I am looking for a European country for study abroad next fall that has a cozier, warmer, and more “homey” vibe, if that makes sense. I love literature, the arts, and nature, and would ideally, prefer a medium-sized city that is not too overwhelming but I am very open to anything. Somewhere with opportunities for live music and going out (not necessarily a club scene) would be ideal, as I want to have the option to be social but also spend time exploring and immersing myself in the culture and art of the surrounding area. I was considering Florence, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, but would love to hear any recommendations because I am still exploring options. Open-air farmers markets, coffeehouses, etc and an easy place to navigate would be fabulous. Thank you!
Montpellier in France - 10mn from beaches, 1hour from mountains, 4 hours to Italy or Spain by train, good weather, open air markets, concerts, cinemas, festivals.
Malaga or Valencia in Spain
Lisbon in Portugal
I studied abroad at the University of Glasgow, Scotland - Renaissance Literature and Medieval History. It was hands down the best year of my life. The University of Glasgow is one of Great Britain’s “Ancient Universities”.
What you describe is exactly what I experienced. The people, city, university, road trips throughout Scotland, rock concerts, pub crawls, donner kebobs on the street corner at 2 in the morning, museums, festivals … it was fantastic.
I would strongly second U Glasgow or U Edinburgh – except that it’s not “warm”. The “dreich” (“Scottish rains”) is all but . But the people certainly make up for it. Scotland is great and you can easily travel to many places.
Add to that St. Andrews in Scotland if the OP wants a smaller city, though it would be a little more off the beaten track (but still accessible by train to anywhere in the UK). My D’s school has a strong relationship with St. Andrews and it’s high on her list for a semester abroad in a couple of years! We traveled in Scotland (in summer though) pre-Covid and fell in love with the country.
I’ve heard good things about the University of Galway on the wild west coast of Ireland.
Florence is a huge city packed with tourists. It is sure to be fabulous, but if you’re looking for a cozier experience you might want to look into universities in smaller cities of Italy…I wouldn’t know which to recommend, so it might take some searching on your part. Pretty sure there are universities n Sienna, Perugia, Bologna, to name a few. Sienna is in Tuscany, not far from Florence, and said to be a beautiful and fascinating place. Good luck!
In addition to Glasgow, I agree U Edinburgh would be a good choice. U Aberdeen in Scotland or U Dublin in Ireland would also be good options. St. Andrews in Scotland is very nice, but there are a lot of Americans there as full time students. I visited all of the Scottish universities I listed, and I would describe the vibe at St. Andrews as a little snobby and elitist, compared to the others.
This may already be your plan, but my advice is that wherever you go, try not to focus your time and friendships on other Americans. Do your best to live, eat, study, and have a social life with local native students and/or international students from countries other than the United States! My closest friend in Scotland was from Athens, Greece. I came home speaking elementary Greek lol.
That’s interesting to know about St. Andrews…
Do you want the country to be an English speaking country, or do you want to learn the language? Do you already have any facility in a European language? If not, and if you have no interest in learning to speak another language, then I would agree, go to a UK country. If you do have some facility already with a European language, I’d consider going to that country.
I’m sorry to rain on St. Andrews! It was a beautiful campus and town. The Scottish students were hesitant to visit with me because of its perceived snooty reputation. I did not get that kind of push back from them about visiting Aberdeen or Edinburgh.
The university seems to actively market itself to American students moreso than any other British university. They have a lot of full time 4 year American students.
I am American, but coincidentally my brother and his family live in London. His daughter (dual US and GB citizenship) was accepted to St. Andrews for fall 2021 but she deferred until 2022. I will get back on here next year and let you know how she is getting along!
