Study Abroad

Best Universities in South America for International Students

Dana Goble
Topic Expert

After growing up in the Great Lakes state, Dana decided to embark on a more exciting journey by attending college in Indiana, studying abroad in Mexico, volunteering abroad in Chile, and working abroad in Peru.

The chance to spend any amount of time studying in a foreign country is one that most if not all students jump at when given the chance. No matter what degree you’re pursuing, be it Spanish, Portuguese, science, or social studies, the benefits to studying abroad are as innumerable as they are invaluable.

As an international student, your idea of the best university may be different than someone else’s. Are you looking for the best location? The highest academic reputation? Impressive participant reviews? Tastiest local food options? Whatever it is that you’re seeking in your study abroad program, check out the lists below to figure out the best one for you.

Universities with the Best Academic Reputation

Each year, the U.S. News and World Report ranks the top 400 universities in the world. If academic reputation is of importance during your search, see the list below for the top four universities in South America.

International students would be wise to select the institution for their overseas studies by giving heed to these rankings. As they are recognized the world over, you will likely have less pressure to convince others the value of your education abroad. Of course, relying on the reputation of a university has its downsides as well, so be sure to work hard and truly earn your title as a student in one of these excellent institutions.

Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

As the largest city in South America, Sao Paulo boasts endless opportunities to study, shop, and samba! Not to be outdone, their namesake’s university is also the largest and most prestigious in all of Brazil. Bragging rights will be earned after attending this university.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile

Located in Santiago, Chile’s capital, you’ll be among both cosmopolitan skyscrapers and colonial government buildings. Those interested in business, finance, and politics should take advantage of the location and network in hopes of gaining an internship or even a job.

Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you want your education with a side of Atlantic Ocean, then this is the spot for you. Buenos Aires, Argentina is a charming mix of Hispanic culture and European sophistication. Check out their world-renowned theaters and museums to add a special touch to your experience abroad.

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

This university is in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. Fittingly, the campus is right on the border of the massive South American mountain range. A 10 minute walk from the student center will take you to the funicular station which will carry you to the famous Monserrate Church.

Universities with the Best Reviews on Go Overseas

These are the top universities as ranked by participants and previous students on GoOverseas. Whether due to atmosphere, student life, or on-campus activities, these universities constantly receive glowing reviews.

During your initial research for your semester or year abroad, be sure to consult reviews of study abroad programs published on third-party sites. Reading and analyzing the feedback of past participants can help ensure that your transition abroad is a smooth and enjoyable one. Don't invest a ton of money in an organization that doesn't go above and beyond. Search for programs that boast a direct relationship with your institution of choice.

University of Belgrano, Argentina

This university is also located in Buenos Aires, a vibrant South American capital that displays both its modernity and its European heritage in equal measure, but not at the expense of losing its South American passion and flare. Of course you’ll find your classes intriguing and engaging, but take advantage of the beautiful boulevards, impromptu salsa dancing lessons on the streets, fantastic nightlife, and numerous landmarks.

Universidad Católica de Salvador, Brazil

Study at this university and you'll thoroughly enjoy your time in Salvador de Bahía , Brazil (or simply Salvador). This state-capital is known throughout Brazil as the happiest city in the country. With the largest collection of colonial baroque architecture in the whole of Latin America, it is not just an history major’s paradise, though, as Salvador is also home to some of the most incredible Carnival parties in Brazil and beautiful, white sandy beaches.

Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria, Chile

Located 90 minutes south of Santiago in Rancagua, Chile, this university is nestled in the heart of the Chilean wine country right next to ‘el Teniente’, the largest copper mine in the world. If you’re looking for an off-campus adventure, check out the local hot springs on your way to the nearby hiking trails, and even go camping in the ‘Reserva Nacional Rio los Cipreces’, when you need a break from studying.

Icesi University, Colombia

If discotecas are important to you, consider studying in the third largest city in Colombia: Cali. Located in the heart of a valley, it has a tropical savanna climate that provides perfect conditions for the city's vibrant parties and nightlife. Indeed, ‘la fiesta’ is such a part of the cultural fabric in Cali, that every December, "La Fiesta de Cali" turns the entire city into a single massive dance floor, and is host to bull fights, parades, and even a beauty contest, too.

