For the record, I’m a big fan of Europe. It’s got a lot to offer in terms of food, history, and culture. It’s easy to get around. It’s fun. But with that being said, when it comes to studying abroad, you can probably skip Europe. I know, I know – but you want to eat pizza and drink cheap wine in Italy! Stroll down the Seine in Paris! Stay up all night in Spain!
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do those things, at some point. But there are plenty of other places to study abroad besides Europe, and here’s why you should check them out.
For every ten US dollar, you’ll get about 7.80 euro or 6.50 British pounds. Combine that fact with the generally high cost of living in Europe, and things start to get a little tight on that student budget. Tuition, accommodation, and food will usually cost more in Europe than in, say, Peru, Nepal, or Cambodia.
Consider this example: a half-liter of local beer will cost you approximately 5 euro in Rome. That’s almost $6.50. In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, you’ll pay roughly 20,925 dong – a smidgen under $1.
Europe’s not going anywhere
Remember that Europe will be there for you when you’re not on a student budget. Why not save Europe for a time when your wallet can stretch to a sidewalk café in Paris, nights out in Norway, or beachside days in Portugal? Or, look into intern and work opportunities in Europe after you’ve finished studying. Earning the local currency makes things a whole lot easier to afford.
Europe is many things, but its reputation as an adventure destination pales in comparison to places like New Zealand, South America, or Africa. If rafting through thick jungles, bungee jumping off of bridges, or tracking animals through the savannah appeals to you, think outside of the European box. You might find more kindred spirits and adventure prospects elsewhere.
Aside from potential language barriers, Europe isn’t an uncomfortable destination. (Unless you’re totally broke and flying by the seat of your pants, but that’s another story.) It’s gently challenging and fairly easy to navigate, even if you’re not a seasoned traveler. Study abroad is a chance to discover what you’re really capable of, and that can be so much more than ordering a beer in Spanish and eating dinner at 10 pm instead of 7. By choosing a country that you’re totally unfamiliar with but intrigued by, you open yourself up to learning things about the world and yourself that you might never have done otherwise.
Take advantage of your safety net
Studying in India or Colombia might sound terrifying to a first-time traveler, but as a student, you are not alone. When you use a study abroad program, whether it’s through your home university or not, there are people there to guide you. Chances are, you’ll have accommodation arranged, activities available, and other foreign students around, going through the exact same thing. This safety net might not be as advantageous in Europe as it is in India, where a guiding hand can be very, very welcome.
Be a big fish
‘Everybody’ studies in Europe, right? Well, no, but it’s true that many people do, particularly Americans. Competition is stiff for scholarships, program availability, and individual experiences. You go from swimming in your own waters to swimming in foreign water with a bunch of familiar fish. By choosing somewhere outside of Europe, you tap into the ‘big fish, small pond’ mentality. There will be fewer people to contend with for financial relief, and educational institutions in less-popular countries will have more incentives for attracting foreign students. In the end – you win.
This isn’t to say that if you choose to study in Europe, you’ll regret it. You probably won’t. But what if you’d done something a little bit different, a little bit more daring? Who would you be then?