8 Unique Destinations for Study Abroad in 2014

Thailand

When hearing about studying abroad for the first time, most students think of strolling the streets of London and taking pictures in red phone booths, sitting under the Eiffel Tower with a picnic of wine, cheese, and baguettes in Paris, or sipping a perfectly foamed cappuccino at a street side café in Rome. And why wouldn't you start your study abroad daydreaming in these iconic places? Over 50% of study abroaders from the US going to a country in Europe!

No longer is heading overseas for a semester restricted to the well trodden paths of Europe.

But lately, study abroad is taking on a whole new meaning and weight. No longer is heading overseas for a semester restricted to the well trodden paths of Europe. The notion has grown into a colorful, exciting, adventure that can open students' eyes to a vastly different academic and cultural experience. Study Abroad programs are being developed in even the most unknown ends of the earth -- allowing you, the ever-ambitious student, to get a taste of something truly wonderful, unique, and unlike anything you would experience at your home university.

So, if you want to be unique, take our advice and check out these eight up and coming destinations to study for 2014:

1. Morocco

Morocco

As a student in Morocco, you'll study the ancient Arabic language or brush up on your French, you'll learn the ways of the Muslim faith, and fall asleep to the chant of prayer echoing over the city. Between classes, you'll stumble through souks and find rare spices or silver jewelry. During weekends, you'll venture out into the mountains and sip mint tea with the native Berber families of the area, or ride a camel through endless Saharan dunes.

For most, Morocco will be a large leap out of the American comfort zone – with a completely different language, religion, and culture. Though, with studying abroad and meeting others from this side of the world, perhaps you can be part of the movement to bring understanding between cultures into a reality.

2. South Africa

After coming out of a struggle with apartheid just twenty years ago, South Africa is still emerging as a democratic country full of promise. More recently, it's gained international attention from the film Invictus and for being the first host in Africa for the World Cup back in 2010. Without a doubt, this is an up and coming place to be – plus, you’ll be living and studying in an area of the world that few people even travel to.

Study abroad in South Africa if you want to take advantage of learning Afrikaans, or another one of the many languages found in the region, or view first hand the complex reality of a post apartheid nation and what it's like to be an emerging economy. Academics aside, there's no shortage of unique study abroad experiences to be had in South Africa: hang out with some penguins, go bungee jumping, visit South Africa's iconic wildlife, indulge in world-class food and wine, or, if you're feeling particularly daring, go diving with great white sharks.

3. Thailand

Thailand

Thailand is quickly becoming the new “it” travel spot for backpackers for its so-clear-you-can-see-the-shadow-of-the-boat electric blue waters, beautiful beaches, towering temples, and wonderful food.

However, there is more to Thailand than Pad Thai (although this is a plus while studying there!), and students may be more interested in discovering Thailand's unique culture that developed uninfluenced from outside force, it's ancient Buddhist tradition, and the tonal intricacies of Thai language. ISDSI, for example, combines academics, culture, and travel into their program so you can experience all of Thailand's best traits. Studying in Thailand now may be the only chance at viewing the culture as it is, before being overrun with tourism in the next couple of decades.

4. Turkey

With much chaos and conflict in the recent past surrounding Turkey, this country may not be on the top of the list for many who are thinking about studying abroad, but according to the Institute of International Education, there has a push between the US and Turkey to gain more of a collaboration between the two countries to allow more students to travel and study in Turkey

Turkey, with it’s beautiful mosques and interesting history of being the Ottoman Empire, is a gorgeous place to be. As a student, you'll be able to gain valuable experiences and life skills living and studying in a still developing as a country. The newest development? A train line running from the European side of Istanbul, underwater, to the Asian side. Few people can say they jump continents on their daily commute...

5. Croatia

Croatia

They may not speak French here or have quirky, red phone booths for you to pose for photos in, but nonetheless Croatia is quickly becoming a destination to cross off the bucket list. With natural parks that look like scenes out of Avatar and Roman palaces that are still standing, this gem is a secret for travelers that want the European (kinda) experience but want to take the path less traveled.

However, it recently joined the EU in July 2013, and though the inevitable changes and developments that come with joining the EU have yet to fully get put in place, plans are on the way. This will change the country and it’s people a great amount, but as a student you'll get an insider's look at Croatian culture in the early stages of being part of the EU.

Besides this, Croatia is a place for an adventurer – white water raft outside of Split, take four wheelers into the countryside, and discover the islands off of Croatia by kayak! In between your classes about this small but beautiful country, you can travel cheaply to dozens of European destinations -- So you can still get a taste of the whole “traditional” study abroad thing, while still taking advantage of a truly unusual study abroad experience.

6. Cuba

While our generation was growing up, traveling to Cuba, let alone studying there, was an impossible feat. Now, because of work with their government, United States citizens are finally able to visit and -- even more exciting -- students can study in Cuba!

So hop on a plane to this island nation just south of Florida to practice your Spanish while you learn the ways of one of the last socialist states of the world. Communism is still a common word here and for anyone interested in politics and Latin American studies, this is the place to be. When you’re all politicked-out remember, you’re in the middle of the Caribbean. Those beaches will wash your stress away.

7. Malta

Malta

Want to study in Europe but aren’t the type of person that follows the beaten path? Then the island nation of Malta is your answer. Though unknown to many Americans, Malta is one of the world's smallest countries, located right off the coast of Sicily and smack-dab in the middle of the Mediterranean. It's a European nation that will give students an experience unlike any other European study abroad experience. Like most of its Southern European neighbors, life in Malta takes place at a slower pace -- which is all the better for enjoying its gorgeous weather, exploring its craggily coastlines, and partying in Paceville.

But, you're there to study, right? Broaden your mind by joining in on uniquely Maltese cultural experiences with each city's annual Festa (religious festivals), or the Mardi Gras celebrations on Gozo, the second smallest of Malta's three islands. And more interesting yet, students will be able to view first hand life in a nation where the first generation of employed women are joining the work force, where Catholicism has a strong impact on the nation's worldview, and on an island so small, that every inch of space is utilized.

Malta is also a great choice for students who prefer to do their studies in English. Though Malta has two official languages, Maltese and English, all academics at the island's one university (the University of Malta) are done in English.

8. Iceland

This less than ordinary study abroad destination is best known for its natural hot spas, a language that is impossible to pronounce (the only word you probably know already is Eyjafjallajökull, the name of the volcano that cause a lot of study abroad strife in spring 2010) and some pretty darn happy people.

But beyond the travel highlights, a study abroad program in Iceland offers students who are interested in geology and renewable energy a chance to learn about it hands on in one of the worlds most geographically unique areas.

So, for students focusing their studies on the natural studies, or perhaps would just prefer a place to forge a trail many haven’t taken yet, Iceland, with its active volcanoes, geothermal baths, springs, and glaciers, isn't just an unusual place to study, but one of great academic opportunities.

Well, there you have it -- eight fantastically unique and off-the-beaten path destinations for the study abroad student who wants to break out of the safe and steady Italy-Spain-France-UK box.

But you know what the craziest thing about this list is? That these are only eight of thousands of programs all over the world that you may be interested in. Best part? We can help you even if these eight don’t fit your fancy. Check out the GoOverseas Search for Study Abroad Programs page to let us help you find the perfect program fit for your study abroad semester or year, or two!

Photo Credits: Author.
Lisa Saltagi

Lisa studied in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 2010 and since has always needed to have a flight booked somewhere. After failing at office life, she flew to Italy and became a European tour-guide for a year. Now, she’s focusing on her writing while living in Florence with her husband. Check her out on Google+ or her sweet blog.