When the majority of our students think about studying abroad, their minds automatically go to Western Europe. In fact, some of CEA’s most popular destinations are Spain, Italy and France. However, having studied abroad in a non-traditional country (Morocco), I can tell you that it was most definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Don’t get me wrong, getting the opportunity to study abroad at all is something that will change your life for the better, no matter where you go! But if you are seeking adventure, something different, or just have some very specific requirements for your major (like me), I would definitely suggest looking into some countries and cities that are off the beaten path.

In 2013, I spent spring semester in Meknes, Morocco. I was studying International Studies with a concentration in Africa at the College of Charleston (Go Cougars!) so I was required to study abroad and, of course, I wanted to go to Africa. I had a background in Arabic and a fascination with the northern part of the continent, which is often considered to be “not typically African.” Before departing for my semester abroad, I was faced with a lot of questions about why I chose that specific destination, especially when so many people I knew were going to Florence or Barcelona. I told them I wanted to go somewhere that I wouldn’t know anyone, I wanted a smaller program, and I wanted to go on an adventure. Little did I know, this adventure would set the course for the rest of my life.

I do think these “off the beaten path” destinations are worth exploring if you are on the fence about where you should study abroad.  In a lot of cases, the reason students choose European destinations is because that is primarily what they’ve been exposed to by friends or family who have been there before.

However, many programs in non-traditional settings do offer subjects that the more traditional destinations don’t.

A few examples:

  • CEA’s Medical Spanish and Health Science program in San Jose, Costa Rica is a perfect program for students completing Spanish requirements and/or those planning to go into the healthcare field.
  • The same goes for our Full Curriculum program in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. In this program, you not only get to spend an entire week in Cape Town (!!!) but you can also complete courses in environmental sciences, human rights and much more!
  • If you are looking for a Spanish-speaking program but don’t necessarily want to go to Spain, definitely check out our programs in Vina del Mar, Chile—this destination is incredibly immersive, especially because the only housing option is a homestay with a Chilean family. Talk about getting a hold on your Spanish!

All in all, there are so many places in the world you could study abroad that it’s hard to choose just one!

However, studying abroad in a non-traditional setting will not only be an amazing experience while you’re on-site, but you will be a part of a tiny population of students who made the same choice. This comes in especially handy when you’re building your resume and applying for jobs post-grad. Only about 2-3% of U.S. students study abroad. To employers, this sets you apart as a risk-taker who is adaptable to different (and sometimes difficult) situations, and someone who is really interested in learning a different way of life.

Wherever you choose to study abroad, be sure to make it memorable because it goes by way too quickly! Take lots of pictures, laugh a lot, and just be open to every opportunity that comes your way—you’ll be glad you did!

Christine Weiler is an Admissions Counselor at CEA Study Abroad, an organization that helps students spend a semester, a summer, or an academic year studying abroad in 12 countries. Where will your learning take you?