Study Abroad Programs in North America

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The dominance of the United States often gives others the perception that North America refers solely to USA. But this is not true! A study abroad experience in North America will certainly show you this. North America is an extremely diverse continent – while certain countries do indeed have strong American influences, you will find that many still remain untouched.

The greatest appeal of studying abroad in North America is probably the incredible and diverse cultures and experiences you will gain. Every country has its little quirks – this means that whatever your preferences, you can be sure to find a country suitable for you!

Cost of Living

In general, North America is a good place to live in for the budget-conscious. Cost of living is generally much lower than in the United States – for example, consumer prices in USA are 60% higher than that of Mexico and 17% higher than Costa Rica. Because of the diversity in countries however, the difference in cost of living varies greatly from country to country.

Nicaragua offers the lowest cost of living in Central America while Belize is the most expensive country in Central America, yet one of the least expensive in the Carribbean! Conversely, Canada’s consumer prices are 17% higher than that of USA. Confused? As a general rule, the further south you go, the cheaper your living costs will be (plus you will be able to travel cheaply and easily from one low-cost country to the next!)

Scholarships for Studying Abroad in North America

Check out these great scholarships to offset your costs when studying abroad in North America next semester.

Cultures and Customs

North America can be split into two parts – the southern North American continent and Northern America. The southern North America is composed of Central America and the Caribbean, whereas Northern America generally refers to Canada, USA, Greenland, Bermuda, and St. Pierre and Miquelon. Culturally, you will find that there is more unity or common history for countries in Central America and the Caribbean as compared to Northern America.

Central America and the Caribbean have some of the world’s most diverse wildlife, and a plethora of Mayan, Aztec and other pre-Columbian ruins to top it all off. With its lush, animal-filled rainforests, unspoiled beaches, tasty food and a history steeped in rich heritage and traditions, you will definitely find yourself thrust into a completely new and different environment. Don’t be surprised to see people walking around barefoot or to have chickens and roosters roaming about the streets.

The multi-cultural influences on Central America and Caribbean identity gives these countries a colorful and vibrant scene, and you can be sure to have plenty to see and do! You will likely find certain customs new, confusing, and even bewildering. Take a look around you to see how others behave. Regardless of your destination country, it is critical that you not offend the locals by resorting to certain behaviors you wouldn’t think twice about back home! Learn to observe others for the culture’s dos-and-don’ts, do a little background research before traveling, and keep a lookout for affronted glares from locals!

On the other hand, Northern America is a little more similar to the United States. Canada and Greenland certainly have their own little quirks however. The Canadians’ love for ice hockey, poutine and their special brand of humor will certainly still give you an experience that is different from that in USA. The beautiful Canadian landscape also presents opportunities to ski, hike and partake in other outdoor, adrenaline-inducing activities! Conversely, majority of Greenlandic people descended from the Inuit. This means that people still go ice-fishing and annual dog-sled races are held. While Greenland has become more touristy these days, there is no doubt that you will have an extremely unique experience in Greenland.

In general, because of the dominance of the United States, North America is usually perceived as being a homogenous, ‘American’ continent. However, the other countries that make up North America have their own identity and culture as well. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, American pop culture is not that prevalent in these countries. For those seeking a unique, completely different study abroad experience, this should come as good news to you!


Learning a new language is tiring and time-consuming; sometimes, you would rather spend that time pursuing other interests. As such, one of the great things about studying abroad in North America is that you need not worry too much about being in a foreign-speaking land! English is widespread in most of North America and where it isn’t, Spanish and French take over as the dominant language. Being able to immerse yourself in a foreign culture while in an English-speaking environment gives you the best of both worlds! This may not seem that important or desirable, but it certainly makes classes and travelling more convenient and will relieve you of a large amount of stress.

Besides, if you think that studying in an English-speaking country hits too close to home, worry not! North America is home to a large number of language families and some language isolates. The languages of North America reflect this continent’s indigenous peoples and their cultures – you can be sure to still be exposed to different languages and cultures!

Major Universities

According to the Times Higher Education World University rankings, as of 2012, the top 5 universities in Northern America (excluding USA) are the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Montreal and McMaster University. As can be seen, these universities all located in Canada. If you aren’t interested in studying in Canada however, other great universities include the National Autonomous University of Mexico and ITESM in Mexico.

From Mayan history to Canadian Law and Economy, students will be able to pick from a wide range of courses and translate classroom discussions into reality. Central America, in particular, would be pure heaven for History, Archaeology, Environmental Studies and Cultural Studies majors. The beauty of studying in North America is that classroom discussions translate into reality the moment you step out of school. Most universities teach courses in English, however, some universities teach courses in their native language so be sure to pick classes where you are comfortable with the medium of instruction. Regardless of which university or country you pick, you can be sure to have a world-class education against a backdrop of pulsing modernity interweaved with rich heritage.

Contributed by Liying Tan

Showing 15 Programs

United States of America

General Assembly
10 weeks Studying Digital Skills. 6 weeks Interning @ Startups/Tech. General Assembly's unique study and intern abroad progra...

United States of America

UniStudy USA
UniStudy USA is a university placement and scholarship service for international students overseas and in the U.S. who are lo...

Dominican Republic

ISA (International Studies Abroad)
Santiago is the second largest city in the Dominican Republic and the economic center of the fertile Cibao Valley. The Septen...

Costa Rica

CEA Study Abroad
San José, the capital of Costa Rica, blends urban life and natural beauty with more than 800 miles of coastline and acres of...

Costa Rica

Study abroad with the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) in Puntarenas, Costa Rica next January (short-term), summer...


Students in the API Cuban and Caribbean Studies Program will study at the University of Havana. Founded in 1728, the Universi...

United States of America

NYU Global Programs
Gain real-world experience in a broad range of fields at NYU Washington, DC, where you'll integrate your course work with an...


University at Albany Study Abroad & Exchanges
The University at Albany offers a unique opportunity to study the history, culture and politics of Cuba, plus intensive Spani...

Costa Rica

Sol Education Abroad
Study with Sol Education Abroad in Costa Rica! Practice your Spanish skills while exploring the culture and people of Heredia...

United States of America

Mountbatten Institute
Launch your career with a year in NYC! The Mountbatten New York Programmes provides graduates and young professionals with •...


HEC Montreal
Study French and Business in the bustling city of Montreal next summer! If you're looking for a large French-speaking metropo...

United States of America

The summer of 2014 saw the beginning of a dramatic shift in public conversation around race in the United States. As the trag...

Turks and Caicos Islands

The School for Field Studies
The School for Field Studies (SFS) offers an amazing chance to study abroad on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the summer. Th...

Dominican Republic

InteRDom Internships
InteRDom is the leading expert in comprehensive and immersive internships, research, and study abroad in the Dominican Republ...


The School for Field Studies
The School for Field Studies (SFS) hosts an exciting semester program in Panama: Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies. The pr...