Study Abroad

6 Reasons to Choose an Unconventional Study Abroad Destination

When it comes to going overseas for an extended period of time as a student, it is easy to be tempted by the more predictable, obvious choice of destination. But it’s important to remember that the world is far more varied than even the motivations that propel students to study abroad.

Some students really want to explore the world and see what other cultures are like. Some are fascinated by the idea of living abroad in another country and experiencing a life different than their own. Some just like the idea of being able to get drunk legally and party in a different environment. And when students are considering a study abroad program, much has to do with the destinations their school offers--many of which are in Western Europe. But don’t just go where the masses go--take study abroad as an opportunity to explore off the beaten path.

When you have the opportunity to live anywhere in the world, why not expand beyond your comfort zone? Learn a new language, encounter a new continent, experience an entirely different way of life from your own. From cultural immersion to environmental conservation, there are numerous advantages to choosing a more unconventional study abroad destination. Here are six reasons why you should forego the usual options for international study and head to cosmopolitan capitals in the Middle East, Himalayan villages in South Asia, and remote islands in Scandinavia instead.

1. You Will Expand Your Horizons (and Language Skills)

The majority of students who decide to leave their schools for a summer or semester do so because they want to expand their horizons. They want to challenge themselves. And what better way to challenge yourself than to really get out of your comfort zone and head to a region that is completely different than what you’re used to back home?

Studying overseas gives students the chance to intimately learn about heretofore unknown locales. And if you study the less-practiced local language, not only will this enhance your experience, but it will also bestow an advantage for your career in the long run: You’ve mastered (or decently conquered) a skill many will never attempt—giving your resume a boost for post-student life, as well. Plus, there are countless benefits to being bilingual, from job security to finding a romantic partner!

Unconventional Study Abroad Destinations:

2. You Will Find Wondrous Natural Beauty In Unexpected Places

Studying abroad in unconventional locations will give travelers the opportunity to discover natural beauty beyond their wildest imaginations. And that’s because many people simply don’t know where to look—or what to imagine. What may surprise visitors is that even the most well-known regions of the world—like the Caribbean or Europe—still have locations that are less heavily trafficked by international students.

Sure, maybe you have friends heading to France or Germany for study abroad, but have you considered Romania, a treasure trove of natural beauty? Or perhaps you’ve dreamt of vacationing in Fiji, but have you considered studying there?

Unconventional Study Abroad Destinations:

3. You Will Be Able to Maximize Your Bank Account

Budget is an important factor in any big trip, and study abroad is no different. Studying in Peru or Taiwan (more on those countries later) is going to be more affordable than Ireland or England, for example, because of the comparative strength of the US dollar (or many other currencies) to the local currency.

Being able to take advantage of a long weekend to go to a Thai beach with minimal money is pretty awesome. As is taking off for a hike in the Andes during a school break while paying very little to do so. It’s much easier to travel around the region you’re studying in during your time off when travel is priced for locals rather than international tourists. The same goes for food and general living expenses. In regions like Latin America and parts of Asia, it’s possible to get by on a quarter of what you would spend in a country like France.

Unconventional Study Abroad Destinations:

4. You Will Experience The Ultimate in Cultural Immersion

By choosing a less well-known location for studying overseas, you are ensuring a more culturally immersive experience while abroad. When you are not surrounded by masses of fellow foreign exchange students, you are more likely to befriend the locals, and live as if you were a full-time resident.

On some programs, you may even be lucky enough to find a home away from home during the course of your trip. The full potential for cultural immersion is incomplete without a homestay, after all. If you surround yourself with locals rather than fellow international students, you’ll be sure to have an easier time learning the local language while having a truly once in a lifetime experience.

Unconventional Study Abroad Destinations:

5. You Will Live Somewhere Perhaps You Couldn’t Later in Life

Studying abroad offers travelers the unique opportunity to go about their daily lives in some of the most remote locations on the planet. And they don’t even need to be remote, but merely isolated and different from your everyday life. Later on, you may not get the chance to live in an entirely different hemisphere while studying the indigenous cultures of the Polynesian Archipelago. So, whether it’s studying sustainability and renewable energy sources in the far north, or taking courses on Maori culture in the South Island of New Zealand, the world is your oyster.

Unconventional Study Abroad Destinations:

6. You Will Educate Yourself and Support Local Communities

There’s no better way to change your perspective on life and western preconceptions than to witness how other people in the world live. In our globalized world, we’ve all seen photos of people living in significantly different cultures and regions than our own, but why not go there and build your own informed opinions after meaningfully engaging with local residents?

Places like Nepal and Tanzania are major tourist destinations in their own right, but by choosing to study in these places, you will get a much deeper understanding of the culture, history, customs, politics, and language. Plus, you’d get to live in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Sustainability is a major effort in many of these study abroad programs, as environmental preservation and wildlife conservation goes hand-in-hand with maintaining the health and prosperity of the community and local economy.

Unconventional Study Abroad Destinations:

It's Time for an Adventure

Leaving your school and home country to go anywhere in the world can be a scary proposition. But having the chance to really go beyond your comfort zone will strengthen you in more ways than you can imagine—it will build your empathy and expand your mind. And the more unfamiliar your surroundings, the more likely it is that you will learn from the experience. Studying abroad is sure to be impactful no matter where you go, but consider choosing an unconventional study abroad destination to see where the world will take you.