12.5 Places To Consider Studying Abroad

Study Abroad Smarter's Recommendation

Ok, so here’s what I did:

12.5 Places To Study Abroad
@rawpixel

Every study abroad company compiles annual lists of the most popular study abroad destinations based on data from students that studied abroad with them. I looked at all the lists and simply combined them into one, super list, which you can find below.

The beauty of it is that it’s not just the most popular places. It’s the places that make the most sense: economically, academically; what have you. Plus there is the ‘.5’ at the end of my list which you won’t find on any other site’s popularity contest of study abroad destinations so we feel like our list reigns supreme…bwahahaha.

Now you’ve got some context. On with the article!

P.S. It’s not a ranking, it’s a list, so they’re in no particular order.


If a study abroad trip is in your future, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make. About things like when to go and how long to stay, how to pay for it, where to live, and what classes to take. Yes, we’ve got a lot of the bases covered here on The Study AblogBut we thought we’d give you even more options with a fresh, robust post on the subject. 

Maybe you already have some ideas, but don’t start packing just yet. Before you address any of these, the most basic, possibly most difficult, and definitely most important decision you have to make is where you want to study abroad.

The destination you choose will have a huge impact on your experience; it will be vital not only to what you learn, but how you learn. So you’ll want to choose a country with the most ideal living situation for you.

Exactly how do you pick the best country to study abroad in?

It really depends on you and what you want to get out of your international experience. Here’s some info that can help you decide:

Traditional and Not-So-Traditional Study Abroad Options

Certain countries automatically come to mind when students think of studying abroad. They’re the most traditional choices, often the ones we’ve been most exposed to and are most familiar with like England, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, and China. Studying in one of these countries might be the once-in-a-lifetime chance you’ve always dreamed of to be some place you’ve always wanted to visit.

If that’s how you feel, go for it and make your dream country your home away from home.

Or… consider something new and different for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Study Abroad and Food
So steaks, beer, and sides with tip – $10 each. BOOM!

The Best Study Abroad Countries As We Transition Into A New Decade

Take a look at the most popular places to study abroad, based on the programs they offer, the level of interest that students have expressed in them, and recommendations from students who have already been there

1. JAPAN 🇯🇵

The benefits of studying abroad in Japan
Sushi – @bady

There’s something for everyone in Japan. Modern cities, traditional villages, beaches, mountains, museums, temples and shrines – this small country packs a really big wallop.

It’s slowly becoming creeping up the lists in popularity and it’s becoming more and more obvious why. 

Besides providing the world with some of the most advanced technological advances to date, this exciting island nation is a mecca for pop culture, as well as a world-class center of art, literature, and music.

Pick the bustling urban lifestyle of a city like Tokyo, or the more casual atmosphere of a smaller town like Sapporo (this might sound familiar if you’ve been saki bombing). Or hop outside your comfort zone and explore the many picturesque villages that dot the Japanese countryside. Whatever you choose, you’ll have one opportunity after another to be captivated by the culture of truly enchanting Japan.

Japan’s History in 9 Minutes (this is a Youtube favorite with 45+ million views)

2. SOUTH KOREA 🇰🇷

The benefits of studying abroad in South Korea
Bibimbap – @souschef

Are you surprised? South Korea is a relative newcomer to the list of favorite destinations, but an upswing in the popularity of K-pop a K-dramas has helped put this country on many English-speaking students’ study abroad radar.

Korean language courses, as well as English classes focusing on the arts and sciences make this a great place to work toward your undergraduate or master’s degree.

If a fast-paced, diverse setting appeals to you, consider Seoul, the country’s vibrant capital where you can immerse yourself in the unique customs of the culture, flavorful foods, and the one and only Gangnam District. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why South Korea is quickly becoming a top choice among foreign students. Maybe you will be one of them!

3. BRAZIL 🇧🇷

The Benefits of Studying Abroad in Brazil
Brazilian Beignets – @oliviascuisine

This one’s not on anyone else’s list, and I honestly I haven’t even interviewed anyone that studied abroad here, yet. It’s not one of the most popular destinations, and other countries may seem more appealing to you.

BUT…

They experienced an economic crisis in 2014 which means it’s pennies on the dollar (26 pennies as of this writing) right now. I’ve been to Brazil and It was AMAZING. Email me if you have any questions, too. There is so much more about this country that I could pen an entire post about it, so TBC on that.

A Short Video I Made From My Visits To Florianopolis & Bariloche

(Bariloche is in Argentina which also made the list)

4. SOUTH AFRICA 🇿🇦

The benefits of studying abroad in South Africa
Chakalaka – @_cookingwithclara

This option is a little more outside the box, but quickly gaining popularity. Considered by the international science community to be the cradle of humankind, South Africa is steeped in rich cultural, political, and archaeological history. Yet, you’ll be amazed at how modern and developed it is. And how culturally diverse (as in 11 official languages). For international undergraduates the University of Capetown is a great school to consider; not only is it affordable, but also South Africa’s highest ranked university.

