21 Famous Women Who Have Studied Abroad

Katie Boyer

Katie is a Bay Area native who studied public relations, journalism, and Spanish at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. Follow Katie Boyer on Twitter,...

Women studying abroad

This article originally appeared on Pink Pangea and originally published on Go Overseas on March 7th, 2013.

Women's History Month has been officially celebrated by Congress every March since 1981. There are many reasons to celebrate Women's History Month and gender equality this year -- more than 100 years of suffrage in the US, a record-breaking number of women in the Senate (who are actually quite diverse), and women worldwide making a difference in small, but no less impactful, ways every day.

With almost 300,000 students going overseas to study each year, you probably already know a few study abroad alum yourself.

In honor of Women's History Month and International Women's Day last weekend (March 8th), we wanted to highlight some wonderful famous females who studied abroad. The study abroad industry is actually dominated by women and we're proud of it!

The benefits of studying abroad are undeniable. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or where you go, studying while traveling will bring you closer to the local culture through education, experience, and immersion.

With almost 300,000 students going overseas to study each year, you probably already know a few study abroad alum yourself. Nearly three-quarters of those traveling students are female. You may not have realized, though, that there are also tons of famous women who have studied abroad. Read on for a list of female celebrities who studied abroad and get inspired by your favorite musician, writer, activist, or actress to take the leap to study abroad.

1. Julia Child

The famous chef, author, and TV host, attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris before also studying under master chefs in France.

2. Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth’s study abroad adventure was a “life-changing” one, as many are. She spent a year in Talavera de la Reina, Spain in high school and she hasn’t been able to stay away. Ever since she was 19, she has continued to visit Spain annually, calling it a second home.

3. Hillary Clinton

Our Secretary of State, one of the biggest proponents of study abroad, spent time learning overseas as well. Check out her video on studying abroad for International Education Week 2012. Today, she is also the most-traveled Secretary of State ever!

4. Penelope Cruz

This Spanish actress left her home country to study theatre at Cristina Rota's New York school for several years.

5. Sista Soulja

All-in-one activist, novelist, actress, and hip-hop artist, studied abroad during her undergraduate at the University of Salamanca in Spain. She also spent time traveling in England, Finland, France, Portugal, Russia, and Spain.

6. Alice Walker

Alice is an important activist and author of many books and essays dealing with issues of race and class. This award-winning author, who is best known for her novel The Color Purple, spent time studying in Uganda.

7. Eleanor Roosevelt

This former First Lady, author, and activist studied at a private finishing school in London, England.

8. Sylvia Plath

This female poet and author received a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College in Cambridge.

9. J.K. Rowling

J.K., the author of the Harry Potter book series, is from the United Kingdom and studied abroad the Exeter University in France.

10. Carrie Fisher

Yes, Princess Leia herself studied abroad - not on Alderaan or Tatooine though. In 1973, Fisher spent 18 months at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

11. Maggie Gyllenhaal

Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal worked on her acting skills for a short time while studying abroad at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

12. Gloria Steinem

Before she was famous for her role in the women's movement of the 1970s, this famous feminist activist wrote her first book, A Thousand Indias, while studying as a Chester Bowles Asian Fellow in India.

13. Vera Wang

One of the world’s most renowned fashion designers was inspired by the life and art around her during her time studying abroad at the University of Paris (Sorbonne).

14. Charlize Theron

The talented and charitable actress Charlize Theron is originally from South Africa so she became a study abroad student at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.

15. Cynthia Nixon

This Sex and the City star spent a Semester at Sea sailing around the globe to visit a handful of new countries in 1986 before becoming a TV icon.

16. Geena Davis

You may know Geena Davis from classics like A League of Their Own, but what you don’t know is that her study abroad experience took her to Sweden. As a high school student, she lived with a family, went to school, and learned Swedish for a year.

17. Mother Teresa

It comes as no surprise that this humanitarian woman spent time helping others and learning abroad. Born and raised in Macedonia and Albania, Mother Teresa studied English at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland before doing missionary work in India at age 18.

18. Marie Skłodowska-Curie

One of the most famous female scientists of all time, Marie Curie, was born in Poland and studied a variety of subjects from math to physics to chemistry at University of Paris (Sorbonne) in France.

19. Amelia Earhart

Pilot Amelia Earhart studied to become a nurse’s aid in Canada after becoming inspired by the returned wounded WWI soldiers.

20. Diana, Princess of Wales

Even royalty study abroad! The lovely and philanthropic Princess Diana spent time at a finishing school in Switzerland before marrying Prince Charles.

21. Kristi Yamaguchi

This Olympic figure skater spent time studying in Canada while she trained to be a member of the US Olympic team. She went on to win the gold medal in ladies' singles in 1992.

Cheers for All Women Studying Abroad

Just think -- many wonderful famous women studied abroad before we had ever heard of them. Their passion for learning and exploring led them to study abroad, take risks, and develop their independence and self-reliance.

Seeing new cultures while you're young will teach you about yourself and new cultures at the same time, making you a prime candidate for celebrity status in just a few short years! Who knows, maybe you'll be on this list someday!

Do you know of any other celebrities who took their studies abroad? Tell us in the comments below!

Scholarships for Women to Study Abroad