For many college graduates, studying abroad was the defining experience of their time in school. The weeks or months they spent in another country broadened their worldview, helped them build lasting relationships with different types of people, and enabled them to develop crucial skills for career development.
Read on to learn about the 15 colleges with the best study abroad programs. This guide provides insight into the benefits of studying abroad and what countries students typically pick based on their major. The guide also covers practical details like program duration and cost.
The following ranking draws on data reported by Open Doors, which details the four-year colleges and universities that had the most students studying abroad during the 2017-2018 academic year. We also consider factors like the number, diversity, and curricular strength of study abroad programs, as well as relevant financial aid and student support services.
Top Colleges With the Best Study Abroad Programs
New York University
|New York, NY||
With campuses in over 15 countries across the globe, NYU offers some of the best study abroad programs available. Undergraduate students can choose to visit cities like Prague, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and Buenos Aires. They can also travel to Accra, Ghana, taking classes alongside local students through direct enrollment or focusing their coursework on urban/metropolitan studies.
In addition to conventional overseas experiences, NYU offers trips specifically for first-year students, as well as summer and January term programs. Additionally, graduate students can complete a master of arts in historical and sustainable architecture in London. This program focuses on environmental issues related to real estate development.
Learners who study abroad at one of NYU's international locations benefit from fully transferable tuition, financial aid, and credit. Funding opportunities include the Steinhardt Study Away Income Replacement Scholarship.
Texas A&M University - College Station
|College Station, TX||
With about 4,000 students located overseas each year, Texas A&M is the top public higher education institution for studying abroad. Learners can use a comprehensive search engine to find programs that fit their needs. Options include traditional exchanges with partner universities, faculty-led travel experiences, and other programs offered through affiliate providers like the American Institute for Foreign Study and Cultural Experiences Abroad.
Students with busy schedules can go on short field trips associated with a for-credit course or a noncredit capstone or research experience. The university also lets students earn course credits and apply for institutional funding for independent travel. Texas A&M offers a variety of study abroad scholarships, including the Globetrotter Grant.
University of Texas - Austin
Through the Texas Global platform, UT Austin's students can access more than 400 programs in about 100 countries. Options include reciprocal exchanges with one of the university's 180 partner schools, such as Shanghai Jiao Tong University for English majors and the Stockholm School of Economics. Students can choose either a summer trip or a semester-long exchange.
UT Austin offers some of the best study abroad programs for professional development. Through the Global Career Launch internship framework, the university enables students to apply for corporate internships and faculty-led field research experiences. Students can also make travel plans through a third-party provider to destinations like Haifa, Israel, for a high-technology and entrepreneurship internship.
In addition to helping applicants find the right program and calculate expenses, advisors assist with financial aid. The university offers funding based on destination and additional scholarships for first-generation students.
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
|Ann Arbor, MI||
U-M is a leading public research institution that focuses on global engagement by offering education in over 60 languages and a vast selection of study abroad opportunities. Students who want to earn academic credit for their travels can enroll in semester-long or year-long programs in cities like Taipei, Dublin, Cape Town, and Zurich. They can also study sustainable development in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
U-M facilitates short trips for students pursuing graduate degrees in nursing midwifery, business administration, and dentistry. The university also provides domestic options, including a semester in Detroit that is open to any student who wants to gain experience working with community and social justice organizations. Financial aid includes the need-based Stein Family Study Abroad Scholarship.
San Diego State University
|San Diego, CA||
SDSU provides a diverse catalog of study abroad programs through a network of 350 partner universities in over 50 countries. These reciprocal exchanges allow students to retain their home tuition rate. Options vary by major and include a business-oriented program in Macau and a humanities track in Madrid.
SDSU offers short-term engagements spanning 1-6 weeks that consist of faculty-led excursions, as well as summer and winter global seminars. Taking advantage of its proximity to Mexico, the university also offers classes in which students spend 1-2 days in Tijuana, Mexicali, or San Quintin.
Learners can apply for a variety of institutional aid, including the competitive Associated Students Study Abroad Scholarship. They can also seek external funding, such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
Indiana University - Bloomington
IU provides 380 direct study abroad opportunities to over 70 countries through the Office of Overseas Study. Options include a semester in New Zealand for social work majors and a year-long program for epidemiology students in Lima, Peru. Learners can also travel to Nice, France, staying with a local family and learning about sustainability and immigration issues related to business.
Students who enroll in one of these institutional exchanges earn full credit for courses taken. They can still use their financial aid packages and benefit from comprehensive advising services through the entire duration of their overseas experience.
