Studying English literature is a great way to improve your communication skills, learn about history and the world, and open your eyes to new cultures. English is a popular subject choice as a major or minor, and it combines well with other humanities, arts, and social science subjects.
The options for doing an undergraduate or graduate degree in English around the world are very broad, as many reputable institutions in English-speaking countries offer English as a subject. If you don't want to dedicate your entire degree to English, you can supplement your studies with a few courses, including while studying abroad. You'll be amazed by the regional variations of English language and literature that you can find when studying English abroad.
English literature is a very wide subject area and can be studied in a myriad of ways.
Undergraduate degree abroad
English literature (usually just referred to as English) is a very popular undergraduate major/minor subject, as the skills an English degree can teach you are transferable and broad. Furthermore, it can match very well with numerous other areas of study, such as history, political studies, area studies, or the fine arts.
If you want to study English for your undergraduate degree, the options are almost endless. Almost all major institutions in Anglophone countries (and many elsewhere in the world, too) offer English literature courses. To get the most out of your degree, work out which topics interest you and look for institutions that specialize in that area.
Graduate studies abroad
Masters and Ph.D. degrees in English are also very popular, and a way to focus on a specific topic that caught your interest during your undergraduate studies. Studying for your graduate degree is really the time to choose an institution that reflects your interests and that is best able to cater to your needs. That is, if you're interested in Shakespeare, why not study in/near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown in the UK? Or if post-colonial English literature is more your thing, seek institutions in countries that were affected by British colonialism, such as Canada or South Africa.
Study abroad programs
Studying abroad for a semester or two can be a great way to test the waters and try subjects that you perhaps wouldn't at home. So, even if your major at home is Physics, you could opt to take some English courses while on an exchange program. This is a particularly exciting choice if you choose to take courses related to your host country. So, if studying in Australia, why not take a course in Australian literature? It'll help you understand your host country all the better and enhance your study abroad experience. Furthermore, if your major at home is English, there will undoubtedly be many options to continue this while on an exchange program abroad.
Where to go
The places where you can study English literature are almost endless, and not even limited to primarily English-speaking countries!
The modern English language did, of course, originate in England, so where better to study the subject? In England, you can study everything from Old English to contemporary English literature in the land that has the longest and most enduring connection with the language.
Choosing to study English in the U.K. may be most appealing to students interested in pre-modern versions of the language. That is, Chaucer, Shakespeare, or their contemporaries. At that time in history, English was only spoken in England, so there you will have better access to archives and resources that will give you a more intimate, first-hand connection with the literature and the language. In London, students who chose to study these works in their country of origin will have the privilege of their learning supplemented by a great number of sights and museums including the British Library, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Shakespeare’s Globe, and Keats House.
In the 21st Century, the U.S.A. is the single largest producer of English literature and a major center of English language publishing. The U.S.A. is an especially exciting place to study modern English literature because many nineteenth and twentieth-century literary movements were born or took root here. You will get a much greater understanding of the Beat poets or the Harlem Renaissance, for example, when studying these literary movements and their exemplary texts in the USA.
These Antipodean nations show how English literature has developed away from the major sources of English literary production, the U.K. and U.S.A.
Studying English in Australia or New Zealand will reveal how the language has developed unique attributes related to encounters with indigenous people and different immigrant groups. These are also great places to study English if you're especially interested in post-colonial literature, as both countries remained under the control of the British empire until the mid-twentieth century.
Although India has dozens of official languages and English is not spoken or read by the majority of the country, an estimated 10% of the population are conversant in the language. With a population of over a billion people, 10% of a billion is a lot! India is, in fact, the second-largest English-speaking country in the world, and has a vibrant and flourishing English literary and publishing scene. Internationally famous English-language writers from India include Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh... and many others. If you're looking to study abroad in India, add some English classes to your program and you won't be disappointed.
Planning your trip
With English being such a vast subject area with numerous study abroad options, there is no single one-size-fits-all guide to planning your study abroad experience. But, keep these pointers in mind when preparing to study English abroad.
Choosing an English study abroad program
The main question to consider is whether you want to take an entire degree with English as a major, or just dabble in the subject. Whichever your preference, there are study abroad options all over the world.
To get the most out of your study abroad experience, look at taking some English courses specifically related to the country and culture hosting you. So, study those Indian authors in India; learn about African-American Vernacular English in the U.S.A.; study The Canterbury Tales in Canterbury. You'll not only read the English literature in a new light, but you'll understand your host country better by studying one aspect of its culture.
Health & safety
Studying English can take you to large cities or small towns, developed and developing countries. Be sensitive to the local customs wherever you go, and ask around when you arrive regarding safe and unsafe places to walk or hang out at night.
Additional guidance on health and safety will be based on the country and/or city you choose to study in, so once you've picked the destination, head over to our Study Abroad resource hub and learn more about the country you'll be studying in.