Studying can be one of the most incredible experiences of your life, but it does mostly consist of sitting in a room listening to other people talk. If the idea of doing this for months or years on end bores you to death, field studies could be the solution for you.

What if, instead of reading and listening to lectures, your learning was based on real, first-hand experience? What if you were on the frontline, making the observations that will further your field of study, having unforgettable encounters with the things that fascinate you the most? A subject with a field study component can offer this and more.

Those with fantasies of daily adventures may be disappointed. Most field studies rely on hours of solid, meticulous work, often in uncomfortable conditions. However, the rewards -- a sense of achievement from hands-on work, the camaraderie of your peers, the thrill of coming face-to-face with the object of your studies -- are all well worth it.

There are many academic areas that involve field study, and they all offer a refreshing blend of practical and theoretical knowledge, perfect for those who need some variety in their studies. From conserving rare wildlife to uncovering the secrets of humanity’s past, the possibilities are endless.

Archaeology

Unfortunately, real-life archaeology has little to do with the exploits of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. You’ll have to be willing to work long hours, often in the baking sun, doing meticulous work in the dirt. However, the rush of finding a piece of history (literally) and contributing to humanity’s understanding of the past makes it all worth it for archaeologists.

Environmental Studies

The world needs people to save the environment and its wildlife. Courses that allow you to do this include zoology, wildlife sciences, environmental conservation, and ecology. All of these have significant field components which allow you to work in some of the planet’s most beautiful and remote environments, from the Amazon jungle to the African savannah.

Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of people: their cultures, their customs, and their societies. This can’t be done without fully immersing yourself in the communities you aim to study. As an anthropology student overseas, you will have the chance to not only come face-to-face with cultures entirely different from your own but to actually understand them on a deeper level.

Marine Biology

Marine biology is the dream field for all those who love the sea and its inhabitants. Fieldwork in this area could involve working in an aquarium or reserve, but it can also mean heading out to the open sea and its most remote shores. An obvious bonus, of course, is that any marine biology fieldwork comes with access to a beach for your downtime.

The great thing about a broad area like “field studies” is that you can essentially do it anywhere in the world. However, some destinations have the ideal combination of high-quality educational institutions and rich cultural or environmental resources.

Brazil

Brazil is home to some of the best universities in South America, including the University of São Paulo and State University of Campinas. It is also home to 15-20% of the world’s animal species and several unique natural environments, such as the Amazon rainforest, Atlantic Forest, and Pantanal wetland.

The country is a paradise for those looking to do environmental and wildlife conservation fieldwork, and its unique society and diverse makeup translate to fascinating sociological and anthropological study opportunities.

Italy

As the seat of the Roman empire, Italy has enough great ruins to keep any archaeologist busy for decades. Fieldwork opportunities in this area abound, while the country’s huge coastline also presents opportunities for marine biology fieldwork. Italy's great universities mean you could base your research from one of many incredible cities like Florence, Rome, and Milan.

South Africa

South Africa has the best universities in Africa, and as such many field studies courses in the continent will be based there. That’s just as well, because South Africa’s natural resources and wildlife are almost unparalleled.

You can work with humpback whales, elephants, lions, rhinos, and even penguins, basing yourself in one of the country’s many natural reserves. Meanwhile, South Africa’s rich cultural heritage makes it a fascinating subject for other types of field study.

Australia

When people think of Australia, they think scary wildlife and the vast emptiness of the Outback. However, the natural environments of Australia are widely varied, as are its inhabitants. Your work could take you to mountains, rainforests, and even the Great Barrier Reef. There is also an increasing body of research on Australian aboriginal cultures long eroded by colonialism.

Your university will be in charge of the planning of your field studies. All you have to do is follow their advice and prepare yourself for hard, rewarding work.

