5 “Alternative” Study Abroad Destinations You Need to Check Out ASAP

Africa

Asia

Europe

Hungary

Jordan

Kenya

Middle East

South Korea

Sweden

No shade to France and Italy, but let’s talk about some other awesome countries worth considering if you’re interested in studying abroad. I spent my high school summers studying Spanish in Peru and Costa Rica (despite my family’s concerns). Central and South America felt a bit less “accessible” than somewhere like Spain, and for some reason that was appealing to me. This semester I’m studying in Brazil. No matter where you go you’ll face challenges, but I wanted to experience a specific type of challenge somewhere you wouldn’t find on a top 10 college student destination list. I have a few friends who felt the same way.


1. Seoul, Republic of Korea

Richard U. Light Fellowship: Seoul National University Korean Language Program

An East Asian Studies major, Victoria’s academic focus is South Korea. While she is there to learn Korean, the language barrier has been her biggest challenge since she spends most of her time with other international students. However, her language skills have greatly improved.

What were people’s reactions to the location you chose?                                         

My friends were incredibly supportive of my choice and played a big role in helping me make the decision.

My parents were concerned about the distance, the idea of taking time off from my university, and the geopolitics of the area but ultimately supported my choice.

What advice would you give someone interested in studying abroad in this location?

As with any study abroad, be prepared to be out of your comfort zone and to be the odd one out. While you need to respect and understand your host country’s culture, do not feel pressured to change your belief systems. For example, if your host country is more conservative and has certain opinions on topics like feminism, feel free to understand where the culture is coming from but don’t feel bad if your beliefs are different. Also, be prepared for the time difference and fine dust air pollution!


2. Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish Program

Robert always wanted to study abroad in Europe, but he didn’t want to go somewhere that was too similar to his home in New York City. After reading about how happy people are in Scandinavian countries, he was curious to see if it was as good as advertised.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Just the fact that I am living in an apartment and not on a college campus. Having to cook dinner, while fun, can get a little annoying. Living in a city is much more fun than on a small campus, but also everything takes more effort. It’s a nice proxy for “real life.”

Is there a language barrier and how are you dealing with it?

While Swedish is the official language and what is most typically heard, anytime I speak to someone they almost always have perfect English. There is a Swedish language class, but I decided to not take the course. I’m not great at languages and wanted to pursue other courses.

What advice would you give someone interested in studying abroad in this location?

Do it! I absolutely love Stockholm. It’s super manageable yet there’s a lot to do. It is a little expensive, but every city is.

I haven’t been bored and I don’t think I will be.


3. Kisumu, Kenya

SIT Kenya: Healthcare and Human Rights

At her university, Jocelyn is majoring in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health. She’s currently spending the semester in Kenya studying healthcare while also learning Swahili.

Why did you choose this location? 

I’m studying public health and Kisumu has one of the highest rates of HIV in the country and is relatively unknown to the western world.

What were people’s reactions to the location you chose?

Many people are confused that I’m not in Nairobi and that have no idea where/what Kisumu is.

What advice would you give someone interested in studying abroad in this location?

It really is such a welcoming place, just give yourself the time to adjust. After that, you will appreciate all its beauty.


4. Budapest, Hungary

Bard-Central European University Exchange

 

Kate, second from the right, holds a banner that says "free country, free university."

Kate spent last semester studying in Hungary. She thinks that Budapest is on the rise as a cool city to visit despite its tumultuous political situation. She was able to make great friends and get involved with political activism, which ended up being one of the highlights of the trip.

Why did you choose this location?

My decision actually wasn’t really predicated on the city I ended up in — I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country to improve my skills, but my parents were hesitant about the potential dangers and also didn’t want to pay a U.S. tuition for me to take easier classes in another language… So I ended up going to Budapest! It’s in Europe, and even if it isn’t the well-trodden European path it was enough for my parents.

Was there a language barrier and how did you deal with it?

There was a language barrier in some of the smaller shops or in the more external parts of the city, but it usually wasn’t a big deal. Some people in my cohort took Hungarian classes, but Central European University is also an international graduate school so all of the classes are taught in English, and the default conversational language is usually the same. Otherwise, most people in the city spoke English to some degree and it worked out well enough for me — thank you Western imperialism! You’ve done it again!

What advice would you give someone interested in studying abroad in this location?

Find the niches that work for you! Go on Facebook events and find things that you like! There’s an awesome international community and the city is beautiful so enjoy it — just be cognizant of the violence that undergirds it: homelessness has been “illegalized” and public spaces have been erased of “unwanted” people.

For me, it was important to understand the politics behind the beauty of the city.

Take part and take action! Budapest is awesome!


5. Amman, Jordan

Middlebury Jordan

After studying Arabic for three years, Hanna, who is half Egyptian, decided to spend the fall of 2018 studying in Jordan.

Why did you choose this location? 

My goal with studying abroad was to really be able to improve my Arabic, which I felt could only get so far within the United States. I wanted to immerse myself in Arabic while living daily life in an Arab country with a host family. This program was known to be the best in terms of language improvement because of its language-pledge (we had to promise not to speak English!) and all-Arabic curriculum. Also, Amman seemed like such a fascinating place to live: a modern, large metropolis with a lot of internal diversity, contradictions, and cultural expression.

What was the biggest challenge? 

I think the biggest thing I had to get used to was a different understanding of public and private space as well as mobility. At American universities, we take for granted having a lot of public spaces to meet up and hang out in for free: libraries, campus cafes, quads etc. The University of Jordan was much less conducive to that. Adjusting my expectations for what socializing looked like took some getting used to at first, but it also made me realize the things I took for granted at home. At the same time, it made me appreciate aspects of Jordanian culture that don’t exist in the US, like how much family is valued since most college students aren’t living far from home.

What advice would you give someone interested in studying abroad in this location?

Explore! Amman can feel small pretty quickly and it’s not as bustling as some other Middle Eastern cities. That being said, I would take advantage of the fact that you’re there for at least a few months and really take the time to get to know different neighborhoods and find spots that you love. Also, don’t spend all your time in Weibdeh. The hipster coffee shops are a nice treat every once in a while but if you’re drinking more lattes than ahwa turkiya (Turkish coffee), I don’t think you’re doing it right!


Where do you want to study abroad?

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