In order to truly appreciate the flavor of this intriguing country, I recommend that you go local.

The townships are living memorials of South Africa’s somewhat erratic past, but also offer local attractions that you shouldn’t miss, like Vilikazi Street in Soweto and Mzoli’s Place, an outdoor restaurant where visitors are introduced to the somewhat unique combination of really loud music and scrumptious “braaing”, or barbequing as we would say.

By the way, South African currency, the Rand, is extremely weak which gives you the green light to eat and shop to your heart’s content, even on a meager student budget. Once you get there, this is one super affordable destination.

5. AUSTRALIA 🇦🇺

The benefits of studying abroad in Australia
Seafood pasta – @adolfofelix

Head down under for an unbeatable place to study, especially for first-timers. No need to learn a new language here, as this is an English-speaking country filled with fun and friendly Aussies. It might take a little effort to get used to their slang, but your new “mates” will help you get the hang of it in no time.

Adventure seekers will love Australia’s mix of rugged terrain, expansive beaches, and cosmopolitan cities. Like Sydney, for example, where there’s never a shortage of cultural activities, gorgeous beaches, and a hopping night life to keep you busy.

cost of going to the great barrier reef
@lorenzo_underwater

Brisbane is another popular option, consistently ranking in the top five as the best and most affordable student city. It’s where you can combine a world-class education with an amazing international experience – without breaking the bank. And if you’re looking for things to do in your spare time, pick from a long list of great cultural sites, live music, theater, and entertainment venues. Or pay a visit to Australia’s largest art gallery. You’ll find it in Brisbane.

No need to feel left out if you’re more the outdoorsy type. A trek through Australia’s Outback will give you an up-close and personal look at the beauty of gorgeous landscapes and landmarks.

6. FRANCE 🇫🇷

The benefits of studying abroad in France
Wine and cheese, two French staples – @jeztimms

France always attracts students in record numbers. Food. History. Romance. These are some of the words that probably pop into your mind when you think of this super popular host country.French food words

By far, Paris is the go-to city for international students. Are you picturing the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, sidewalk cafes, fabulous dining, and strolls along the Seine? Oh, and don’t forget the Louvre. 

There are lots of other excellent study abroad programs available outside the capital that are much more affordable. Consider Aix-en-Provence in southern France, a beautiful university city with stunning beach access. If food is your thing, you’re sure to love Lyon, which is one of the culinary capitals of the world.

Smaller cities like these can be just as fun and exciting as Paris, with living costs that are way easier on the budget.

7. ITALY 🇮🇹

The benefits of studying abroad in Italy
Pasta Carbonera – @nonsolofood_roma

Like France, Italy continues to be one of the most sought-after destinations for study abroad students. There’s pretty much something to meet everyone’s educational goals here with programs that blend Italian cultural studies with major courses from business to fine arts. Plus most programs require little or no Italian language study (although I can’t imagine not wanting to soak up as much of this beautiful, romantic language as you can).

The country itself will be a feast for your eyes and soul with iconic historical sites, breathtaking landscapes, and luscious cuisine around every corner. You definitely should be ready to put on a few pounds. And, of course, is there anything that beats the fabulous Mediterranean weather!

Rome and Florence are the two cities selected most often by study abroad students, but many other less popular cities around the country will not disappoint. Sorrento with it’s stunning water views and an amazing culinary scene is a perfect example.

And given the theme of food in this post, I think it’s worth noting that I recently interviewed a well known international travel blogger who said Italy was “hands down” the best country she has ever been to for food.

This incapsulates the city of Rome to me 😂

8. SPAIN 🇪🇸

The benefits of studying abroad in Spain
Tapas, or ‘small plates’

Every year, thousands of students pick Spain as their study abroad destination. Maybe it’s the great climate, or the rich cultural history, the friendly people or their laid back lifestyle. Or maybe it’s the daily siestas! Whatever the draw, the country consistently hosts a diverse group of student visitors from around the world.

Similarly, the diversity of programs guarantees housing and classroom options to suit every need. Keep in mind, however, that because thisI've interviewed more students from Spain than anywhere elseis such a popular choice for studying abroad, it may take a little extra effort to immerse yourself in the local culture. To get the full impact, make it a priority to explore outside your comfort zone.

Whether on campus or mingling with the locals, this is the ideal place to hone your Spanish speaking skills. There’s nothing that the people of this country like better than lively conversation, sharing delicious food and drink, and enjoying the sun and surf with friends at their sun-drenched beaches.

