Why study abroad? Some students are drawn to international studies because of the academic rigor of the programs, or the chance to try language immersion. But the best part of studying abroad is the adventures you'll have outside the classroom. This is the one time in your life you'll get the chance to live overseas for months - and for cheap - and have your lodging, meals and day trips all planned for you.
Which study abroad program should you choose? That depends on what kind of experience you're looking for.
The Central American country of Costa Rica is a favorite destination for studying abroad, and for good reason. While most foreign exchange students live and study in the smoggy metropolis of San Jose, countless natural wonders are just a bus ride away.
You can hike to cascading waterfalls, search for three-toed sloths in wildlife preserves and snorkel with sea turtles. Popular destinations for adventurous foreign exchange students include surf spot Playa Hermosa and the Monteverde cloud forest. You can even climb the slopes of Arenal, a volcano that was active until 2010 (though it could rumble again anytime.)
London is busy, dirty and pricey. And students studying abroad absolutely love it. Most live in the Bloomsbury university district, which is near London attractions such as the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and the West End theater district.
Take note: London is one of the world's most expensive cities, and foreign exchange students on a budget may find themselves eating fish and chips in the flat instead of sampling the city's legendary nightlife. But here's a big plus: You won't have to learn a new language.
You can't go wrong with any study abroad program in Italy, whether you choose to bustle Rome, stylish Milan or medieval Siena. Florence, however, combines all their charms. The ancient city in the heart of Tuscany has more art museums, churches, and notable buildings than a student could hope to visit in a single semester. A variety of international studies programs is offered in Florence: art history, Italian, film and more.
The small city of Antigua is a popular place for students to learn Spanish because it's old, charming and ridiculously cheap. Lunch is $3; a basic hotel room might cost $20 or less. Tourists love Antigua's colonial architecture and cobblestoned streets. Nearby attractions include the Pacaya volcano and hot-spring spas. Guatemala, while not as heavily visited as nearby Costa Rica, boasts awe-inspiring Mayan ruins and natural wonders, all easily reachable on the ubiquitous and cheap "chicken bus."
As China's poised to become the world's largest economy, there's no better time to visit its largest city, Shanghai. While other study-abroad experiences focus on history, programs in Shanghai examine the future of architecture, art, and business. See the astounding transformation of China firsthand, from factories to skyscrapers.
While Shanghai may seem dauntingly large, with as many as 24 million residents, it's surprisingly easy to navigate by foot and public transportation. And it's not all urban adventuring. Foreign exchange students can ride camels in the Gobi Desert, trek along the Great Wall and even plan side trips to Thailand or Cambodia.