Study Abroad

The 10 Best Places to Study Abroad in 2021

Nicole Brewer

Nicole Brewer is an English Language teacher, travel blogger, author, and freelance writer. She has traveled to over 40 countries and lived abroad in...

Many students are wishing to go overseas during these difficult times we’ve had in 2020. The desire to travel is strong, so considering the opportunity to study abroad in 2021 is a logical choice to make. With borders still closed in some destinations, you’re obviously thinking: but where can I go?

It’s important to find a program in a destination that not only will be open to students in 2021, but that will also give you valuable skills, an opportunity to immerse yourself into the local culture, and where you can stay on track for your degree program.

To assist you along the way with your research, this article provides a variety of best study abroad destinations and programs that you can consider to make your dreams of studying abroad a reality in 2021. These locations are based on several factors, including their popularity with study abroad students on Go Overseas and Google.

Country Rank (2021) Previous Rank (2020) Change
Japan 1 3 +2
Australia 2 6 +4
Ireland 3 7 +4
New Zealand 4 9 +5
Sweden 5 10 +5
Virtual 6 - New
Thailand 7 - New
Brazil 8 - New
England 9 8 -1
UAE 10 - New

Find the inspiration you need to study overseas by exploring these exciting options to take your education to the next level.

1. Japan

Japan has jumped to the top of the list of best study abroad destinations going into 2021. Japan’s reputation for hospitality and a welcoming nature makes it a safe bet for students looking to study abroad. It is home to an array of technological innovations as well, another major attraction for students who desire to go overseas.

In addition to hosting some of the finest STEM and educational programs in the world, it’s extensive tradition of historic culture and being home to thought leaders in their field are fascinating components for those students seeking study abroad opportunities. With high speed and convenient modes of transportation throughout the country, as well as delicious culinary experiences to indulge in (like sushi and udon noodles...yum!), you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in one of the most dynamic cultures in the world.

2. Australia

Students who are interested in wildlife and unique settings are drawn to go down under. Australia is home to gorgeous backdrops, rare animals, and some of the most amazing coastlines in the world. Students with the desire to study abroad in 2021 in fields such as geology and biological studies could choose from a host of programs allowing them to explore landscapes like the Great Barrier Reef or get up close and personal with kangaroos.

Read more: Guide to Studying Abroad in Queensland, Australia

Additionally, Australia is home to diverse cities including trendy Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane which are great choices for international students. Whether you’re an architecture or music student, consider having the world famous Sydney Opera House in your backyard to study. Other popular programs to study in Oz include communications, anthropology, and physical education. What better place to get physical than Australia where you can enjoy adventurous activities such as kayaking, scuba diving, or bush-walking!

3. Ireland

Moving up in the rankings this year is Ireland due to its interesting history, opportunity for exploration, and stunning location. Students can explore unique cultural artifacts such as viking ruins, huge green cliffs, castles, and the Gaelic language. Geology students can discover Giant’s Causeway and English literature students looking to study abroad can get lost in the same streets of authors such as Oscar Wilde and Eavan Boland. The Emerald Isle is also a hub for international research in fields like technology, chemistry, and pharmaceuticals.

Outside of your studies, you’ll have a laundry list of things to do at your fingertips. Discover the world famous Guinness Storehouse in Dublin or view the Cliffs of Moher. A semester in Ireland certainly won’t be complete without watching a Gaelic football match with a ton of fighting Irish mates and all of the new friends you’ve made.

4. New Zealand

Following right behind Ireland moving up the ranks is New Zealand, with its awe-inspiring nature and variety of bustling cities and small college town. In a country with amazing natural scenery, students can wander about to experience exciting adventures including paragliding, bungee-jumping, and even glacier hiking as part of your studies.

Other distinctive study options in New Zealand include Maori studies and zoology. Past study abroad students have raved about just how charming and nice Kiwis are in person. Other attributes that make New Zealand stand out as a place to study abroad include its low crime rate, excellent health benefits, and the fact that English is the national language. Students can immerse themselves into the culture easily while enjoying activities that include white-water rafting, hiking snow-capped mountains, and learning about aboriginal cultures. With its breathtaking beaches and national parks, any student who enjoys the outdoors will be sure to fall in love with New Zealand.