The capital city of Madrid is the hub and heart of Spain; it’s a lively student city packed with things to see and do. Boredom will never be a problem in this engaging metropolis. If that’s not your style, many of the smaller cities and towns also host student populations that are just as active. Cities like Seville, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Granada are some of the most popular, all easily accessible by public transportation.

9. CHINA 🇨🇳

The benefits of studying abroad in China
“Don’t forget the chopsticks” – @purewow

With more than 4,000 years of recorded history, China is an exceptionally interesting and exciting place to study. Its immense size (nearly as big as the entire continent of Europe), also makes this fascinating country extremely diverse.

China is a rising global powerhouse that boasts the largest emerging economy in the world. In light of these distinctions, business students and language enthusiasts wholeheartedly have taken to pursuing Mandarin and Cantonese study.

Duolingo claims 2.85 million registered Chinese language learners, with that number continually rising. There’s no doubt that proficiency in the language could give you a great competitive advantage when you enter the job market. Job experience or internships will also add a plus to your resume, particularly if they’re at one of the many corporate headquarters in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong.

When you’re not studying, be sure to put iconic landmarks like the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors on your “must do” list.

If you travel to China, you may want to prepare yourself for some culture shock. But go ahead and dive right in. The unique language and cultural perspectives just might be the highlight of your study abroad experience.

10. UNITED KINGDOM 🇬🇧

The benefits of studying abroad in the U.K.
Fish n’ Chips

The UK is one of the most popular places to study in the world, with London, England, and Edinburgh, Scotland, typically being the top cities. Because there’s so much diversity among the four countries, one could be just right for you.

England 

So, maybe this is your first time away from home. If you’re feeling a little jittery about being on your own in a foreign country, England is a great choice. Since English is spoken everywhere, the transition is pretty undramatic. Yes, even with all the quirky dialects. Many students love the built-in familiarity of this well-known country, as well as not having a language barrier to contend with. Is that you?On the other hand, because there’s not much discrepancy in culture,

some feel that England isn’t very challenging as a study abroad destination; it’s a little too comfortable and easy for them

Is that you?

Of course, you can expect to get a great education. England is home to prestigious universities like Oxford and Cambridge. And when you’re busy studying, there’s always plenty to do in your free time, especially in London, which, naturally, is a favorite. You won’t want to miss iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace (will you be the one to make the Queen’s guards smile?), Windsor Castle, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Elsewhere, there are well-known landmarks like Blackpool Tower, Stonehenge, and the White Cliffs of Dover.

One thing to keep in mind is that London is quite expensive, so if England is your go-to destination, another university town definitely would be more budget-friendly.

Scotland 

Edinburgh – @topukphoto

This may be one of the best kept secrets for studying abroad. Historic castles (maybe you’ll live in one!), royalty, breathtaking landscapes, to-die-for food, museums, bagpipes, festivals, kilts, soccer, bustling cities like Edinburgh, and rolling country hills. From what I’ve been told, Scotland grabs you and never lets go – you’re going to feel right at home the minute you arrive.

Even though Scotland is not attached to mainland Europe, a great transportation system makes it easy and cheap to trek over to any European country. Or fly to Ireland for around $25 round trip. Within Scotland, trains and buses ensure you can get anywhere you want to be.

What about the Scottish people? They’re great – warm and welcoming and always happy to share their kooky, but lovely lifestyle with you.

Wales

West of England, south of Scotland, and east of Ireland, Wales is home to some of the UK’s top universities. Prestigious Bangor University, for example, features a variety of academic offerings for study abroad participants. Bangor is a small city with a big backdrop, otherwise known as Snowdonia National Park, the most beautiful national park in the UK. The city is not on most tourists’ itineraries; so if you’re looking to avoid congestion, you can experience a lifestyle that treasures both education and the environment. Inside the classroom and out, this is where you’ll discover a locale that has retained its rugged Celtic charm though the centuries.

Wales is a feast for the eyes with its lush countrysides, sprawling beaches, and towering ocean cliffs. Its stunning beauty will make you think you’re living on the set of an epic movie. And, oh, the castles! This picture-perfect country is home to more castles per square mile than any other country in the world. 🏰

The food of Wales is another feast to fall in love with – that includes everything from award-winning cheeses to scrumptious Welsh Black Beef.

Ireland 

Temple bar in Dublin [email protected]

You’ll hear the word “craic” a lot in Ireland. It’s pronounced crak and the best translation I can give you is “fun!” This gorgeous country is brimming with music and dance that will tickle your soul. You haven’t lived til you’ve sipped Guinness and done an Irish jig in a local pub. Or cheered on your favorite team with friends at a rugby, hurl, or football match. Maybe you’ll even join up and play a game or two yourself. Go for it and get involved. Rain or shine – and there is a lot of rain – the Irish love their sports.

