Study Abroad

The 11 Most Unique Study Abroad Programs

Stephanie Topacio Long

Stephanie is a writer with a love for travel, languages, and exploring other cultures, including her time studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.

Studying on campus has its perks, but it’s a big wide world out there. When you study abroad, you expose yourself to new perspectives and experiences that you might not have otherwise encountered. That’s the case for essentially all overseas studies programs, but for certain extra-unique ones, that might be especially true.

If you’re looking for a program that is truly exceptional and memorable, you’d be surprised at how many there are. Some programs feature adventures you may never have even dreamed of. We’ve narrowed them down to our top 11, so keep on reading to learn about some of the most singular programs out there.

1. Seamester

  • Location: Multiple
  • Duration: Summer; Semester
  • Price: $5,970-$25,370 (2019)
  • Best For: Marine-loving adventurers

If you learn best outside a classroom, Seamester may be just what you’re looking for. You can spend a summer or a semester sailing across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, or in other parts of the world. Students gain college credit while learning about marine sciences and seamanship, and you also get your sailing and scuba diving certifications along the way. Anchors aweigh!

9.81 Rating
based on 16 reviews
  • Academics 8.3
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 10
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 9.7

2. Global Engagement Institute

  • Location: Kigali, Rwanda
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Price: $2,690 (2019)
  • Best For: Social justice advocates

Global Engagement Institute’s Women & Leadership program is a field course that focuses on the development of female leaders in Rwanda. Students start out in the classroom, and then there are also workshops and field visits. After a week of training, you’ll work on service-learning projects with local organizations. It’s a chance to learn and make a difference.

3. University of Nicosia Global Semester in Europe

  • Location: Multiple
  • Duration: Semester
  • Price: $15,100 (2019)
  • Best For: Students with wanderlust

It can be hard to choose just one country where you want to study abroad – but you don’t have to. The University of Nicosia Global Semesters program will bring you to nine countries over the course of one semester. You’ll get to visit places that you're learning about in your classes, with some examples being Belgium’s parliament, Mozart’s house, and the Van Gogh Museum.

4. The School for Field Studies

  • Location: Multiple
  • Duration: Semester
  • Price: $22,955 (2019)
  • Best For: Budding conservationists

The School for Field Studies’ Rainforest to Reef program is for the environmentally-minded. The interdisciplinary curriculum delves into environmental, social, and economic issues in Australia, through lectures and field exercises. You’ll get to visit different ecosystems and see incredible wildlife and scenery.

9.33 Rating
based on 6 reviews
  • Academics 7.5
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.8
  • Housing 8.2
  • Safety 9.3

5. NovaMova Language School

  • Location: Multiple
  • Duration: Semester
  • Price: Varies
  • Best For: Russophiles

Based mostly in Ukraine, NovaMova Language School’s Identity and Conflict in the Post-Soviet Space program also includes travel to Georgia, Moldova, and Armenia. You’ll engage in intensive Russian language study, tailored to your language abilities. At the same time, you’ll study conflict and conflict resolution where it actually happened.

6. Institute for Field Research

  • Location: Xian, China
  • Duration: 4.5 weeks
  • Price: $4,325 (2019)
  • Best For: Archeology enthusiasts

The Institute for Field Research’s China: Yangguanzhai program gives students the rare opportunity to witness an archaeological dig. You’ll travel to the prehistoric village of Yangguanzhai, which dates back to between 4,000 and 3,000 BCE. There, you and your classmates will get to partake in lectures and discussions and possibly also do survey work at a nearby site.

10 Rating
based on 3 reviews
  • Academics 8.3
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Housing 10
  • Safety 10

7. CIEE: Environmental Sciences in Costa Rica

  • Location: Monteverde, Costa Rica
  • Duration: Semester
  • Price: $17,450 (2019)
  • Best For: Spanish speakers majoring in environmental studies/science

Hone your Spanish skills while you learn about sustainability with CIEE’s Tropical Ecology program. You’ll spend a semester living and traveling in Costa Rica, learning inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to going on excursions and visiting remote communities, you’ll get to participate in sustainable projects.

9.83 Rating
based on 24 reviews
  • Academics 8.8
  • Support 10
  • Fun 9.4
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.4

8. GEO Study Abroad

  • Location: Accra, Ghana
  • Duration: Semester
  • Price: $16,235 (2019)
  • Best For: Students interested in public health

The Global Health, Development and Service-Learning in Accra program through GEO Study Abroad offers both academic and volunteer opportunities. You’ll have a service-learning project that ties in with your coursework. At the same time, you’ll learn about the local culture and issues affecting Ghanaian society today through weekend excursions and your daily interactions with locals.

Bonus! GEO offers a fascinating Cinema Studies program in Ireland if your interests are more artistic.

9.89 Rating
based on 9 reviews
  • Academics 7
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.6
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.7

9. RWTH International Academy

  • Location: Aachen, Germany
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Price: $4,250 (2019)
  • Best For: Students with a talent for tinkering

You can spend your summer learning about high-tech transportation with RWTH International Academy’s Automotive and Mobility Studies Summer School. You’ll study alongside fellow international students and get an introduction to modern automotive technologies, concepts of mobility, and their grid integration within traffic and city planning. Meanwhile, you can study German, if you’re so inclined.

10 Rating
based on 2 reviews
  • Academics 8
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 9.5

10. ieiMedia

  • Location: Jerusalem
  • Duration: 4 weeks
  • Price: $4,995 (2019)
  • Best For: Aspiring journalists

ieiMedia’s International Reporting in Jerusalem program allows you to see what it’s like to be a foreign correspondent. You’ll study with journalism vets and seek out your own stories. When you’re not hard at work, make sure to visit historic sites and meet locals. By the end of the summer, you’ll have unforgettable experiences, and published work to boot.

9.75 Rating
based on 4 reviews
  • Academics 9.5
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 10
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 9.5

11. Verto Education First Semester/Year Abroad

  • Location: Varies
  • Duration: 12-26 weeks
  • Price: $12,000 per term (2019)
  • Best For: Prospective students with 'study abroad' as #1 for must-have college experiences

Is it a study abroad program? Is it a gap year program? It's both! If you're a prospective college student considering your options for study abroad before you enroll, consider Verto Education's First Semester/Year Abroad program. With two tracks -- one through Central America and another through Southeast Asia -- you can earn college credit while outside the classroom, and can even opt for a second semester in Ireland or New Zealand if you're really keen to stay abroad longer.

Note: Go Overseas and Verto Education are sibling companies. They did not request inclusion is this article.

8.95 Rating
based on 22 reviews
  • Housing 8.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.9
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.5

Every study abroad experience leads to special memories, but with how unique these programs are, they may bring even more. No matter your interests or how much of the world you want to explore, these programs show that you can find a program as unique as you are – and earn credit while exploring the world.

This article was originally published in February 2013, and was updated in June 2019.