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10 Great Alternatives to the Most Popular Study Abroad Destinations

10 Great Alternatives to the Most Popular Study Abroad Destinations

You've been dreaming of studying abroad since you registered for your first college class, right? Now it's time to start deciding where to apply... and you're suddenly a bit unsure. With a literal world of opportunity to choose from, narrowing the field can be tough. Do you choose the popular spots or head somewhere unique?

With a literal world of opportunity to choose from, narrowing the field can be tough.

In the process of deciding where to apply, it can help to know some of the most popular study abroad cities out there -- and why they're so popular. Simultaneously, there are great alternatives to keep in mind too. For your consideration, here are some of those top spots and other alternatives to add to the list as you start researching different programs.

Instead of London... Consider Brighton

Study abroad in Brighton
London
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): £800/month
  • Highlights: British Museum, London Eye, Tower of London
  • London is great for students who want to live in a bustling, international city with lots to do.
Brighton
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): £480/month
  • Highlights: Royal Pavilion, Brighton Pier, i360 tower
  • Brighton is great for students who prefer a relaxed schedule and picturesque seaside landscapes.

London is one of the top study abroad cities in the world, leading the charge that makes the United Kingdom the most popular study abroad country. It's not hard to see why: London is a global city with all the culture, nightlife, and educational opportunities you can dream of. However, it also has an extremely high cost of living that can deter some students.

There's a reason the royals used to use the seaside town of Brighton as their ultimate vacation spot.

Before giving up your British dreams, consider a smaller English town like Brighton. Set on the southern coast, you'll enjoy walks on the beach when you need a break from assignments, and it's only a 45-minute train ride from London for weekend trips. There's a reason the royals used to use this seaside town as their ultimate vacation spot, and you could spend a whole semester enjoying life here.

Instead of Paris... Consider Aix-en-Provence

Study abroad in Aix-en-Provence
Paris
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): 300€ - 700€ / month
  • Highlights: Musée du Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame
  • Paris is great for students who want to travel to well-known destinations and enjoy an active nightlife.
Aix-en-Provence
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): at least 240€ / month
  • Highlights: Musée Granet, Caumont Centre d'Art, Vieil Aix (Old Town)
  • Aix-en-Provence is great for students who want to get away from the city, live in a student hub, and prefer old town elegance.

For years, Paris has been the leading destination for travelers from all over the world, so it's no surprise that study abroad students love it too. The City of Light offers cosmopolitan experiences alongside distinctly French sensibilities (and fashion). That said, it may not be for everyone, with higher costs and bigger crowds than similar countryside counterparts.

In Aix-en-Provence, you'll enjoy the same rich culture and arts, glorious weather, and still receive world class education.

If you're eager to experience more quintessential life in France, take a look at a town like Aix-en-Provence for studying abroad instead. You'll enjoy the same rich culture and arts, glorious weather (300 days of sunshine per year!), and still receive world-class education.

Instead of Rome... Consider Perugia

Study abroad in Perugia
Rome
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): 1,000€ - 1,500€ / month
  • Highlights: Colosseum, Pantheon, the Vatican
  • Rome is great for students who prefer living a fast-paced lifestyle and want to hit all the famous historical spots.
Perugia
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): 775€ / month
  • Highlights: Palazzo dei Priori, Galleria Nazionale del'Umbria, Perugina's chocolate museum
  • Perugia is great for students who want the history without the tourists, a more college-town environment, and live in one of Italy's most picturesque regions.

To be fair, all of the major study abroad cities in Italy have their own strengths; Rome draws many students as the capital and hub of the country as a whole. There are dozens of great study abroad programs to choose from, and you can discuss homework assignments over thick-crusted Roman-style pizza. But the cost of living in Rome is higher than elsewhere in the country, which might not be best for student budgets.

All students will enjoy the vibrant nightlife scene and active sidewalk cafe socializing in Perugia.