On the more serious side, Ireland has deep-rooted history, customs, and traditions. Travel there and you’ll be welcomed by warm, hospitable people who will gladly share their history and vibrant culture with you. Academically, it’s home to some outstanding schools such as Trinity College in Dublin and Queen’s University in Belfast, which is one of the UK’s leading universities. Higher education in Ireland is internationally ranked, with exceptional offerings in the fields of literature, technology, communications, Irish studies, history, and environmental studies.

You know that Ireland is called the Emerald Isle, right. It really is a magical land of velvet green landscapes and soaring cliffs reaching down to the sea. Don’t forget to kiss the Blarney Stone while you’re there. It’s said you’ll gain the gift of eloquence, which sure can come in handy in a foreign country.

10. GERMANY 🇩🇪

The benefits of studying abroad in Germany
The description was in German but it had sausage and looked delicious so, yeah – @eingevleischt

 

The joys of a welcoming culture and world-class education draw students from around the world to Germany, a mainstay on the list of best places to study abroad year after year.

Germany is extremely student-friendly, with a variety of discounts available to the student population, like reduced or free public transit. Thanks to its status as an economic powerhouse, it is an especially popular destination for those interested in business, political science, and the German language. Some of the world’s largest companies are headquartered here, also making it a great place for academic internships. Land one of those and see what a plus it will be on your resume.

Interning in Germany
If interested in engineering or design, Germany should be definitely be on your radar. #internship

If you choose Germany, it will be helpful if you already know the language, at least partially. But many programs offer a combination of courses taught in German, as well as English, so it’s all do-able.

Besides being home to Oktoberfest and the Neuschwanstein Castle (think Disney’s Cinderella Castle), there are charming burgs everywhere and around other 20,000 castles to explore in your free time. Use those free transit passes! Get to know big city Berlin with its artsy alternative vibe, or check out some of the quaint and cozy smaller towns. The architecture, history, and culture of this beautiful country will grab you from day one.

Fun Fact: The very first interview I did on the podcast was an a story from Germany (and Austria) 🎙.

11. ARGENTINA 🇦🇷

The benefits of studying abroad in Argentina
Empanadas – @pastdexter

Argentina is the second largest country in South America and, take it from me, it’s an amazing place to study abroad. I did a six-week program in Buenos Aires, the largest city, where I had the opportunity to live among some of the most fun-loving and passionate people I’ve ever met. They were warm and kind, and eager to show me the ropes. And seriously seriously improve my Spanish language skills.

I guarantee that you, too, will have an unforgettable experience from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. Try tango dancing and dine on fine steak in Buenos Aires. Explore the wine country of Mendoza. Hike Patagonia. And absolutely make a trek to Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfalls in the world. You’ll never see anything like it again in your life.

Argentina has a stunning natural beauty and diverse geography that are great if you’re into outdoor exploration and adventure. There’s so much to see and do, but the country is so expansive that I suggest focusing on one specific area at a time. Or better yet… stay longer! I wish I could have.

12. HAWAII 🇺🇸

The benefits of studying abroad domestically

You bet! This is an area I want to highlight more throughout the Study Abroad Smarter realm. What I mean by Hawaii is that you can study abroad anywhere in the United States. It’s not study abroad. Its study domestic, and it’s a thing. But students rarely do it because they don’t even think about it as an option.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a different city or state, shoot over to your friendly neighborhood study abroad advisor‘s office and see what’s good. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to help you plan it.

12.5. NONE OF THE ABOVE 🌍

The benefits of studying abroad in an exotic location
One of the questions I tend to ask when I interview someone who has studied abroad in an exotic location is “do they have McDonald’s there?” It has become my unofficial way to gauge how developed the country is. Do you have the guts to go somewhere without the golden arches? – @food_ninja

The government actually wants you to learn less learned languages in more exotic countries. If you really want to get off the grid, immerse yourself, and take the path less traveled listen to this interview with Jeff Cary

——–

The list below are what I consider to be the dark horses on the list. They’re less traveled, but there are still McDonald’s.

Think of it like this. You probably know someone who studied abroad in Australia or London, but you probably don’t know anyone who studied abroad in…

There are so many more, but use this list to jump-start your thinking process. See, there really is something for everyone. Now… where in the world will you decide to spend your study abroad time?

Also it’s worth noting to be cognizant of the expenses that go into the trip. It’s fun when the exchange rate is on your side.

A Big City vs. A Small Town

Even within a specific country, students who study in an urban area will have very different tales to tell than those who live in a smaller or more rural setting. The lifestyle differences can be substantial, with advantages and disadvantages to each.

