Each year, US News and World Report issues a list of the top-ranked international study abroad programs. The publication is well known for their rankings of higher educational institutions, and the list of study abroad programs is compiled after interviewing, college presidents, deans of admission, and deans of students from over 1500 different colleges and universities. Study abroad programs provide students with the opportunity to explore other cultures, broaden their horizons, and gain a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world.
Top-ranked international study abroad programs provide experiences that set them apart from the norm. Rather than being semester long vacations, these programs expect students to immerse themselves in the local culture, learn about the history, and take excursions to places that are politically, culturally, artistically, or historically significant. Although this may sound a bit like extracurricular fluff, students participating in top study abroad programs reported that they developed important life skills including gaining new perspectives on American culture, increased confidence levels, and the ability to adapt to new situations, according to “USA Today.” Many students are even willing to take on additional debt, or delay graduation in order to participate in these potentially life altering experiences.
Although traveling abroad can be daunting experience for students who’ve never ventured far from home, these programs offer a relatively safe experience. Professors and faculty who are knowledgeable about a particular culture, or fluent in the local language and customs chaperone students, and the schools impart information about legal and safety precautions to students before they embark. Although students usually have the option to travel to remote locations in Asia, Europe, or Africa that have extreme cultural differences from places in America, most students opt to travel to regions that are more culturally similar. The top locations that students choose to visit when participating in top study abroad programs include Sydney, Australia, Barcelona Spain, London, England, and Paris, France.