Alternatively, students can opt to take advantage of one of the best study abroad programs offered by an external organization, such as the Council on International Educational Exchange. Students must may pay for these programs with federal financial aid.
Ohio State University - Columbus
Nearly 3,000 Ohio State students study abroad each year through one of the school's many exchange programs, internships, service-learning opportunities, and research experiences. For example, students pursuing a degree in Asian languages and literature can spend a full year in Mitaka, Japan, or Suzhou, China.
Additional exchange options include a nursing experience in Norway, a solar engineering service-learning project in Tanzania, and an imaginative teaching and learning program in the United Kingdom. One of the colleges with the best study abroad programs, Ohio State also offers short-term, faculty-led trips. Students can learn about engineering in ancient Greece or delve into the human impacts on the natural environment across Australia.
The university offers a variety of financial aid opportunities to support overseas study. Awards include the Intensive Chinese Language Scholarship and the Polish Studies Initiative.
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
UMN facilitates international education and professional development through the Learning Abroad Center. Students can apply for exchange programs with partner institutions in destinations like Reykjavik, Iceland; Graz, Austria; and Kyoto, Japan. Engineering majors may study abroad in over 20 countries through the Global Eᵌ consortium.
Students do not need to wait until their junior year to study abroad — the university delivers three global seminars for first-year learners. These students can learn about tropical health in Panama, tradition and innovation in Ireland, or design in England and Scotland.
The university also provides experiential seminars beyond the first year, with options like community-led solidarity in South Africa and social startups in Ghana. Depending on the program they choose, UMN students can transfer their current financial aid and access scholarships based on research, diversity, and academic major.
Arizona State University - Tempe
ASU provides study abroad opportunities to all students, including distance learners and incoming first-year students. Through the Study Abroad Office, students can search for programs by field of study, destination, and duration. More intensive experiences may require applicants to meet a GPA minimum, have at least sophomore standing, and pass a language proficiency test.
In addition to general exchange programs, ASU offers major-specific programs like a summer trip to the United Kingdom that lets students examine the British roots of the U.S. criminal justice system. Students pursuing a degree in environmental studies can travel to Costa Rica to examine the ecology of the San Jose region.
ASU offers international internships that cater to each student's specific career goals. The university also delivers a year-long AIDS education internship in India.
University of Florida
More than 2,500 UF students engage in global travel, internships, and service learning experiences each year. The university's International Center provides three types of study abroad programs, including UF-sponsored opportunities. Led by faculty, these trips usually take place over the summer and enable students to learn about journalism in Spain, computer science in China, and tropical agriculture in Kenya.
UF offers over 160 reciprocal exchanges with partner institutions. Students can spend a semester or year taking classes at Milan's Bocconi University, the SKEMA Business School in Paris, or the Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby.
Students receive the dedicated support of a study abroad advisor, who helps them submit application materials and find scholarships. Advisors also help students prepare for cultural differences that may challenge their current notions of identity and diversity.
Florida State University
FSU Global maintains international agreements in over 35 countries to foster research partnerships for faculty and learning opportunities for students. The university provides additional study abroad programs through centers in Florence, London, Valencia, and Panama City. Students can also engage in multicultural experiences on campus through the Florida International Leadership Conference and the Global Ambassador Program.
Undergraduate options include university-wide exchanges to Brisbane, Hong Kong, and Seoul; these opportunities are open to most students. Alternatively, learners can apply to a variety of major-specific trips, such as an economics program in Finland and a linguistics program in Guyana.
FSU also provides some of the best study abroad programs for graduate students. The catalog includes international research fellowships that help doctoral candidates complete their dissertations overseas.
Michigan State University
|East Lansing, MI||
MSU's Office for Education Abroad administers more than 275 of the best study abroad programs available to U.S. students. Opportunities span more than 50 countries and include exchanges with partner schools like the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the San Francisco University of Quito. Undergraduate STEM students can also directly enroll with Arcadia University in Limerick, Ireland, to conduct research over the summer.
In addition to first-year seminars abroad, MSU students can take short, faculty-led trips that center on the professor's area of specialty. The university also delivers international internships, including a program for communication students in Argentina and a program on NGO development in Malawi.
The application process requires students to pay a $100 fee. MSU allows most students to transfer their current financial aid. The university provides specific study abroad scholarships for first-generation learners and students pursuing independent research in India.
University of Georgia
UGA facilitates study abroad opportunities through the Office of Global Engagement, which includes more than 100 faculty-led programs. Students can travel to Havana, Cuba, to learn about food security and sustainability under the guidance of expert instructors. MBA candidates can complete an international residency in Portugal or Morocco.
