Picking a place to study abroad can be really hard, especially if you don't have a set country in mind. With so many incredible options to choose from, how do you choose?
If you're looking to get off the beaten path for your study abroad experience, definitely consider spending a summer, semester, or even year in Asia! While many of your friends might be studying abroad in Europe or Australia (most of my friends did), getting off the beaten path is an incredible experience. Differentiate yourself from all of your classmates, explore a completely new culture, and have a unique adventure.
Here at Go Overseas, we've been doing some research to find which countries most interest you, and we've come up with the best and most popular countries for study abroad in Asia.
Not only do these countries have many different academic programs to choose from, they also have a ton of things to do outside the classroom. Explore night markets in Taiwan, climb the Great Wall of China, or eat incredible food at the hawker markets in Singapore.
No matter which country you choose, you're bound to have an incredible study abroad adventure to last a lifetime.
Covid-19 Note: The following countries had successful Covid response programs and are currently welcoming foreign students with the exception of Taiwan and Indonesia. However, these countries hope to open soon, so stay tuned for updates.
1. Japan: Immersive Culture & History
Best for: language learning, art, history
Japan was definitely our most popular country when it comes to study abroad, especially for summer programs. You'll find Japanese language programs in Tokyo, culture and society programs in Hiroshima, and placements everywhere from big cities like Nagoya, to tiny islands you may have never heard of.
If you want to learn the Japanese language, of course Japan is the best place to study abroad. There are so many language-intensive programs all across Japan, it's hard to know where to start. However, cities like Tokyo can be perfect for networking, especially if you want a career in business. Be sure to keep an eye out for programs that contain internships as one of your courses!
If you're looking to explore a completely unique culture, Japan is also the perfect place to be. You'll find many programs that focus on culture, politics, and art, located all over the country.
Study the Shinto faith by visiting a local shrine, learn the complex customs of onsesn baths and tea ceremonies. Explore history firsthand by taking a trip to Hiroshima. You'll learn so much in and out of the classroom!
Explore Popular Study Abroad Opportunities in Japan:
2. South Korea: Science, Politics & ...Beaches!
Best for: language learning, science, engineering
South Korea is another study abroad favorite. Did you know that Korean is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn? Many of my friends learned how to write Korean in just a matter of hours!
In addition to language learning, there are plenty of incredible programs to choose from. Work on scientific research at Ewha Woman's University, or study politics right at the epicenter of an East Asian giant. You can even find very unique programs like the new SIT Digital Futures program which specializes in digital innovation!
Many study abroad students tend to head to Seoul for a semester. The largest most cosmopolitan city in South Korea, there are plenty of things to do. Wander the hectic shopping streets of Myeong-dong, explore the Gyeongbokgung Palace, or take a day trip to the DMZ, where you can see the border with North Korea.
Another favorite is Busan, full of beautiful beaches and fish markets, surrounded by mountains. Be sure to also have a look at Daegu, a bustling city surrounded by serene countryside. No matter where you choose, you'll be sure to have an incredible adventure!
Explore Popular Study Abroad Opportunities in South Korea:
3. China: Big Cities & Bigger Cultural Experiences
Best for: language learning, business, technology
China is a very popular place to study abroad, especially for summer. Many Chinese language learners head to China to improve their language skills, however, there are plenty of incredible cultural programs to choose from too.
While many of the most popular programs are based in Beijing and Shanghai, you'll also find programs in China's smaller cities like Harbin, Kunming, and Dalian. You can take intensive language courses in Beijing's hutongs, complete an internship program in Shanghai, or even attend an intensive summer film course with New York Film Academy!
Studying abroad in China is definitely an experience. I should know, I studied abroad in both Beijing and Xi'an. After your studies, get some local food at a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant or meet up with friends for bubble tea. On the weekends take trips to the Great Wall, Forbidden City, or Terracotta Warriors. There's so much to learn in and outside the classroom, and plenty of ways to practice your language skills throughout your everyday life.
Personally, I think China is the ultimate study abroad destination... but I'm also a bit biased.
Explore Popular Study Abroad Opportunities in China:
4. Singapore: Business, Economics & Language Learning
Best for: finance, business, economics
Another popular choice, Singapore is an incredible place to study abroad. With one of the freest economies in the world, this "Asian Tiger" is ideal for any business or economics student. Singapore also has four official languages, English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil, and its cosmopolitan diversity is incredible for those interested in language and culture.
Since English is the language of the education system in Singapore, you'll have the opportunity to study abroad for a semester, or even for your entire degree! In Singapore, you'll find programs like the BBA (Bachelor's of Business Administration) program through SP Jain School of Global Management, where you can study abroad for your entire business administration degree.
Only want to head abroad for a semester? No problem. Spend a semester studying at Singapore Management University, or study Mandarin Chinese with a homestay program!
With almost no crime, and great tropical weather, what's not to love? Spend your weekends trying the cheap food at the hawker street stalls, or relax and do your homework at the Gardens by the Bay.
Singapore is also centrally located in Southeast Asia, making it extremely easy to explore the rest of the region during your holiday breaks. Take a weekend trip to Bali, or a week-long holiday in Vietnam!
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5. Indonesia: Religious Studies & Temple Visits
Best for: cultural and religious studies, conservation
With a rich and fascinating culture, an incredible food scene, and tropical weather -- who wouldn't want to study abroad in Indonesia?
Many students decide to head to Indonesia for one of two languages: Arabic or Bahasa Indonesia, the national dialect. However, there are plenty of other programs to choose from that focus on culture, conservation, public health, or even yoga!
Examine how Islam affects the largest Muslim nation in the world, while local cultures and customs still thrive. Embark on community conservation programs in Bali, or even become a conservation research assistant on Buton Island for the summer! The opportunities in Indonesia are endless.
Spend your weekends hitting the beach, exploring temples, or chasing monkeys from your apartment balcony. Take weekend trips to Bali, Sumatra, or Java. Every day is bound to be an adventure in this incredible country!
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6. Taiwan: Small Island, Big Opportunities
Best for: language learning, politics, business and management
Taiwan is one of my absolute favorite countries, and it's no surprise that this tiny Island country made the list. With incredible food, crazy night markets, bustling cities, and free national parks, you'll have plenty to do in and outside of the classroom.
Locals in Taiwan also speak Mandarin Chinese, making it a great place to study the language and learn traditional Chinese characters. You'll find plenty of language-intensive programs where you can really improve your Mandarin. If you're interested in language and business, there's even a Business Chinese program through Berkeley!
If learning Chinese isn't high on your list of priorities, you can also find programs covering a wide array of topics, like the CIEE Business and Political Economy Program, or their summer Business and International Relations Program.
Explore Popular Study Abroad Opportunities in Taiwan:
Asia is Waiting!
There are so many incredible study abroad programs in Asia, you really can't go wrong. If you're truly stuck on picking a country, just think about the things you truly want to get out of your study abroad program. Is there a specific major you want to focus on, or experience you want to have?
Once you've narrowed it down, you can spend some time really researching programs to find the right fit for you. Thankfully, Go Overseas has some great resources to help you find the right fit, so be sure to use our Study Abroad hub to find the right programs for you!
This article was originally published in February 2013, and was updated in June 2021.