Do you prefer the excitement and fast-pace of a big city or the serenity and laid-back environment of a small town?

There are colleges and universities in each type of locale. And by the way, the city or town where you study also will be a big factor in the cost of your trip. Determine which setting is best for you overall and make that part of your decision.

I’m using pictures and examples from the U.S. for a reason. My explanation at the bottom explains why.

Big City Pros 🏗🎭🏟🍕

The benefits of studying abroad in a big city.
Chicago – @apzphotographicart

If you’re not thrilled about giving up many of the conveniences you’re accustomed to, an urban area probably will be a good choice. For starters, you’ll find large cities to be well equipped with all the modern technologies you need, from internet to telephone to television.

Excellent public transportation systems make it easy to connect with just about any place you want to be – efficiently and cheaply. And the entertainment options are practically endless.

Spend your free time enjoying theaters and music venues, restaurants, clubs and pubs, coffee shops, sporting events, and stores packed with all your favorite brands from back home. Really, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Another attractive element of city life is the accessibility it provides to cultural attractions such as museums, art galleries, and iconic landmarks. Because metro areas are melting pots, you’ll be exposed to diverse groups of people from different cultures, often speaking multiple languages. Take advantage of the opportunities to interact with them, on and off campus. This in itself is an beneficial, eye-opening experience that can help prepare you for a career anywhere in the world.

Studying in an urban setting provides convenient access to career-boosting internships and jobs at prime companies. With professionals and other top executives headquartered in large cities, it’s also easier to network and connect with the people who can possibly open doors for you job-wise.

Big City Cons 🏭💥🏗💰

All these components of big city living are enticing, but keep in mind that they do come at a price. Everything is typically more expensive in an urban setting, including food, rent, and entertainment. Do you really want to choose between paying the rent or taking a life-changing side trip to an iconic site? You and your family will need to determine if study abroad in a big city makes sense for you financially.

With so many fun things to do right at your fingertips, you have to make sure you’ve got the discipline to put your academics first and not let all the extras distract you. I’m not saying this will be the case for you, but it’s been known to happen. I’m just sayin’…

Rent in Chicago, IL from @Zillow

While you certainly will be exposed to a variety of cultures in a large city, you probably won’t experience total cultural immersion. Sure, there will be hints of it everywhere, but metro areas are always the first parts of a country to be internationalized. This means you won’t have much difficulty finding familiar foods and products, as well as friends from your own country. Will you be in your comfort zone? Sure. But your experience won’t be as culturally enriching as it would be in a smaller town.

Lastly, consider the safety factor. Urban areas are arguably more dangerous than their rural counterparts. Not to mention the noise, traffic, lack of natural landscaping, and higher pollution levels – all components that may or ma

y not play a role in your decision to be a city dweller.

Small Town Pros 🛶🎢🏘🧘‍♀️

If you’re looking for a real taste of local culture, studying abroad in a small town may be ideal for you. Many students have come back from rural areas with a newfound understanding of the country they’ve been in. They’ve had the opportunity to live like a local and really immerse themselves in the culture. Living in a small town allows you to develop a sense of community and let your identity shine through. It’s a chance to personally develop yourself and overcome the challenges of a new language, customs, and environment.

Rent in Madison, WI

Unlike in a big city, making friends may be much easier. You won’t be among strangers for long. Besides getting to know the locals, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with other students. And what better way to polish your language skills than to dive right in andactually use it.

At school, you’re likely to get more personal attention from professors and other university staff, making for a more interactive academic experience. You might even have your own tutor to support you and offer advice during your entire study abroad period.

There are other advantages to living in a small town. Living costs can be quite low. You may be surprised at how cheap it can be to get a room in a residence hall or shared flat. Or maybe you’ll live in a private home with a family. You can use the money you save on accommodations and other day-to-day expenses for side trips to interesting locales. Plus, the business owners in smaller towns usually are happy to offer special student discounts at their restaurants, bars, local attractions.

Small Town Cons 🥣👨‍💻👩‍🌾🐌

Why you shouldn't study abroad in a small town.
@analoggd

The down side of all those great student discounts is that there probably are not so many bars, pubs, clubs, and restaurants, or organized activities like concerts or sporting events. If that’s the case, I suggest you simply find a favorite spot and become a regular loyal customer. There are bound to be special deals for you.

In general, many of the conveniences you have back at home are sure to be lacking, so you’ll have to test your ingenuity and either find creative solutions or adapt to what’s there. Where there’s a will there’s a way, so I know you can do it!,

What about internships and jobs? They definitely will be harder to find, especially if you don’t speak the language well. And if you do, there aren’t likely to be many options to choose from.

