Study abroad is an experience that over 800,000 college students chose to participate in last year. It's an experience that submerges students into cultural opportunities that they would otherwise miss out on. It's an experience that many characterize as "once in a lifetime" and "life-changing."
With study abroad application deadlines rolling around nearly every month of the year, I feel that it is important to point out some lesser-known cities that are often overlooked, but that will provide a remarkable experience. Although they're wonderful, destinations like Paris, Milan, London, and Sydney are not the only places that students that can tour within their college years and they should not be a student's only considerations. Below, I've highlighted six unique destinations that shouldn't be forgotten.
6. Cape Town, South Africa
Program: International Studies Abroad, Institute for the International Education of Students
University: University of the Western Cape
Often unregarded, Cape Town, located at the southern-most tip of Africa, is a prime destination for those in search of a fast-paced, urban experience while also getting to enjoy the relaxed vibe of a coastal city.
While you're there, be sure to visit Robben Island and Museum where Nelson Mandela, a former President of South Africa, spent 18 years locked away for opposing the government and fighting for human rights for black South Africans. For something a little more light-hearted, check out Cape Town's jazz scene, an important part of South African history. Their biggest event of the year, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, is held annually in early April.
5. Santiago, Chile
Program: Institute for the International Education of Students
Universities: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Chile
Although Santiago has a great nightlife scene, it's also located in the heart of the Santiago Basin and is surrounded by a variety of mountain ranges, making it the perfect destination for granolas and city-slickers alike.
For the foodies and wine-o's out there, be sure to explore the Patio Bellavista, home to 50+ restaurants and bars that are all intermixed with fun boutiques and shops. Check the weekly calendar for different music and arts festivals that frequently take place in this neck of the woods. However, if you're inclined to take advantage of your natural surroundings while in Santiago, visit Vina La Montaña. It's located only an hour outside of the city. With hiking and zip-lining galore, visitors can experience the great outdoors while also enjoying tastings of local wine.
4. Brussels, Belgium
Programs: International Studies Abroad, Council on International Educational Exchange
Universities: Vesalius College, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Perfect for waffle-lovers and located in the center of Belgium, a country surrounded by The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and France, Brussels offers visitors a wide array of cultures, although its signature item that can be found on almost every menu is native to Belgium.
Appreciated for its vast history, Brussels is most known for the Grand-Place (or Grote Markt, in Dutch). Brussels, up until the late 19th Century, was completely Dutch. Now, the majority is French, although all signage is posted in both languages. Not only is it filled to the brim with shopping and fine eateries, but it provides significant historical context to the rest of the city, as the city hall building resides on the southern portion of the square. The square itself displays architecture from three diverse eras: Baroque, Gothic, and Louis XIV, making it a perfect destination for those who are interested in art history and architecture.
3. Copenhagen, Denmark
Program: Danish Institute for Study Abroad
Headquarters: Danish Institute for Study Abroad — Copenhagen
Comprised of cobblestone streets and a population that travels mainly by bicycle, Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, attracts visitors because of its edgy and worldly vibe. Known as a city where "the old meets the new," Copenhagen often reminds visitors of a jigsaw puzzle. Areas of the city are pieced together, seemingly at random, while little canals and bridges connect the various neighborhoods.
A fun and little-known fact about Copenhagen is that it boasts 15 Michelin stars, a prestigious honor that is awarded to top-notch restaurants. In fact, Noma, famous for superb Nordic cuisine, has been voted as the "best restaurant in the world" for four years, making Copenhagen a prime location for culinary enthusiasts.
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Program: Institute for the International Education of Students
Headquarters: IES Abroad Center — Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in all of Brazil, doesn't only offer its visitors white sandy beaches, although they're a great perk! In 2012, Rio was named the number one city in the world for surfing (although Ipanema is supposedly "the best of the best"). So, for all of you surfer dudes out there who are looking to "hang 10," look no further than this lesser-known study abroad destination.
Not only is Rio the perfect place for those who enjoy the ocean, but it's also great for those who are interested in botany, wildlife, and ecology studies, with the Tijuca Rainforest just 10 minutes outside of city limits. There are daily, four-hour jeep eco-tours where visitors can observe all that nature has to offer, including the Cachoeira dos Macacos (Waterfall of the Monkeys).
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Program: Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management
Headquarters: Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management
Known as a global city and the business hub of the Middle East, Dubai rests on the southeastern coast of the Persian Gulf. Not only is Dubai arguably the most futuristic city in the world, but it's easy to become submerged in the UAE lifestyle. It's easy to visit all seven Emirates, each one offering something culturally distinct.
Are you interested in being Aladdin for a day? A desert tour can lead you in a variety of directions, including safariing in dune buggies and half-day camel treks. If you'd rather do something in the city, the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, is in Dubai. The views are breathtaking and perfect for a photo-op.
When you're trying to decide on a study abroad location, remind yourself to break out of your comfort zone. Studying abroad can change your life in the best way possible, so be sure to look into all of your available options before deciding where you want to experience new cultures, exciting adventures, and some of the greatest people who you'll ever meet.