Studying humanities means studying the world: you can't study art and not learn about European painters and sculptors. You can't study the classics and not talk about Greece. You can't study philosophy and not dig into its Eastern roots. Why not learn about these subjects in their place of origin abroad?
Whether you choose to stay for a month, a semester, or a year, you'll be able to bring knowledge and experiences home that you didn't have before. Study ways of life and cultures from outside the lines of a textbook, see the views that inspired history's most famous painters, and explore ancient artifacts and ruins during your time overseas.Photo credit: Emanuele Bresciani.
Need some help figuring out what program to apply for? Here are some subjects to get you started:
Some of the most popular languages to learn abroad are Spanish, Chinese, and French, though there are programs available in nearly every major language imaginable. Whether you're a beginner or an intermediate speaker, you can find a program or course that is tailored specific to your level of understanding.
Consider studying abroad for at least a semester to really put your skills to the test and retain what you'll learn. Staying with a host family is a great way to practice outside of the classroom, but you've got to put forth the effort.
You can also look into studying at a language specifically designed to teach the native language of the country you choose. If you're looking to gain a more unique experience learning a language abroad, try looking for a program in a more unexpected destination.
History & the Arts
History is a hugely popular program for study abroad as well. From studying war history to the roots of ancient civilizations, there are limitless courses to choose from based in destinations as varied as Italy and China.
You'll have numerous opportunities to study the arts as well. You could study graphic design or literature in London, fine arts in Florence, fashion in Milan, dance in Sevilla, or film in Tokyo.
Psychology & Sociology
Both psychology and sociology are popular majors around the world, so if you're planning to study either one, consider your interests while you make your decision.
If you're interested in the psychology surrounding the events of WWII, Austria or Germany are good places to look for programs. If you're interested in the social structure and behaviors of Asian cultures, consider India, Japan, or China for your sociology program.
Philosophy & Religion
When searching for your desired course, consider the religion and philosophical roots of the country.
If you are interested in learning more about Catholicism, Central and South America are good places to go -- particularly if you are also interested in enhancing your Spanish skills. If you're stationed in Rome, Vatican City is just a short train ride away.
If philosophy is more your thing, consider traveling to Greece to learn about Socrates and Plato. Or travel even further back in time to study the works of Confucius and Laozi in China.
The best way to fully experience the classics is to be immersed in the remnants of the classical world. Learn about ancient cultures and civilizations from professors around the world in Greece and Italy -- or veer off the beaten "Classics" path and travel to Israel, Egypt, or Morocco. Sink your teeth in ancient history, vibrant culture, and a wealth of impressive historical sites in any of these destinations.
Haven't figured out where to go yet? Here are a few popular destinations to study humanities and liberal arts abroad:
You don't need to know French to take classes in this country, but there are almost always options to add language courses to your schedule. With famous art museums like the Louvre scattered throughout the country, France is a prime destination to study art history. Literature and history majors will also find France a great place to study abroad.
Though Sydney is a popular choice for students of all majors, Melbourne in particular is famous for being a design hub. Whether you're a music or theater major or studying web design, Australia has a plethora of cities, colleges, and courses to suit all subjects. This is also a great choice for beach lovers and adventurers.
If you're studying British literature or theater, why not spend a semester or two in the home of legends like Shakespeare, Dickens, and Chaucer? Whether you're studying in the heart of busy London or by the piers of idyllic Brighton, England has lots to offer for students of all majors.
For shorter study abroad experiences, you will likely stay in hotels or homestays with local families.
For semester or year-long study abroad programs, you may still have the option of staying with a host family, but many programs offer on-campus or university-owned facilities for international students. If a campus doesn't have student dormitories, the student services department may be able to assist you in finding a spot off campus -- usually shared by other students.
There are thousands of scholarships available for those who care to dig deep, but it can be a tedious process. Fortunately, we've compiled a list of great scholarships to get you started.
Plenty of scholarships are given out by third party providers or partners, and your home and destination universities may also provide a scholarship or two for study abroad. If you still aren't finding the funding you need, you might consider enrolling directly at the international university of your choice rather than through a third party provider. You'll get less support and housing might not be included, but you may save money that way.
When you're planning your course schedule, look out for two things in particular. First, make sure to check the language of instruction. This isn't necessary in countries that speak primarily in English, but a course in Japan may only be taught in Japanese; or, a class in France might require an intermediate understanding of French.
Most importantly, check with your advisor to make sure all your credits are transferable before you start enrolling in classes.
Don't rely solely on the stereotype of the country when you create your packing list. For example, it doesn't rain every day in London. So if the sun is shining, don't bring an umbrella with you on your first day of sightseeing (like I did). Talk to people who've been there, and check the weather in the weeks leading up to your departure.
As a general rule, pack in layers, and only bring small, travel-sized toiletries that'll get you through the first month of studying abroad. Once you run out, you can stop by a local mart or drugstore to stock up on the full-sized products.
Otherwise, here are some general packing recommendations to remember:
- Electrical adapter/converter
- A lightweight jacket (preferably with a hood)
- Good walking shoes
- Sunglasses, a hat, and high SPF sunscreen
Health and Safety
Though health and safety precautions vary by country, take typical safety precautions when you study abroad. For example, make copies of your passport and other important documents beforehand, and leave your valuables at home if you can. Stay in groups, and try not to walk alone at night. Pickpocketing is an issue in nearly every country, so be aware of your surroundings in crowds.
Consult a travel doctor and make sure you have all the required vaccinations (and any additional ones you may need) before you depart. You may want to invest in travel insurance, especially if you're heading to a less developed location.