University of East Anglia in Norwich in the UK might be worth a look. It’s 2ish hrs by train from London, but is a vibrant medium sized and very historic city. Very bookish place. It’s a UNESCO City of Literature. My D22 considered going to Uni at UEA, but decided to stay stateside. We have not actually visited Norwich, but it looks great and I would love to sometime. I know a lot of colleges in the US do study abroad with Norwich. Here’s UEA’s page about Norwich: Norwich and Beyond - UEA and their Study Abroad page: Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange - UEA
I am open to either, although English is certainly preferred- as I am a rising senior who needs to complete other academic requirements and cannot really fit taking an additional language (I already fulfilled my language requirement) in realistically. I took Italian for four years in high school, which is why I am drawn to Italy, but I’ve heard it isn’t the most warm or welcoming vibe and I am looking for that. Another great option I have is Aix-en-Provence in Southern France, but I have never taken French before so I am also not sure. I like the idea of UK or even Scandinavia, thanks for your input!
Your experience sounds awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing, I will absolutely take a look at Glasgow!
I will definitely check out Montpellier! Another option I have is Aix-en-Provence which is also in southern France- lots to consider, thank you again for your input! Great weather would be ideal. Do you know anything regarding how the French view and treat Americans?
My daughter loved studying in Cadiz, Spain. It’s at the southern tip of the country, right on the ocean. The people were very warm and there was tons to do. She hated to leave.
I agree about not sticking with Americans. My daughter met a girl from Germany and they agreed to speak only Spanish with each other even though the girl spoke English fluently. D said it was surprising how many Americans hung out with each other and didn’t get to know Spaniards.
Italy. Go to Amalfi Coast… Tuscany, Verona, Your familiar with the language but English is spoken. Can even look into the smaller fishing towns… You won’t regret it…
You seem to have a dreamy sort of idea about this holiday oops I mean study abroad: there you are, wandering through open-air farmer’s markets and art galleries and have great craic in a coffee house with your new European friends, all sunny skies and warm welcoming natives…I think you need to re-frame your thinking a bit before you head out.
First, a huge part of how you experience another place will be shaped by how you choose to interpret your experiences. You can interpret people not responding to you striking up a conversation while in a line as unfriendly- or you could realize that is something that isn’t a part of the local culture.
Second, even in the most US-friendly countries you will hear a lot of negative things about the US, and as you are a guest, you have to suck most of it up. Happily, most people can have a lot of critical things to say about America, and still be friendly to you- but you might be surprised how much the criticisms of your country sting when you are the outsider.
Third, if you really want to get to know the place it sounds as if the UK, Ireland and Italy are your best bets, followed by Sweden and the Netherlands. It is hard enough adapting quickly to a new country w/o the extra handicap of not speaking the language and not having a plan or desire to learn it.
The great thing about moving to a new country as a student is that you will have a ready-made world. The people you share housing with and the people you share classes with will shape your experience hugely.
Imo, top picks for your goals are Glasgow, Dublin, Pisa or Bologna, Uppsala and Amsterdam.
@collegemom3717 's post is spot-on!
If you speak some Italian, take a refresher course: it’ll make life there so much more enjoyable.
If you want to make “local” friends, you need to speak their language and know about their culture before you go. Invisible differences and assumptions teach you a lot but you need the tools to decipher them. Otherwise you’re stuck in an American bubble. (Your college may have a grn ed course in English about a country’s culture or in Intercultural Communication. Would typically count for a requirement to boot.)
Italy will have warmer climes than Ireland, the UK, or Sweden. However if you want people who speak English, these countries would work better, keeping in mind the similarity in language can be quite deceptive since the culture will be vastly different from many US cultures.
Which location has the most interesting classes that apply to your major? How will the grading work? Will your university accept all your study abroad classes?
IMO, the academics should be looked at first and then the location.
It’s fairly easy to travel around Europe so it’s not like you will be stuck in the same place weekend after weekend.
I’d also consider their Covid numbers and protocols.
IMO, Italy and Scotland fit your criteria best.
My son is currently studying in Florence, FSU, and loves it.
Florence checks these boxes. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the capital of Tuscany, The birthplace of the Renaissance, and the city is very walkable.
There are many study abroad programs in Florence and several Universities have Study centers in Florence.
My daughter studied in Florence at an art school. She liked it but it was mostly American students studying abroad. So that could be a turnoff to some students. She wishes she had checked out the school more carefully because she would have chosen a different one.