Want to study abroad but not ready to give up your dream of surfing stardom? Lucky for you, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Despite what your parents might think, studying abroad doesn’t actually involve studying 24/7. Yes, you’ll be expected to enroll in (and show up to) class, and you’ll want to set aside some other time for language practice, weekend trips and exploring your new home, but nobody can stop you from choosing that home based in large part on its proximity to breaking waves, fresh coconuts, and a whole lotta sun.
Study Abroad 101
Let’s get one thing cleared up before you start investing in a new swimsuit for every day of the week: you do still technically have to go to class. If you’d rather be spending all your time tanning — or volunteering — on the sand, you might be better off looking for a volunteer or even gap year program to make your seaside goals a full-time reality.
There’s no reason, though, why you can’t mix academics and beach volleyball to create the perfect semester or year abroad. With an ever-expanding list of choices for study abroad destinations across the globe, you can ensure that your studies will never take you too far away from the shore. Whether you want to learn French, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish, Portuguese, or just stick with English, you can find a challenging, interesting program and course of study in a coastal city.
Where to Study Abroad Near a Beach
Realistically, unless you’re studying in a completely landlocked country (and even then, maybe there are lakes?) you’re likely to be at least somewhat close to a coastline. Still, we know all beaches aren’t created equal, so why settle for a six-hour journey to sit on an overcrowded strip of sand when you could have round-the-clock access to some of the world’s most beautiful shores whenever you need a study break?
From the Pacific to the Mediterranean, here are some of the best places on the planet to keep your studious toes in the sand.
Study topics like management, startup technology, or education, or enroll directly in one of Sydney’s many great universities.
Hit the beach: The city alone has more than 100 beaches, from the world-famous Bondi Beach to the more secluded Northern Beaches, so you never even have to leave the area code (although you probably should).
Sydney has been one of the world’s top study abroad destinations for years, with thousands of foreign students arriving on its shores each year ready to learn some real Aussie slang. With beautiful weather, world-famous landmarks like the Opera House, access to natural wonders in the Outback and Great Barrier Reef and a hopping social scene, there are tons of sand-free reasons to spend a semester Down Under. You might even find yourself enjoying Sydney’s other attractions so much that you willingly skip a few prime tanning afternoons in the interest of other adventures!
Take one of many French language immersion courses or study business and entrepreneurship along the French Riviera.
Hit the beach: Head to La Plage Publique de Beau Rivage, the city’s most famous public beach, or just pick one of the 30 beaches that line the famous waterfront Promenade des Anglais.
If you want to immerse yourself in French culture and learn a language in between sunbathing sessions, there’s hardly a better place to land than Nice. France’s fifth-largest city may not have the glitz of Paris, but it has all the classic appeal of French culture, design, and food, with bonus Mediterranean beaches stretching along the tranquil Côte d’Azur.
Nice, which was originally founded by the Greeks back in 350 B.C., has developed over the centuries into a charming blend of ancient and modern. Join the city’s million-plus residents in a stroll through the Cours Saleya flower market or along one of the waterfront promenades to enjoy the region’s year-round sunshine, then pop indoors (eventually) to admire works by some of the many artists that have called Nice home, including Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall.
Study topics including Spanish literature, Islamic studies, or architecture and design, or take courses at the prestigious University of Granada.
Hit the beach: Granada itself isn’t on the water, but you’re a short drive away from the gorgeous Mediterranean beaches of the scenic Costa del Sol near Málaga and Nerja, or a quick boat trip across to Morocco.
Like Australia, Spain has become one of the top study abroad destinations in the world, drawing students with its irresistible blend of history, culture, art, nightlife, and of course, food. Granada, nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains is one of the most popular locations in Spain, especially if you don’t want to deal with the hectic atmosphere of big cities like Madrid or Barcelona. The coast is just an hour’s drive away, offering endless opportunities for all the beachy getaways your heart desires.
Once the epicenter of Muslim Spain, Granada is still strongly influenced by Islamic art and culture, visible everywhere from its architecture to the menus of local Arabic teahouses. The student-friendly Andalusian city of just under 250,000 also boasts famous landmarks like the stunning Alhambra palace and Albayzin, the city’s old Moorish quarter filled with winding, cobblestone alleys.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Learn Portuguese with a language program, study local arts and culture, or enroll directly in one of the city’s many universities, like PUC (private) or UFRJ (public).
Hit the beach: For the true postcard experience, there’s Copacabana and Ipanema. For everyone else, there’s a beach around practically every turn of the twisting coastline, from nearby Niteroí all the way down the Costa Verde (Green Coast).
If you’re serious about combining sand and studies, set your sights on the city that’s practically synonymous with beaches! From the famous sands of Copacabana and Ipanema to the more isolated sections of coastline to the south, Rio is a beach lover’s paradise — and an amazing place to study!
This city of 6 million has been going through some tough political and financial times, but that won’t stop the warm, friendly Cariocas from welcoming you to the city of surf and samba. With top universities, world-class music and nightlife, a diverse population and beautiful language, endless opportunities to hone your surfing and volleyball skills, and the world’s biggest Carnival party, Rio will keep you busy even on those rare rainy days!
Cape Town, South Africa
Study public health, education, social change and inequality, architecture, or one of the dozens of other options at the University of Cape Town or through other program providers.
Hit the beach: Hang with the trendy crowds at Clifton and Camp’s Bay, or befriend the penguins at Boulders Beach, just south of the city.
