserve.

The University of Memphis offers a study abroad program called Rediscovering Harry Potter. Students visit Kings Cross Station and other Potter-themed locations, explore Harry Potter museums, and even take Quidditch lessons at a castle.

With the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute, students travel to Thailand and work with local communities on creating sustainable futures. They learn from organic farmers and tribal villagers, become fully immersed in Thai culture, and experience elephant conservation efforts.

You can even spend a semester in the Himalayan rainforest with the School for Field Studies. Students trek through remote villages and high mountain passes, experiencing the vibrant culture and Buddhist philosophy of Bhutan. They learn about the challenges of maintaining traditional rural lifestyles and biodiversity in contemporary society.

After completing field research and data collection, students develop their own research project on conservation and development issues.

Consider a study abroad program that allows you to engage in dynamic, hands-on activities that many people will never experience. These unique programs will enhance your resume and enrich your life.

Final Thoughts: 3 Offbeat Study Abroad Ideas for College Students

Any study abroad adventure will be a new and exciting experience. You’ll explore another culture, interact with diverse people, and discover perspectives you may not have considered before. Depending on where you study, you may immerse yourself in a foreign language and improve your language skills too.

But some students want to venture beyond the castles, cathedrals, and museums of Europe and engage in cultural experiences that are more off the beaten path.

If that’s true for you, consider multi-country programs, programs in less common study abroad destinations, and programs that offer unique hands-on activities.

Whether these opportunities are offered independently or through your university, they’ll provide you with exciting, life-changing adventures that you’ll never forget.

Ready to find the right college? Start here

Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.