Realistically, there’s a good chance that most student jobs will be at your host university.

Of course, you’ll live in a more relaxed environment in a small or rural setting – less pollution, fewer crimes, a certain ease in your day-to-day lifestyle. Just be sure to do your research because small town living comes with a spectrum of options. On the one hand, it could mean a place where it’s difficult to find buses, taxis, trains, or even planes. In other places you can connect to urban city centers fairly easily. Do the research before you go and you’ll have a good feel for what to expect in the area you choose.

Here’s where I come out:

Katz’s Delicatessen

Since I’ve started conducting these interviews, I’ve realized that there are several mid size cities that I have never heard of before and they’re absolutely beautiful. You get most of the pros, and not so many of the cons.

For example, you have heard of Chicago and you have probably heard of Madison, WI. Let’s contrast this with Spain. You know Barcelona, you know Madrid, but have you ever heard of Oviedo? It’s got a population of 220,000, it’s close to the ocean, and absolutely gorgeous.

So if you’re torn, try and find another Oviedo. There are literally hundreds like it and I’m discovering them on almost a day basis through the podcast.

Studying abroad in a mid size city
Oviedo, Spain – @lumisansa

Ready. Set. Go! 

When thoughts of studying abroad start to excite you, begin perusing and researching the options that are out there. If you already have a particular part of the world in mind. Great! If not, it could take a while to zero in on your favorite(s) so start early.

Talking with an advisor in your school’s study abroad office can be a HUGE help. They are priceless resources who know how to guide you through the entire process and ensure that you find the perfect country for your international adventure.

 

English As A Second Language And Stories From Around The World With Matt Schneider

Matt Schneider of WESLI

“When you get an opportunity to get out into a place that scares you a little, I think that you learn a lot about yourself as an individual” — Matt Schneider

Few people are as well traveled as Matt Schneider. Matt, who works for WESLI (Wisconsin English Second Language Institute), covers two important areas in this interview:

First: He discusses what it’s like for international students to come to the United States and the role WESLI has in helping with the transition phase and helping students become ‘classroom ready’.

Second: He tells stories from his own travels (there are a lot of them) and you slowly get convinced that travel will make you a more well rounded person after listening.

I had a lot of fun getting to know Matt in this interview and you should, too. I think it serves as a great starting point for anyone thinking of studying abroad or international travel in general.

GPS Without The Tickets

SHOW NOTES

  • Matt’s journey into int’l education [1:33]
  • Preparing students for the academic classroom [4:53]
  • Who WESLI works with [8:47]
  • How to start with WESLI [12:00]
  • What international experience does for an individual [14:16]
  • A story from his travels [16:41]
  • Matt explains Serbian cuisine [20:36]
  • The value of a homestay [24:00]
  • Let My People Go Surfing [26:51]
  • Advice for students thinking about studying abroad [29:21]

First Time Eating Serbian Food Video

English Speaking Countries [Infographic]

How Johannes Schmied of UW – Oshkosh Blends in With His Environment

“Anything that’s local is something that I will try and mimic and blend in in order to learn more about a culture.” — Johannes Schmied 🦘

Johannes in the United States

Johannes Schmied is originally from Austria and decided to make a career out of studying abroad after his first trip to the United States at the age of 25.

As the Immigration Compliance and IEM Coordinator at UW—Oshkosh,
Johannes works with students who want to study in the United States without the high ticket price tag associated more urban environments.

If you peruse the infographic you will see that UW – Oshkosh is the perfect environment for an international student looking to save a few pennies.

In this interview we discuss minimalism, adapting to your surroundings, and international admissions.

“Collect moments, not things.” — Dany Dover

Johanne’s book recommendation:

The Minimalist Mindset by Danny Dover

Learn more about University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh in the links below:

Full Interview Transcript

Johannes Schmied
University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh

Chris: Hello, everyone. This is Chris again. Welcome to another episode of the Study Abroadcast. I’m here with Johannes Schmied who does study abroad for the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, and who is actually from Austria and has quite a bit of experience. So, Johannes, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here. I was wondering if you could just maybe give a little bit of your background and what brought you here today, what got you into study abroad and why you kept doing it. And we’ll go from there.

Johannes: Sounds good, Chris. As you said, my name is Johannes and I’m originally from Austria. I studied abroad in the United States quite a while ago while I was a college student back in my home country. I was just studying for one year abroad and I really liked everything about my time being abroad. It changed my career focus quite a bit so once I graduated, I moved to the United States. I started working with international students and I’m actually helping international students coming to America. That’s my passion, supporting international students studying abroad in the United States. But students can go studying abroad in any country and, to me, this has changed my whole life. That’s why I’m really passionate about talking about studying abroad.