Tucked near the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Town has access to not one, but two oceanic coastlines, as well as some of the best surf spots on the continent. South Africa’s second largest city has everything you could ever want from a study abroad destination: top universities (the University of Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest university), diverse culture, incredible music, great nightlife, and no shortage of adventures sports and activities to keep your non-beach calendar full.
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Learn how to save the planet with courses on ecotourism, conservation, biology, sustainable development and, of course, Spanish.
Hit the beach: Though Monteverde itself isn’t a beachfront property, it’s just a few hours from beautiful Pacific Coast beaches like Montezuma, Jaco, and the blazing white sands of Guanacaste.
San Jose may be the capital, but Monteverde is the place to be in Costa Rica. As the name suggests, it’s both green and mountainous, home to the country’s famous cloud forest. In recent years, the region has become a hub for ecotourism and conservation, mostly because of its proximity to the cloud forest reserve.
A number of U.S. universities offer programs in ecotourism, ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability with their local partners in Monteverde. If you’ve ever wanted to split your time between living in a functioning biological research station and zip lining down to the beach on your days off, this is the way to do it.
Take a Turkish language course or study international business or hospitality in Turkey’s tourism hub.
Hit the beach: Make a beeline for the world-famous Konyaalti, at the edge of the city, or conquer the 11 miles of untouched sand dunes at Patara.
Antalya may not have the international fame of Istanbul or Ankara, but it’s a badly-kept secret that this area on the Mediterranean coast is home to some of Turkey’s most beautiful beaches, with blue water that gives the region its nickname, the Turquoise Coast. Despite stiff competition from cosmopolitan Istanbul and the Instagram-ready balloons of Cappadocia, Antalya remains one of the country’s top tourism destinations, which should tell you something about how nice the waterfront property is.
Antalya is more than just sand, though. As Turkey’s eighth-largest and fastest-growing city, it’s drawing more people from across the region every day, helping it change from a former resort town to a bustling metropolis in its own right. If current events aren’t really your thing, take a step into the past and explore the city’s many ancient ruins left over from its former days as a major Roman port.
Learn about conservation and marine biology, ecology, geology and other sciences on and around the Bahamas’ hundreds of islands.
Hit the beach: Steer clear of the cruise-ship crowds and head to one of the smaller, more isolated islands for some real alone time, or choose from one of the many public beaches on Paradise or New Providence Island.
As a student in the Bahamas, you’ll have the ocean right at your fingertips. The sea is never far away in this archipelago of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the sunny Caribbean. Take a deep dive into a place that is so much more than a cruise ship stop through studying marine life, conservation and ocean ecology in the islands’ coral reefs and warm waters.
When you’re on land, take some time to learn about the diverse cultural history of the Bahamas, where the influence of the British colonizers (the Bahamas finally became an independent Commonwealth in 1973) mixed with the local practices, beliefs, and traditions of the islands’ original residents.
Enroll in technology or art courses at the American College of Thessaloniki, or learn more about history, art, archaeology, or classical studies.
Hit the beach: Head to the beckoning umbrellas on Perea beach, or explore the many beaches on the nearby Halkidiki peninsula.
Greece’s second-largest city and the capital of Greek Macedonia always seems to be stuck playing second fiddle to Athens, everyone’s favorite home of partially demolished buildings. There’s so much to see and learn here, even away from the waterfront or the classroom. About 1 million people populate this big port city with a small-town feel, supporting its thriving economy, excellent restaurants, and active nightlife scene.
The city houses and the endless array of monuments and museums, as well as ruins that are a testament to the many civilizations (ancient Greeks, Romans, the Byzantine and Ottoman empires) that have taken up residence there since the city was founded in 315 B.C. A devastating fire in 1917 leveled most of the city center, so the rebuilt center is filled with modern European architecture, but there are plenty of historic sites left to keep you busy, including a 4th-century Roman palace with a building that has served as both a church and a mosque.
Study conservation, global health, international relations or even coding at one of the many programs on Bali, or enroll in a yoga teacher training course.
Hit the beach: Spend some time exploring the beaches near the surfing hotspot of Kuta, or venture off the beaten path to one of the island’s many “hidden” beaches.
While Bali might have fewer study abroad options than Java, the most populous island in the archipelago and home to the capital, the choices are still diverse, ranging from international business courses to intensive yoga and meditation practice.
Though you may think of Bali as a tree-lined paradise (and you wouldn’t be wrong), the island is also home to more than 4 million people, as well as volcanic mountains and famous temples and other religious sites. The island has a rich spiritual history and deep significance for people of many different faiths — there’s a reason all those yoga retreats are hosted on Bali — so take some time to work on your inner peace and balance, too.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Study wildlife conservation, sustainable development, food security, take public health courses at the University of Dar es Salaam, and don’t forget to brush up on your Swahili!
Hit the beach: Stay close to home at Kunduchi, or take the ferry across to go diving and frolic on the sparkling white sands of Zanzibar.
Since its founding in the mid-1800s by the Sultan of Zanzibar, this busy port city has developed into the cultural, economic, and educational capital of the country, and East Africa’s largest city. Its history, architecture, and culture present a fascinating blend of the diverse influences on the city’s development, including Swahili, German, Asian and British.
The heart of this colorful metropolis of four million is its famous fish market, which bustles with activity beginning well before dawn and is definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not a seafood fan. If you’ve got a sensitive nose, head toward the amazing Village Museum, where curators have painstakingly recreated the traditional homes of local tribes in an open-air setting that takes advantage of the region’s year-round sunshine. Dar also allows easy access to the island of Zanzibar, a major tourist destination that sits just a 90-minute ferry ride away.
Ready to plan your beach-side study abroad experience?
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