How to Choose a Field Studies Study Abroad Program

You probably already know the broad area you want to focus on. Whether you’re interested in nature and wildlife, culture and heritage, or some other subject, pick your program based on location (is there a country you’re more interested in going to?) and the content of its curriculum (how much fieldwork is involved?).

Health & Safety

Field studies usually involve slightly more risk than sitting in a lecture hall. That said, your course should have all the measures in place to keep you safe, including a full first aid kit and a plan for emergency response. All you have to do is follow any instructions given to you.

Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. If you are working under direct sunlight or in a humid environment, cover as much of your skin as possible to protect it from UV rays and bugs.

Above all, make sure your insurance covers any activities you are going to be doing during your field studies.

Other Need To Know

Before starting, you should familiarize yourself with the realities of field studies. Often, you will be waking up at the crack of dawn to do long hours of tedious, meticulous work in extreme weather conditions. Fieldwork can be exceptionally satisfying, but it is also hard work.

Look up blogs or articles by people who have done the type of work you are looking into, and read the course information closely. The more you know about what to expect, the less the chance you will be disappointed or overwhelmed.

Field Studies Study Abroad Programs

Displaying 1 - 15 of 68 programs
8 new reviews
Institute of Global Engagement New Zealand
Faculty Led Study Abroad Tours, 2-4 weeks in New Zealand
New Zealand
9.88 •8 reviews

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The GREEN Program
Peru: Water Resource Management & Sustainable Practices
Peru
9.57 •7 reviews

Home to a unique culture rooted in water & agricultural foundations of...

Naropa University|LeapYear
Study Abroad at the Royal University of Bhutan
Bhutan
9.6 •5 reviews

Experience Bhutanese culture first-hand at Naropa University's Bhutan...

Turkana Basin Institute Origins Field School
Turkana Basin Institute Origins Field School
Kenya
10 •7 reviews

The Turkana Basin Institute is proud to offer unique full-semester and...

ICADS
ICADS: Field Program in Costa Rica
Costa Rica
10 •5 reviews

The Field Program explores the connections between the social sciences...

Maya Research Program
Maya Research Program: Archaeological Field Season
Belize
9.75 •4 reviews

The Maya Research Program is a U.S.-based non-profit organization...

Institute for Field Research
IFR: Ireland Field Schools - Cork, Galway, Spike Island & more
Ireland
9.43 •7 reviews

The Institute for Field Research would like to present our rich and...

Institute for Field Research
IFR: Peru Field Schools - Arequipa, Lima & more
Peru
10 •5 reviews

The Institute for Field Research is pleased to present our assemblage...

Institute for Field Research
IFR: China- Yangguanzhai Field School
China
10 •3 reviews

Neolithic China! Did those words send a tingle down your spine? Then...

153 reviews
Semester at Sea
Semester at Sea: Study Around the World
Multiple Countries
9.75 •153 reviews

Explore multiple countries around the world while earning up to 15...

Institute for Field Research
IFR: United Kingdom Field Schools - Wales, Lancashire & More
Wales
9.5 •4 reviews

The United Kingdom has a rich and deep history that is well documented...

Institute for Field Research
IFR: Macedonia Field Schools - Stobi, Sozopol & more
Macedonia
9.67 •3 reviews

The Institute for Field Research is excited to present two very...

International Center for Development Studies (ICDS)
Health Care in Latin America
Costa Rica
8.6 •5 reviews

ICDS, Hospital Clínica Bíblica, and Universidad Latina de Costa Rica...

Toucan Education Programs
Sustainable Economic & Community Development in Belize
Belize
9 •3 reviews

The Sustainable Economic and Community Development study abroad...

Organization for Tropical Studies
African Ecology & Conservation Field Program in South Africa
South Africa
9.78 •9 reviews

Immerse yourself in the Savannas of South Africa! This program travels...

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This trip was easily one of the best months of my life. While most study-abroad experiences are pretty stationary, we had just the opposite. Moving locations every 1-3 days, we were able to see almost...

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