8 of the Best US Universities for Studying Abroad

See the world while you earn your degree at one of these top schools!

Combining study and travel has fast become a popular option throughout North America, with an annual 80,000 Americans heading overseas as part of their chosen university program. It’s easy to see why: studying abroad offers students the chance to travel the world with a purpose and gives participants the chance to embrace new cultures, open their minds to alternate ideas and gain first-hand experience of the global workplace. Whether spending a semester on safari in Namibia or cruising between nations on a classroom-equipped ship, adding an international flavor to your undergraduate degree is an experience guaranteed to not only boost your resume but change your outlook on life. These 8 schools provide some of the best and most unique programs for overseas study.

Columbia University

New York’s Columbia is not only one of the prestigious Ivy League universities and the 5th oldest in the US, but it is also one of a new wave of globalized universities with Columbia Global Centers now located in Jordan, China, France and India.

Columbia offers study abroad undergraduate options for either a year or a semester, with one of the widest ranges of destinations in the US. Over 300 programs are held in over 150 cities around the world, as well as language summer schools in Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Kyoto and Venice, to name a few, and exchange programs with Universities in Russia, Brazil and South Africa. Not only that, but Columbia offers study exchanges, volunteer work, sponsored international travel and opportunities to teach or work overseas. The Global programs website can help you decide on a program and if you can’t find one that fits your imagination, they’ll even try and set it up for you.

>> Learn more about voluntourism 

University of Virginia

One of the most unique study abroad programs around, Semester at Sea, sponsored by the University of Virginia, has been running since 1963 and offers students the unique opportunity of visiting between 8-12 countries in one semester, combining academic study with local community work and hands-on global studies. With a roster of some 60 countries, each voyage program is different, and participants can visit countries like Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Morocco, Denmark, Namibia, Mauritius, Canada, Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Mauritius, India, and Japan,while studying from a selection of around 75 course options.

Students live and study on board the MV Explorer ‘floating university’ – fitted with classrooms, a library, computer lab, swimming pool and wireless internet.

>> Read about the Semester at Sea experience 

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Tisch School of the Arts

NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts specializes in the creative arts, offering programs in Performing Arts, Film and Television, Dance, Recorded Music and New Media. Tisch’s overseas programs are tailored to their locations, combining advanced, specialized training with performances, field trips and cultural and historical immersion in the city. Short programs typically include 4-8 weeks of intensive training, with an emphasis on creative risk-taking and broadening student’s cultural horizons.

Example programs include a dance workshop in Cuba where students are introduced to dance from folklore and ballet, to Rumba; experimental theatre modules in a range of European and Asian locations, where students get the chance to hone their original works; or an advanced dramatic writing course in Prague, where film students can immerse themselves in historical surroundings while honing their creative skills.

>> See the best places to discover Art Nouveau 

Boston University

As one of the first US universities to run a study abroad program, Boston University remains a forerunner when it comes to international study options.

Both academic and educational internship programs are offered in over 30 cities on 6 continents, in a range of disciplines like science, languages, business, liberal arts and engineering. There are over 75 programs and 4,000 active internship sources available either for a semester or an academic year, plus the opportunity to live with local hosts and undertake language studies. Popular locations like Buenos Aires, Paris, Auckland and Kyoto are all available, or else students can select from the vast array of alternative destinations. How about an Engineering course in Tel Aviv where you can match your studies with a visit to the dead sea and a camel trek through the desert, or an International Development program in Niamey, Niger, where hands-on experience in local villages is combined with academic study, walking safaris and other cultural activities?

Florida State University

Continually scoring in the top 15 of US study abroad programs, Florida State University (FSU) offers 50 varied programs spread across 20 different worldwide locations. Over 1,600 students each year opt to study abroad, either as part of the First Year Abroad program where students live and learn at one of the FSU educational centers in London, England; Florence, Italy; Panama City, Panama; Valencia, Spain, or for a single semester to a wider range of exotic locations.

FSU’s emphasis is on experiential learning, and students can expect to roam the streets of their host country, exploring museums, fashion events, and political forums and taking overnight trips to other notable of interest – a great opportunity to learn both inside and outside the classroom.

Dartmouth University

The number one Ivy League school for international study programs, Dartmouth University offers an enviable roster of overseas programs with flexible, year-round options that mean every student, even athletes, has the chance to study abroad. Most programs are for a semester, although longer stints are also possible, and are offered in over 20 academic departments including Anthropology, Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Classics and Arabic Studies, with additional Language Study, Foreign Study and Exchange Programs. Students can choose from options like Music Appreciation in Austria, Environmental Studies in South Africa, Biological Sciences in Costa Rica and the Cayman Islands or Art History in Rome.

University of Memphis

The University of Memphis offers a surprisingly broad range of options covering an impressive 45 countries. Overseas study candidates have a range of options available to them including international internships through the university’s partnership with Globallinks, bilateral exchange programs with partner schools around the world or University sponsored Cultural Experiences Abroad programs.
In addition to the semester and year long programs, a range of spring break and summer programs are available, including options like study trips to Brazil, Nursing in Ecuador or Criminology and Criminal Justice in Mexico.

>> Find out how to cope in a developing country 

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota is unique in its sheer range of study abroad options. Students can opt for an exchange placement, field studies or studies at a host university, and programs are offered for almost all major and minor subjects, each one with a host of possible destinations. For example, a Journalism major has options for study in Egypt, Japan, India, Argentina, South Africa, Korea, Australia and numerous destinations in Europe, amongst others, including internships with local papers, intensive language study and a wide range of journalism courses.

The university’s WIV (Work, Intern, Volunteer) schemes also offer a unique, non-credited option for students who either can’t fund longer overseas study or want to simply want to experience another culture without committing to an entire semester or year of study. Recent WIV spring and winter break programs included assisting excavation of ancient Angkor artifacts in Thailand and living and volunteering in local communities in Guatemala. The university also offers a selection of intensive, in-country language and international development courses to non-students,  held locations like Kenya, Ecuador, Italy and Morocco.

Read more about studying abroad:

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Leave a Comment

  • Lynn Weiss said at 2013-08-08T13:54:36+0000: You didn't include Michigan State University - they have 275 different programs in over 60 countries.
  • International TEFL Academy said at 2013-02-08T15:23:22+0000: Great article! For everyone who wished they studied abroad but now have graduated, the way to see the world is to teach English abroad with a TEFL certification. Check out International TEFL Academy www.InternationalTEFLAcademy.com.
  • David Gies said at 2011-10-31T22:24:07+0000: Semester at Sea IS unique, as this article says. It's truly amazing. Come join us on an adventure that will mark you forever.
  • Jeremy Yap said at 2011-11-02T02:20:40+0000: I need great recommendations for how to get the most comfortable economy flight.i think they are in here:(http://www.farecompare.com/travel-advice/what-is-an-economy-flight) I need to save money, but I'm 6'9" and can't be squished too much.
  • Mike Bittinger said at 2011-10-31T16:29:25+0000: Yes, just" 8 of the best." You could have picked just about any university. This is not a subject to be rated or ranked, but I understand that we are obsessed with lists and you have to get people to read somehow.
  • John J McGraw said at 2011-10-31T21:09:44+0000: Semester at Sea was one of my best experiences in my life! I missed SAS everyday!