Chris: How old were you when you first left, when you did your first trip from Austria?

Johannes: I was 25 when I was studying abroad in America, but most students might be much younger, especially Americans. When they study abroad, they go as freshmen or sophomores. There are quite a few students who study abroad during high school so any age is essentially possible. The younger the better I would say just because it’s easier to pick up a language if you’re younger.

Chris: Ok, and maybe talk a little bit about the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. How did you land there and if I was a student living abroad, why would I come to the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh? What’s good about that school?

Johannes: Ok, our university has quite a few majors and we have international students from all across the world. And those students who come to us, they want to live in a smaller town, not big as like Chicago or east of west coast expensive cities. Our city is only 60,000 people and our university has just over 10,000 students. We have quite a few programs that are quite prestigious. For example, our nursing program is very well known in Wisconsin and the students who graduate from here are very likely to have a job right away when they graduate. Our MBA program, our masters program in business, is something that international students are seeking out, but also the undergraduate programs on the business side. All of this can be found on our web page. You just look for the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and if international students are interested in studying abroad for a semester, a year, or a full degree in America, or at any specific university, they just have to look for the international office or an email that guides them on what they need to do to apply to a university or to our specific university. Just look for admissions to any specific university. Every university has specific criteria they need to fulfill so that you can study abroad or study at the specific school.

Chris: So it’s up to the student to contact you and make sure they’re admitted, right.

Johannes: Yeah and there are many ways how universities reach out to students, as well. Sometimes, we get tours to our campus, groups from Germany, groups from China, groups from South Korea to get to know our campus. But then there are also international recruiters who go to any country in the world to meet up with students in their home country. You can go to a study abroad fair in your home country and meet with international admissions folks from a variety of universities from a variety of countries. I would think that most countries have some kind of study abroad fair in their home country and those are often organized by private companies. So it’s one major way how international students come to a different country, just going to a study abroad fair. Nowadays, it’s also often word of mouth. We have a university student from Pakistan here and he tells his family and his friends back home this is a great place, come here. Then he shares our email, how students could contact us to go through the process of getting admitted to our university. Once students are admitted to the university, the next step would be what they need in order to get their visa to enter the country the student is admitted to.

Chris: Right. And so once they’re admitted I always like to talk about, to ask everyone if there’s some different little piece of advice as far as scholarships go and funding the study abroad. You’re obviously going to want to apply for scholarships when you do this process. What would you tell a student when they’re filling out their application or their essay for studying abroad? What would you talk about in your essay that may separate you from everyone else so you can get scholarships to study abroad?

Johannes: That depends completely on the scholarship the student is applying to. I can only refer to the scholarship our university is offering to international students. They have to complete an essay explaining why they would want to study abroad, what impacts they plan to make when they return home. So every essay might be a little different. I might not be the best person to talk generally about how to apply for scholarships. There are many places that students can apply, but you might need to talk to an expert about scholarships. Every university has some scholarships – at least that’s my assumption – and there might be different criteria for different scholarships you apply for. You might have to write several essays.

Chris: Right. What would you tell a student who’s sitting in your office and they’re on the bubble about studying abroad – I don’t really know if I should do it. We could sit and talk probably an hour about why you should do it, but what’s the reason? Is it to put on your resume, or is it for the experience, is it for the memories? What would you tell a student? What’s your number one reason why someone should study abroad?

Johannes: My personal reason was just I wanted to challenge myself, to improve my foreign language skills. I didn’t speak good English at that point when I applied to study abroad. So this was my personal reason – I wanted to challenge myself. But now that I look back at my study abroad experience and talk to other colleagues, studying abroad is spending a significant amount of time abroad. It’s just the best kind of education because you live in another country and you’re just immersed in a new environment where you have to kind of struggle through. Every day is so exciting because there are so many new things going on that you will never have problems falling asleep because you will always be so tired. And you’ll be all excited for the next day. It’s really a humbling experience to study abroad and spend a few weeks, or a few months, or a few years in a different country. It’s just a lifetime experience and I have not met students who didn’t want to talk about their experience afterward. It’s just something that really broadens one’s horizons to the world, especially to Americans. It’s such a big country, the United States, so sometimes it feels like it isn’t even necessary to go outside to see the world. But, there’s so much more to the world than the United States so I encourage anybody to spend time abroad, doesn’t matter what country you’re from. And if you look into scholarships early enough, it wouldn’t necessarily have to cost more than studying in your home country.

Chris: That’s a good answer. So now I’ve got a few rapid fire questions for you and if you get stuck on them, don’t worry. We can come back to them. You’re obviously very well travelled. Is there one epic travel story you can tell us – maybe something you’d tell at a dinner party, something funny about your travel experiences?