5. Sweden

Moving up a few slots from its introduction to the list last year is Sweden. It has consistently been ranked as one of the top places for students to study at its universities, due to a myriad of factors like safety and the opportunity for work-life balance. Sweden also ranks favorably for its high standard of living and commitment to innovation. For students interested in sustainable living, combating environmental issues, or for those interested in being in a location known for academic excellence, then the beautiful country of Sweden is the place for you.

Read more: Guide to Studying Abroad in Sweden

Sweden offers not only views of the northern lights, but also a host of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors doing activities like hiking, camping, and mountain biking. Additional things that students who study abroad in Sweden can look forward to include endless summer days and learning about Viking history and customs.

6. Virtual

While a vaccine for Covid-19 is on the horizon, we still must be mindful of the times in 2021 and consider that not all students are ready to jump back into traditional study abroad. While some are mentally ready to go overseas, we understand that health and safety are your number one concern, not only for yourself, but also for your family upon return home. Therefore, it is important to consider virtual study abroad options, which can open up the world to students from the comfort of their own homes.

No matter if you desire to study web development or social justice, there are opportunities to do so online. Another benefit of virtual learning is lower tuition fees and saving on costs of airfare or rent abroad. Experience being able to meet, albeit virtually, peers from around the globe in your group classroom settings as well.

Popular Virtual Study Abroad Programs:

7. Thailand

Photo by Lukas R., International Seminars Alum
Photo by Lukas R., International Seminars Alum

Known as the ‘Land of Smiles,’ what student wouldn’t want to study abroad in the land of happy faces and sunshine? As a newcomer to the list, Thailand is a top study abroad destination in 2021 for a number of reasons. From locals selling goods on the roads to attractions such as the floating market, this East Asian country is known for its hospitality, bustling cities, and beautiful beaches. The vibrant country is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world for reasons including its white sandy beaches and affordable accommodations.

Head over to the Grand Palace in Bangkok to read your history books or take a break to eat fresh mango sticky rice from a vendor near your hostel-- the opportunity to enjoy local attractions and dishes abound. Popular programs to study in Thailand include East Asian Studies, biology, and animal studies. Students can enjoy studying elephants at a local elephant sanctuary alongside veterinarians.

8. Brazil

As the largest country in South America, Brazil is a country with much to offer students. The country offers an expansive history, sporting attractions, and cultural sites to visit. Students can go from studying the flora and fauna of the Amazon Rainforest to learning about the history of the Portuguese influence on colonial architecture surrounding the country.

Students can also give back by volunteering during their studies or take it as an opportunity to learn about sustainable development. Students studying business will also be interested to know that Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country, with an economy that is rapidly growing, making it a great destination to study economics or finance. This newcomer to the list will more than likely climb up higher in the coming years.

9. England

Moving down a notch in the rankings this year is England. While typically a favorite for students hoping to study abroad, England this year is not ideal for traveling due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Hopefully by late fall things will be looking up nonetheless. England is home to world-renowned academic institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford.

England is an international hub with cities such as London, Manchester, and Brighton calling students’ names. From the Tower of London to Stonehenge, you’ll manage to explore fascinating historical sites and activities. An intellectual person can rejoice at the bountiful museums and libraries to learn valuable skills from in the Blighty.

10. United Arab Emirates

Coming in last this year on the list but a newcomer overall is the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is known for its over-the-top architecture and luxurious lifestyle, but there’s so much more to this Arab nation. The UAE offers an incredible opportunity for students interested in studying abroad in 2021 as it has recently eased up on its long term visa requirements, making it a viable option for more students.

The United Arab Emirates’ population is made up of more than 80% international workers and students, meaning the country is incredibly diverse and students will enjoy the variety of cuisines, languages, and cultures represented in the single nation. Popular study abroad subjects in the region include business, computer science, and architecture.

There are many opportunities to study abroad and after a tumultuous year, 2021 will be an excellent time to immerse yourself in a new country and culture once things move back to normal. No matter if you decide to study virtually or choose a new destination, you’ll have the chance to gain valuable knowledge, partake in incredible adventures, and make new friends from around the world.