Study Abroad

The 10 Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020

Jacqueline Peveto
Topic Expert

Jacqueline is a writer, artist, and enthusiast for anything else involving imagination and paper. She both studied abroad and volunteered abroad in Japan.

As a student, the question of whether or not to study abroad can be one of the biggest decisions you will face. If you decide to take the leap, the next biggest question is where do you want to go?

It’s essential to find a program that will allow you to stay on track for your degree, learn valuable skills, and provide you with experiences and opportunities that will enhance not only your understanding of your field of choice but also the world at large—all of which can be a pretty tall order!

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of prime destinations for students looking to study abroad in 2020. This list is based on several factors, including their popularity with study abroad students on Go Overseas and Google as well as the number of available internship opportunities.

Country Rank (2020) Previous Rank (2019) Change
Spain 1 4 +3
Germany 2 8 +6
Japan 3 1 -2
Italy 4 3 -1
France 5 2 -3
Australia 6 9 +3
Ireland 7 6 -1
England 8 - New
New Zealand 9 5 -4
Sweden 10 - New

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

1. Spain

After being a steady, top five contender for the past two years, Spain has jumped to the number one destination for students studying abroad.

From geographical diversity to its wide course offerings, Spain offers something for everyone. It’s for this reason that students from all over the world are choosing to pursue academics and internships in the lively, vibrant cultures of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and other urban hubs that are more affordable than many other European countries. Whether you study history, political science, business, or art, you can enjoy the experience of living in thriving, modern cities while exploring ancient architecture and history that dates back thousands of years.

Among Spain’s world-famous museums, castles, and churches, you will be immersed in the rich, old-world charm of this beautiful country. Learn firsthand about the joys of Spain’s famous siesta, a tradition of a midday rest or nap, and experience more culture with festivals and a healthy nightlife. In addition to your coursework, take advantage of the opportunity to learn flamenco or Spanish guitar. If you’re interested in building your Spanish language skills, don’t miss out on studying Castilian Spanish, a variation spoken only in certain parts of the country.

2. Germany

The Best Study Abroad Programs in 2020: Germany
Photo by Shelby S., IES Abroad Berlin Alum

Germany has soared in the rankings since 2019, and it’s not hard to see why. Cultural powerhouses such as Berlin are home to booming business centers and international brands such as BMW, Bosch, and Adidas. World-class institutions have earned top-notch recommendations for any student looking to pursue STEM studies through coursework and professional internships. While its reputation for innovation and its position as a leading economic power makes it one of the best places in the world to study science as well as business, Germany also boasts a strong foundation in the humanities. Beethoven, Goethe, Heisenberg, and Kant are just a few of the names of those whose contributions to the arts, music, and philosophy endure to this day.

Germany’s central location made it the heart of European intellectual history in the 19th century and secured its place in world history. Today, students can explore this country’s past and its future for themselves by visiting one of its many world-famous museums, soaking in the arts in Dresden, or hiking through the scenic villages of the Black Forest.

3. Japan

Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020: Japan
Photo by Caitlin H., CISAbroad Summer in Japan Alum

Japan continues to be a top choice for students studying overseas. This country’s unique combination of innovation and thousands of years of history makes it a fascinating destination for any student, regardless of major. At the forefront of scientific and technological modernization, Japan hosts some of the finest STEM programs in the world in addition to highly respected liberal arts colleges that benefit from a long tradition of philosophy and culture.

The people are very welcoming, especially to students, and are happy to introduce you to the harmonious balance where modern and ancient history unite. This warm and friendly environment—in addition to superior convenience in transportation, food, and other services—makes it easy for you to step outside your comfort zone. From culinary adventures with sushi in Osaka to historical experiences in the museums of Hiroshima, you will have the chance to learn skills and gain experience in a truly unique part of the world.

4. Italy

The Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020: Italy
Photo by Francesca, CISAbroad in Italy Alum

A consistent choice for studying overseas, Italy’s great hospitality, delicious food, and rich culture continues to draw students from all over. Home to some of the oldest universities in the world, Italy takes education seriously, allowing students the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the fashion and business hub of Milan, the historical treasure trove of Rome, and the agricultural wealth of Siena. You’ll have access to countless original works of art and dozens of architectural wonders, all within walking distance or a short train ride.

Italy has some of the best weather in Europe, making it easy for you to explore its rolling hills, islands, and mountains on a free weekend. Its long history can be found around every turn, from ancient Greek and Roman ruins to the art of the Renaissance to remnants of WWII. Whether you are interested in learning the language of Dante and Machiavelli or studying earth science by investigating volcanoes, Italy is waiting for you.

5. France

The Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020: France
Photo by Mikaela S., CEA Grenoble Alum

France is consistently one of the top study abroad countries, making it home to every type of international student and a plethora of diverse course offerings. As you pursue studies in biology, business, music, or even wine management in one of France’s many renowned college towns for international students, you will be surrounded by the living history that fills cities such as Tours, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, and—of course—Paris. In any of its prominent galleries and museums, cafes, or walking paths, you’ll have the chance to explore a country that has had longstanding, global influence on society, fashion, the arts, food, and science.