Johannes: There are funny stories and then there are stories of being out of your comfort zone. I’d like to share those because those are the ones I remember best.

Chris: Yes, by all means.

Johannes: There was one time when I was studying in my home country and one of my friends from Slovenia called me up and said, “I’m going in two days to Tunisia. Can you come along? The flight will be cheap.” I had nothing really going on because of the summer so I decided, yes, I’ll come along and I found myself in a country I had never been to. I had not researched much about it, I realized I don’t speak Arabic, I realized I also don’t speak French which was the second language there and I was dependent on two people. One was one of my best friends who spoke Slovenian and a bit of German and English, and the other person I didn’t know at all and he only spoke some English and I spoke some English. We were just traveling through Tunisia for one week on backpacks and there were times where I was completely on my own then because they would either go to bed or would be just talking to each other in their mother language which was Slovenian. It was something I had never experienced before and it was really interesting getting to meet the people from Tunisia, getting invited by families in their houses, spending time in their environment and seeing how people in different countries live differently. And what kind of food people eat. It was just a real eye-opening week for me. I was very tired and I was struggling during this week, but it’s something that I will always remember.

And I will always bring this up as a story because this is what made me curious to go to other countries. So that’s my story.

Chris: That’s good. Eating – I think that’s half of it. The most exciting part about traveling for me is the food. Not only what you’re eating, but when you’re eating and how long you’re eating for. It’s different everywhere. It’s interesting that you had to experience that, especially with the language barriers, too. If you have a book recommendation for everyone listening, is there something that you recommend for a good read?

Johannes: I have something that I find really an interesting concept. The book is called Minimalism – Live a Meaningful Life and it just talks about kind of cutting down on the stuff, on the materialistic things many people all around the world nowadays are drawn to. Trying not to own too many items and just trying to focus on the things that are really important to yourself. And that also plays along well with studying abroad because when you study abroad you cannot bring many things. You only have one suitcase or maybe two. You only bring the most important things. Living life in a minimalistic way and only focusing on the things that are really important to your life is a really interesting concept to me and, therefore, that is a really interesting book that’s called Minimalism.

Chris: Minimalism. Ok, I’ll put that in the link and maybe people can check it out. And then, the next question is about food – your favorite food from back home and your favorite food from traveling abroad. What is it?

Johannes: My favorite food from back home in Austria – I grew up in a rural area and our most important, the biggest, meal for me was a cold Austrian dinner which is just a multi-grain dark bread with butter and different kinds of spreads on top, or tomatoes, or pickles, different kinds of cheeses. You would just have this with family and friends, and you would sit at the dinner table for an hour and a half or two hours. So this is my food from back home. But nowadays when I travel, anything that is local, anything that people in the area I’m in are eating or drinking. If I go to Turkey, I might have a coffee. If I go to America, I might have a burger. If I go to Scandinavia, I might bicycle around. Anything that’s local that people do is something that I’m trying to mimic and trying to blend in. I’m trying to learn why they do these things and why they like them. That applies to food and it can apply to many other things. So I don’t have one specific food in my travel places. Every country has something new.

Chris: You just want to blend in with the environment and have whatever they’re known for.

Johannes: Yeah.

Chris: Then, when you walk into a bar – what will your order, what do you have when you walk into a bar?

Johannes: That again depends on what the locals do. Each place has their own specialty. I have to bring up Tunisia again because this was such an interesting place for me. We went to a bar there.

Chris: Sure, yeah.

Johannes: You could have any kind of drink, but they were different from European bars because you did not get alcoholic drinks. It was just the same as in North America or in Europe, but the drinks were just not with alcohol. It was the same thing, just without the craziness that happens when people are not sober. So no specific drink, just whatever the locals drink and that might be every bar had no specific drink.

Chris: Ok, I didn’t know that about Tunisia. Then, do you have a favorite quote, your favorite quote off the top of your head?

Johannes: Making connection to the book I recommended, the quote would be, “Collect moments, not things.” Focus only on the things that are important to you. Collect the moments, not stuff.

Chris: Right! Ok, perfect. Those are all the questions I have. Do you have anything else you want to add?

Johannes: No. As I already said, I would suggest anybody to study abroad and try to do it before you are bound down by family, or a marriage, or children. The younger you travel abroad, the easier you like it or the easier it is for you to learn the language. And the less worries you have about things that could go wrong. So I encourage everybody to travel abroad, study abroad.

Chris: Thank you very much, Johannes. We’ll put a link to his book and maybe get a little more on Tunisia when I post everything. Thank you very much and, everyone, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, it’s all on the website. So go ahead and do it there for new interviews when they come out. Thank you very much and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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