Universities with the Best Local Foods to Eat Between Classes

Luck for you, you’ll have at least three meals each day to discover some of the best food that South America has to offer. Challenge yourself to try something new each day, and you’ll be sure to discover a new favorite food.

Perhaps your motivations for studying abroad are less academic-intensive, and you aim for a more experiential learning experience. This is a totally valid and exciting approach to planning your time abroad. Many students rave that the unexpected lessons outside of the classroom walls really attributed to their lifelong learning and deep rooted personal changes. Why not challenge your comfort zone and deepen your understandings of the culture with samples of some strange cuisine?

Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Peru

Simply known as, ‘La Católica’, this university is well known for its academic programs. More than that though, Lima is considered the gastronomic capital of South America, and is of course the birthplace of the classic seafood dish ceviche. Peru’s other specialties include delicious sandwiches, cuy (pronounced, koo-ee), or guinea-pig, and anticuchos - skewered cubes of beef heart. The national beverage is the Pisco Sour, an alcoholic drink that is as refreshing as it is delicious.

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio is home to delicious food and drink as well. It is a veritable melting-pot of African, European, and Latin American cuisine, all of which come together to form unique mixes of dishes drawn unlike anywhere in the world. Brazilian barbeque - or churrasco - is a must-try for meat lovers. Coffee is the national beverage, and the national liquor is a sugar-cane based rum called cachaca.

Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina

Like the rest of Argentina, Cordoba exhibits strong influences from its Spanish and Italian heritage, which is just as evident in its food as it is in its architecture. Don’t miss out on the empanadas - delicious savory pastries that are filled with various delights including chicken, beef, and potato. Creole dishes abound in Cordoba as well, and save room for dessert, as the region is also known for its delicious take on European sweets. Alfajores, anyone?

Universidad de Montevideo, Uruguay

Studying in Uruguay certainly has its (edible) perks. In Montevideo, Uruguay you'll find parrillado uruguayo, or Uruguayan barbecue made with any mix of beef, rabbit, chicken, duck, and wild boar. Chivito is a sandwich typically sold by street vendors consisting of grilled beef, ham, bacon, mozzarella cheese, olives, green pepper, and mayonnaise (WOW!). It makes a great late-night after-party dish.

Universities Located in the Most Beautiful Cities

Some of the world’s greatest natural wonders are in South America. Take advantage of your university’s location by visiting nearby waterfalls, salt flats, islands, rainforests, or ancient citadels.

Studying abroad isn't just about what happens when you're listening to your professor give a lecture on important-political-event-X or intense-economic-downturn-Y. Make your text books come alive by exploring your nearby surroundings. Getting lost (and found again), missing trains, appreciating the unique beauty of your new destination, etc. all contribute to the warm and fuzzy feeling that adventures such as these are steeped in. Besides, you're never going to improve your Spanish or Portuguese if you stay cooped up inside all semester!

Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cuzco, Peru

Located in Cuzco, Peru, this is the oldest university in the city and offers a variety of courses on subjects such as architecture, anthropology, tourism, history, economics, and biology. Given the university is located in a historical region that is packed with world-renowned ruins and archaeological sites, it’s no surprise that the most popular pastime among students is exploring the local environment either by car, train, or simply taking a walk in the hills. Be sure to visit the nearby Amazon or Lake Titicaca.

Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

This is the finest liberal arts college in Ecuador and is located at 9,200 ft. in the Andean Mountains. Quito is an ideal city to base oneself in, as most destinations in Ecuador can be reached within a day’s travel. The city itself is a designated UNESCO world heritage site and is positioned among dormant volcanoes, making for spectacular backdrops to the colonial skyline.

Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia

This university is located in La Paz, Bolivia, which is commonly known as the world’s highest capital city, and is surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The city is a bustling metropolis and there is much to see and do, especially if you enjoy museum tours. It's also fun to simply walk around the streets, checking out the handcrafts and local folk music. You'll also be close to Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world.

Universidad Central de Venezuela, Venezuela

Founded in 1791, this is the oldest university in Venezuela and one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Located in Caracas, this valley city is only a mountain range away from the Caribbean Sea. While you’re there, set aside some time (and money) to fly to Canaima National Park to view the world’s highest waterfall: Angel Falls.

With this list of some of the best universities in South America, it's up to you to choose the one that will be your perfect fit. Whether you seek academia, food, travel, or just a great time, you’ll certainly have the best study abroad experience in South America.