Consider Perugia instead. It's the largest city in the Umbria region of Italy, but still much smaller and navigable than Rome. History majors will love their surroundings (think cobbled alleyways and palazzi around every corner), but all students will enjoy the vibrant nightlife scene, student life, and active sidewalk cafe/terrace socializing.

Instead of San Jose... Consider Lima

Study abroad in Lima
San Jose
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): $600 USD / month
  • Highlights: Teatro Nacional, Museo de Jade, Barrio Amón neighborhood
  • San Jose is great for students who enjoy the history and bustle of a busy Central American city, the cool Costa Rican highlands, and want to easily travel on weekends.
Lima
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): $400 USD / month
  • Highlights: Plaza Mayor, Casa Aliaga, Lima Cathedral
  • Lima is great for students who love food, want to learn about indigenous South American cultures, and enjoy living in a coastal city.

If Latin America is calling your name, you may be considering San Jose, Costa Rica (or, actually, its college town neighbor, Heredia) as a possible study abroad spot -- and you wouldn't be alone. Easily the most popular study abroad city in the region, students love San Jose's cool, mountain weather, delicious food, friendly hosts, and yes, even the time spent in the classroom.

Lima has a world-class scene for food, and there's equally awesome surfing opportunities in Peru.

To take a less conventional route, think about studying abroad in Lima instead. Offering many of the same cultural and educational opportunities, Lima also has a world-class scene for food (if that's your thing), and there's equally awesome surfing opportunities in Peru as compared with Costa Rica -- but you'll be closer, since San Jose is several hours by bus from the coast.

Instead of Melbourne... Consider Auckland

Study abroad in Auckland
Melbourne
  • Costs: $1,550 USD / month
  • Highlights: Collins Street, State Library of Victoria, Birrarung Marr
  • Melbourne is great for students who crave a chic city that's both dynamic and cosmopolitan.
Auckland
  • Costs: $1,384 - $1,624 USD / month
  • Highlights: Auckland Museum, One Tree Hill, Mt Eden
  • Auckland is great for students who love the outdoors and want to visit a variety of landscapes from beaches to rainforests.

Heading Down Under to study abroad is a great choice, and many students are drawn to Melbourne in Australia due to the wonderful weather (study abroad in summer while it's winter back home!) and cultural opportunities -- many agree it's the hippest city in the whole country.

In Auckland, you can explore the great outdoors, learn about Maori culture, and do much more outside the classroom.

For a different experience of this region, consider Auckland on New Zealand's North Island. As an intimate city with plenty of study abroad programs to choose from, you can also explore the great outdoors, learn about Maori culture, and do much more outside the classroom.

Instead of Tokyo... Consider Kyoto

Study abroad in Kyoto
Tokyo
  • Costs: 151,000¥ / month
  • Highlights: Senso-ji Temple, Shibuya Crossing, Tsukiji Market
  • Tokyo is great for students who want to live in a fully-modernized city along with a few historic sights.
Kyoto
  • Costs: 120,000¥ / month
  • Highlights: Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine, Gion District, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  • Kyoto is great for students who want to explore a mysterious, historic destination surrounded by nature while being integrated into a strong city life.

Japanese culture is infinitely fascinating, so if Tokyo is on your list as a potential study abroad city, we don't blame you! The capital city certainly has its own unique personality and appeal, but it can simultaneously be overwhelming and not give you a true sense for how Japanese people live while you're studying abroad there.

You'll experience a slightly slower pace of life and a chance to deeply explore Kyoto, the cultural homeland for the country.

Perhaps Kyoto could be a good fit instead: you'll have comparably awesome study abroad programs to choose from, as well as a slightly slower pace of life and a chance to deeply explore Japanese culture in the city considered the cultural homeland for the country.

Instead of Madrid... Consider Granada

Study abroad in Granada
Madrid
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): 600€ / month
  • Highlights: Museo del Prado, Plaza Mayor, Parque del Buen Retiro
  • Madrid is great for students who crave an international city with fine arts, good food, and an exciting nightlife.
Granada
  • Costs (excluding living accommodations): 400€ / month
  • Highlights: Alhambra Castle, Capilla Real, Palacios Nazaries
  • Granada is great for students who love the idea of an elegant yet edgy destination, and are curious to live in a city full of medieval history.