Slow down and learn about joie de vivre, or the joy of living. Cuisine plays a large role in French society, and you’ll have ample opportunity to sample the croissants, fresh cheese, and other fine foods that make French dining world famous. Students can (and should) also take advantage of special discounts that give them access to galleries and other attractions at low rates. France shares borders with six countries, and its location in the middle of Europe makes it a superb choice for students looking to travel widely during their time overseas.

6. Australia

The Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020: Australia
Photo by Megan T., TEAN Melbourne Alum

Adventurous souls are drawn to the extraordinary landscape and wildlife of the Outback. Exotic, rare animals and stunning geological features make Australia one of the best places for students who can’t wait to get outside. Biological studies and conservation sites are primary features of study abroad programs here, letting you get up close with koalas and the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef structure in the world. If environmental biology and veterinarian science call to you, let them take you to a university down under!

Australia is also home to some of the most multicultural cities on the planet, and international students in Brisbane, Perth, or Melbourne can benefit from a variety of courses in history, English, mathematics, and communication. Where better to learn music technology than at the world-famous Sydney Opera House? Sports and physical education are two other highly emphasized programs in Australia, and courses like these include activities such as bushwalking, kayaking, and scuba diving to take full advantage of this country’s warm and sunny climate.

7. Ireland

The Best Places to Study Abroad: Ireland
Photo by Taylor M., CAPA Dublin Alum

New to the rankings last year, Ireland holds its own as a study abroad destination in 2020, offering a unique combination of adventure, history, and entertainment. The Emerald Isle gives students a taste of its distinctive culture found in Viking ruins, numerous castles, and the Gaelic language itself. The breathtaking views of the Ring of Kerry and Giant’s Causeway are just a few of the sights that await you in the rugged landscape of the Emerald Isle. Ireland’s beauty and natural wealth make it ideal for students studying the artists and writers inspired by them. Visit the birthplace of famous authors such as William Butler Yeats and Eavan Boland and walk the streets that shaped their art. In addition to the humanities, Ireland has become a hub for international research, building a solid reputation in the fields of pharmaceuticals, chemistry, and technology.

In addition to your studies, you’ll never be short of things to do. From the bustling capital of Dublin to the smaller cities, there is no shortage of farmers’ markets to browse or games to watch, which include Gaelic football and hurling. Students will find the Irish people hospitable, and their lively sense of humor ensures you’ll always feel right at home.

Popular Study Abroad Programs in Ireland:

8. England

The Best Places to Study Abroad: England
Photo by Lychelle, University of Brighton

England is a perennial favorite for students studying abroad, and, considering its long academic tradition and massive cultural diversity, it’s no surprise. Beyond the well-known, scholarly reputations of Oxford and Cambridge, England offers globally-recognized education regardless of whether you’re studying Shakespeare in his birthplace of Stratford-Upon-Avon or business in the international hub of work and travel that is London.

From Stonehenge to the National Gallery, you will have access to some of the oldest and most iconic sites and scenes. Free entry to the majority of museums, libraries, and galleries means you can experience even more literature, art, and history outside of your studies and gain valuable insight into these topics from new perspectives. England’s rich past, innovative present, common language, and flexibility to accommodate international students makes it a great choice.

9. New Zealand

The Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020: New Zealand
Photo by Kaylee P. BCA New Zealand Alum

Whether you find yourself in a small college town surrounded by nature or in one of New Zealand’s big, bustling cities, fieldwork, and field trips are the order of the day for study abroad students. Living amid some of the most breathtaking natural scenery found anywhere, you’ll have the opportunity to include glacier hiking, paragliding, and bungee-jumping in your coursework. Zoology and equine science are just two of the unique emphases you can explore here.

According to many previous study abroad students, New Zealanders are the nicest and most generous people you’ll ever meet. Combined with English being the primary language, low crime, and superb health rates, New Zealand offers students adventure and experience with low culture shock. Hike snow-capped mountains, ride white-water rapids, and learn about the culture of the indigenous Māori people. This picturesque country is small but easy to explore and full of enough canyons, beaches, and national parks to satisfy the most passionate outdoorsman.

10. Sweden

The Best Places to Study Abroad in 2020: Sweden
Photo by Sarah H., AFS Year Alum

New to the list this year is Sweden. This country is constantly ranked best in the world for its universities, and its creative blend of structure and flexibility leads to a work-life balance you won’t find anywhere else. For international business, internships, and work experience, you shouldn’t look farther than Sweden for a tradition of academic excellence and challenging coursework. As one of the planet’s most innovative nations, Sweden holds a high standard of living. Environmental issues and sustainability are held as matters of great importance, and after seeing the massive forests, beautiful beaches, and mountains found in this country, it’s not hard to see why.

Sweden makes time for outdoor activities, and students can expect to have the chance to enjoy camping, ice skating, and mountain biking. A view of the Northern lights and endless summer days only adds to the natural wonder found here. This country, with its Viking history and stunning geography, is a unique and fascinating study abroad destination.

There are so many good options available for studying abroad, and with scholarships and countries actively encouraging international students, it’s getting easier to go all the time. While the sheer number of choices might be overwhelming, always remember that no matter what you decide, choosing to study overseas is a life-changing experience. Regardless of your destination, you’ll come away having met new friends, taken part in once in a lifetime adventures, and gained knowledge that will stay with you for the rest of your life!