England Italy are great, but these unique study abroad locations offer the experience of a lifetime
By Annie Rose, Edited by Valeri Boyle
Published March 13, 2014
Ah, Cuba—an island vibrant with the sights, sounds, and flavors of Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences. Cuba is a bright and colorful country with a rich diversity of architecture, a clear preference for bright colors, and a nod to history with its old, classic cars and weathered buildings.
Location: Cuba is located in the Caribbean, surrounded by Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Cayman Islands.
Three Interesting Facts about Cuba:
- Cuba is a socialist state with one of the world’s last remaining communist governments. The country’s political atmosphere provides for a fascinating case study for students who love politics.
- Cuba is globally recognized for its sustainability efforts, small ecological footprint, and high Human Development Index, three indicators that the country takes care of its land, animals, and humans alike.
- Cuba has a dynamic history of government-originating oppression, rebel-led revolution, and complex negotiation between the state and the people of Cuba. This obviously complicates and contradicts the notion that Cuba takes care of its humans. However, this contradiction contributes to Cuba’s intrigue and allows for an engaging study for history and other social science buffs.
Costa Rica: home of lush bio-beauty, a clear devotion to peace, and the concept of “pura vida”—a devotion to living a pure life of health, abundance, and happiness. If you want to live and study in a place that promotes peaceful living, peaceful interaction locally and globally, and peaceful existence with the environment, Costa Rica is the place for you.
Location: Costa Rica is located toward the southern tip of Central America and is bordered by Panama, Nicaragua, the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea.
Three Interesting Facts about Costa Rica:
- Costa Rica is well-known and respected for its biodiversity and commitment to taking care of its environment. It is a hotspot for environmentalists and eco-tourists alike.
- Costa Rica is a country devoted to human rights and peace. It houses the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the United Nations University of Peace, and, unlike most countries, lacks a traditional military. Rather, consistent with one of its foreign policy objectives to foster human rights and sustainability, Costa Rica uses its “Public Force” to provide ground security, protect people, patrol the border, and resist the narcotics industry. Costa Rica does not engage in war.
- Many Costa Ricans actually greet each other with the saying, “Pura Vida”. This means complete strangers wish to each other a pure life, or a life of greatness, wellness, and happiness.
Cambodia is known locally as the “Land of Peace and Prosperity”, evidenced by the country’s abundance of practicing Buddhists, “spirit houses”, and active devotion to Buddhism’s “Four Noble Truths”. Combined with Cambodia’s religious personality is the country’s song and dance derived from the roots of the Khmer Empire, and its challenging upbringing through colonization, occupation, and invasion. All said, Cambodia provides visitors with a dynamic and complex history and present, each rich with intrigue.
Location: Cambodia is located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Thailand.
Three Interesting Facts about Cambodia:
- Cambodia is a Kingdom with a recently established multiparty democracy and a constitutional monarchy. This status was hard-won after years of colonialism, occupations, coup d'états, and other events that shook, shaped, and formed the many faces of Cambodian politics. Cambodia therefore offers a wealth of fascinating history for those interested in politics and history.
- More than 95% of Cambodians self-identify as Theravada Buddhist, which is the official religion of the country. Furthermore, most Theravada Buddhists adhere to its practices culturally and in everyday life, making the expression of the religion obvious to onlookers. Also, one can enjoy one of Cambodia’s most significant Buddhist temples by visiting Angkor Wat, a Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple that is one of the few remaining significant religious centers of its time.
- Cambodia has devoted a great number of resources to protecting its cultural, especially religious, roots. The land is saturated with temples, statues, alters, and other works of art that help Cambodians devote their daily lives to religious practice. While the majority of these works of art provide evidence of Cambodians’ devotion to Theravada Buddhism, one can also see elements derived from Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism.
Brazil is a colorful, vibrant country with gorgeous land, an engaged citizenry, and a spirit of celebration. Music, dance, art, and meaningful political and social engagement vibrate throughout the country, and many people who spend time in Brazil comment on its lively, spirited, and vivacious personality. It is also a country known for its warm, welcoming, and kind people.
Location: Brazil is located in South America and shares borders with Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. As you might have guessed by the long list of countries with which it shares borders, it is a huge country—the largest in South America and the Latin American region.
Three Interesting Facts about Brazil:
- While Brazil’s political system is similar to that of the U.S. (but not exactly the same) it is different in that voting is compulsory for the literate between the ages of 18 and 70 years. Also, Brazil’s current president is a woman by the name is Dilma Rousseff; this in and of itself distinguishes Brazil’s political system from that of the United States’, which has obviously never elected a woman as president.
- The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, distinguishing it from its Spanish-speaking neighbors. Portugal colonized Brazil in 1500, and Brazil gained its independence in 1822. It is one of the few countries in Latin America that didn’t endure the Spanish colonization.
- Brazil is home to the brilliant educator and philosopher Paulo Freire, who revolutionized education for Brazilians living in poverty or otherwise facing oppression. His pedagogy focused on empowering people through literacy and enabling them to empower others in the same way. The government of Brazil supported much of his work (Freire himself, worked for the government at one point), and his work had a positive influence on countless Brazilians. His work also influenced “Critical Pedagogy”, and increasingly popular pedagogy teachers use in the United States.
Ghana is a country rich with bright, West-African culture and dynamic economic and political systems. This makes the country one of multiple facets, with cultural elements such as song, dance, literature, and performance igniting vibrancy and curiosity, and political and economic situations stimulating critical thought and considerate research. Ultimately, Ghana is a stimulating delight for the thinking mind, the dancing body, and the hungry soul.
Location: Ghana is located in West Africa and bordered by the Gulf of Guinea, the Atlantic Ocean, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Togo.
Three Interesting Facts about Ghana:
- Ghana was the first African nation to declare independence from Europe. Suitably, the country’s motto is, “Freedom and Justice”. Ghana’s independent spirit is evident with many Ganaian writers, actors, dancers, singers, and other talented and spirited artists portraying Ghana’s path to freedom and justice.
- Ghana produces diamonds and gold and is rich in petroleum, natural gas, and cocoa. The country has fought throughout time to protect its resources from numerous European countries and has enjoyed relative success. Thanks to this, the country is experiencing rapid economic growth and an increase in quality of living. This makes Ghana an interesting country to study for people interested in economic development.
- Ghana’s recent history includes numerous political reorganizations stemming from a series of military occupations and a transition to a unitary presidential constitution with a parliamentary multi-party system. Ghana’s political transitions, in conjunction with its economic development, make it an interesting and dynamic country to study and experience.
Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.