Spain is one of the most popular countries to study abroad in because of its welcoming hosts, delicious food, a huge range of programs to choose from, and... sangria. Yes, we said it. Madrid is particularly popular, sitting in the heart of Spain and offering basically any Spanish experience you can imagine -- as well as plenty of opportunities to learn both inside the classroom and outside it.

Granada has plenty of culture as a city filled with castles and fascinating medieval Moorish heritage.

March to the beat of a different drummer and consider programs in Granada. Nestled at among the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada has plenty of culture as a city filled with castles and fascinating medieval Moorish heritage. And, it's a student-friendly town thanks to the prestigious University of Granada right at its core.

Instead of Buenos Aires... Consider Santiago

Study abroad in Santiago
Buenos Aires
  • Costs: $600 USD / month
  • Highlights: Cementerio de la Recoleta, Plaza de Mayo, Palermo Parks
  • Buenos Aires is great for students who want a hip, artsy, cosmopolitan, and almost European city to live in (and, oh yes, tango classes).
Santiago
  • Costs: $770 - $1,200 USD / month
  • Highlights: Cerro San Cristobal, La Chascona, Mercado Central
  • Santiago is great for students who want to live in an up-and-coming Latin American city with a mild, Mediterranean climate.

To be fair, tango dancing and amazing nightlife are just the tip of the iceberg for why you might want to study abroad in Buenos Aires. As Argentina's most popular study abroad destination, this city has it all: big city amenities tucked in beside colonial charm, nearby nature to explore, and a massive international/student/expat-friendly atmosphere.

Filled with grand architecture and vibrant neighborhoods, Chile's capital city is a great alternative worth considering.

Consider other South American capitals like Santiago, Chile for an equally interesting and educational experience. Filled with grand architecture and vibrant neighborhoods, Chile's capital city is a great alternative worth considering. You may not get the same delicious Argentine steak for dinner, but you can sip amazing rich Chilean coffee at one of the countless cafés in between classes instead.

Instead of Dublin... Consider Cork

Study abroad in Cork
Dublin
  • Costs: 1,222€ / month
  • Highlights: Temple Bar, Trinity College, Merrion Square
  • Dublin is great for students who want to live in a vibrant medieval city with personality and a great nightlife.
Cork
  • Costs: 400€ - 500€ / month
  • Highlights: English Market, St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, Blarney Stone
  • Cork is great for students who want to live in a youthful area that's both traditional and hip.

Ireland is a dark horse on the study abroad list; it's one of the most popular, but unless you're dreaming of the Emerald Isle, it may not be on your list at all. Dublin generally attracts the highest number of study abroad students as the capital with the most nightlife and global experiences at hand. Whether it's admiring the architecture of Trinity College or exploring the alleyways of Temple Bar, Dublin is pretty enticing.

Once named the European Capital of Culture, Cork has a great variety of study abroad program options.

If you're looking for a different option in Ireland, consider Cork. This southern city has a great variety of study abroad program options, and you can see the Blarney Stone firsthand. Cork was once named the European Capital of Culture too, so you're going to experience plenty of that while studying abroad here.

Where Will You Go?

Wherever you end up studying abroad, we have no doubt it's going to be an unforgettable experience. In your decision-making process, open yourself up to considering a variety of new destinations and alternatives -- in addition to the most popular study abroad cities -- and you just might discover an unexpected one that's perfect for you.

Ready? Discover all study abroad programs.

Photo Credits: Kyoto, Avodrocc, Roberto Addeo.
Photo of Valerie Stimac, Copyright Madeline Heising Photography

Valerie Stimac is the Managing Editor at Go Overseas. She has contributed to AFAR, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, and Roads & Kingdoms, and her own blog, Valerie & Valise. Her not-so-secret dream destination is to travel to outer space.