UGA also provides study abroad programs at global residential campuses in Cortona, Italy, and London, England. These year-long trips let students take classes on local history and language while immersing themselves in a region's culture by taking trips to surrounding artistic centers.
Students who enroll in one of UGA's direct study away programs take their current financial aid and tuition rate with them. Funding opportunities include country-specific scholarships and graduate research awards.
University of Washington
Each year, nearly 2,500 UW students study abroad through general enrollment programs, career-focused internships, and service-learning projects. The university facilitates reciprocal exchanges with over 70 partner institutions, including Bogaziçi University in Istanbul and the National University of Singapore. Students can also pursue major-specific departmental exchanges, taking law courses in Mexico City or learning about urban planning and design in Groningen, Netherlands.
UW offers faculty-led trips that last a semester or 3-4 weeks. Short-term options — called exploration seminars — focus on topics like the natural and cultural history of Costa Rica, corporate social responsibility in Cambodia, and oceanography in Micronesia.
Before they embark, students work with an advisor to compare program costs and create a budget. Scholarships include region-specific awards for study in Africa and the Middle East.
University of California - Los Angeles
|Los Angeles, CA||
UCLA students can access the university's best study abroad programs through the International Education Office. In addition to traditional exchanges, students can enroll in official University of California Education Abroad Programs (UCEAP) that focus on immersive learning and professional development. For example, they can travel to Rabat, Morocco, to learn about Arabic language and culture or spend time in the Dominican Republic examining community public health issues.
For students who prefer a shorter study abroad experience, UCLA offers 10-week trips through the Global Cities Programs in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Milan. Learners can also join faculty-led excursions. Options include a social justice movements program in Guam and a summer trip to Cyprus that highlights ancient technology, materials, and forensics.
UCLA provides a variety of study abroad awards. Students can apply for scholarships to fund their global internship, UCEAP, and summer service learning projects.
Is Studying Abroad Worth It?
Regardless of a student's career goals, studying abroad can help build communication skills that make it easier to engage with people of different cultures. The globalized economy also requires future leaders, educators, and entrepreneurs to develop sophisticated intercultural knowledge. This knowledge helps students critically analyze their own beliefs and biases.
Colleges with the best study abroad programs usually offer options that cater to a student's academic major or language requirements. For example, business students can learn project management best practices by working with Chinese corporations, while public health students can learn about urban food security in Argentina.
What Majors Allow You to Study Abroad?
Most college students have the opportunity to study abroad. For learners pursuing a degree in the arts and humanities, spending time overseas may be obligatory. Literature and history majors can study European romanticism or West African burial practices by traveling to the countries where those traditions first appeared.
STEM students should also consider studying abroad. Many companies conduct international business, and an engineering or marketing internship with a multinational corporation can help graduates demonstrate experience working on diverse project teams. STEM majors typically take general education courses overseas, earning credits they can transfer back home.
Which Countries Are Best for Studying Abroad?
According to Open Doors, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain are the top three countries for studying abroad. France is also a popular choice — particularly among art history and design students. Outside of Europe, China, Japan, and Mexico are leading destinations, partially due to their prominence in American history and culture.
However, the best study abroad destination varies based on each student's personal interests and professional or academic goals. Learners can narrow down the list of available programs by determining whether a program fulfills degree requirements. Students can also choose the best study abroad program based on tuition, available scholarships, and overall cost of living in a potential destination.
How Much Do Study Abroad Programs Cost?
A 2019 analysis by GoAbroad determined that the average cost of studying abroad was $14,300 per semester. Price differs by region, with students paying about $15,800 to study in Europe, $8,890 to study in Asia, and $22,600 to study in Australia. Cost varies even further based on country. For example, a program in Germany averages $12,760, while a French program costs around $18,450.
Consult your study abroad advisor for more information about pricing. Programs with university partners typically enable you to apply your current financial aid package to your study abroad program. In addition to tuition and program fees, evaluate the cost of living in your target country or city.
How Long Are Study Abroad Programs?
Study abroad experiences vary from a couple of weeks to a full academic year, depending on the program's structures and a student's goals. Short trips typically center on a single class or a specific purpose, such as a humanitarian project or field research. Students who want to immerse themselves in another country's culture and strengthen their language skills usually stay for an entire year.
Over 340,000 American students studied abroad during the 2017-2018 academic year. Among this group, 37% of participants chose a summer program (2-8 weeks in length), while 35% of learners stayed for one semester. Less than 1% of students studied abroad for the whole year.