Everyone knows Europe is the place to study abroad, but it can be hard to decide what country, let alone city, you should spend the next few months in. To help you out with this huge life decision, we’ve gathered the research and consulted our travel experts to put together our recommended list of European hotspots. Whether it’s a semester or a summer abroad, get ready for some of the best months of your life.
How do I decide which country to study abroad?
Year after year the most popular study abroad destinations seem to be Italy or Spain, two of Europe’s most iconic countries, which given their vibrant culture, tasty dishes and breathtaking cities is no surprise. Culturally Spain and Italy are similar in many ways being family-centric and each has a lot to offer in history and cuisine. Compared to the U.S. you’ll experience a more relaxed way of living in both countries. If you are struggling to pick between the two powerhouse’s here are some things to keep in mind.
Italiano vs Español: The Languages
If you’re planning to study abroad to work on your language skills, it shouldn’t be too hard to choose. If you want to practice your Spanish, head to Spain and If you’re itching to learn Italian, Italy’s the place to be. Keep in mind that each country has regions with different dialects, and this is something you should look into further once you select your country.
Paella vs Pasta: The Cuisine
If you’re a foodie, Italy never disappoints with a never-ending opportunity to pizza, pasta, and gelato your way around the country–If you’re already dreaming of carbonara and cannolis, Italy’s waiting for you. Paella and sangria are just the tip of what Spain has to offer, and tapas culture is pretty rapidly making its way around the world. Spend a few months in Spain and you’ll be craving patatas bravas, chorizo and all the other yummy tapas and pintxos in no time.
Festa Or Fiesta: The Parties
Nobody comes close to throwing a better fiesta than the Spanish. You’ve heard of San Fermin, the infamous running of the bulls and likely have heard of La Tomatina, the tomato fight. Have you heard, however, of San Vino the whole festival the Spanish have dedicated to throwing wine at each other? Parades, fireworks and partying in the streets until dawn are staples of Spanish holidays and you’ll love every second of how unbelievable they are. Of course, being Europeans, the Italians know how to throw a festa or their own, but we think that Spain is going to leave you with more memories and a bigger hangover than their trans-Mediterranean neighbors.
If you find yourself drawn more to one country than the other, whether it’s the language, culture, sites to see, things to do, or just a feeling, go for it–both Italy and Spain have amazing cities to choose from so you’re probably wondering which city is right for you so you can live your best life.
Spain It Is! Should I study abroad in Barcelona or Madrid?
The rivalry between these two cities is almost as old as time itself. Madrid and Barcelona are both home to delicious food and passionate football fans. They each host their fair share annual festivals and events and quirky neighborhoods to explore.
As the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona is known for its laid back beachside lifestyle contrasted by lively sporting events, rambling city streets, vibrant energy, and a wild club scene where you can dance your heart out until the sun comes up.
The Spanish Capital of Madrid is a modern yet elegant sprawling city. It’s unlikely that you’ll run out of museums and palaces to visit, and history and culture to immerse yourself in.
Walking the streets in Barcelona you’ll find yourself surrounded by stunning architecture and tasty tapas and of course you can’t talk about Barcelona without mentioning the man himself: Gaudi. The architect responsible for the magnificent but unfinished Sagrada Familia and other mystical landmarks such as Parc Guell and Casa Batllo.
Though Barcelona has many museums, they pale in comparison to the big three in Madrid; the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid is also home to the Parque de Retiro, 350 acres of green space in the city where you can rent paddle boats, picnic and just wander amongst the sculptures. In Barcelona, outdoor enthusiasts can get their fix hiking just outside the city limits or exploring nearby vineyards.
Let’s be real Spain has something for everyone so whether you choose Barcelona or Madrid the other is only a short train ride away.
I Want Italy! Should I study abroad in Rome or Florence?
The good news is that these cities are located within a couple hundred miles of each other so you can travel quickly and affordably between the two.
Rome is the bigger of the two cities and has more of a traditional urban vibe while Florence has a small-town vibe. Rome is a better option if you prefer a big city with public transportation and unique neighbouhoods to explore.
Florence doesn’t have a metro system so the best way to get around is on foot. If you want to complete all the exercise rings on your Apple watch, and navigate your way around the city Florence is the perfect fit.
Rome is full of famous landmarks, art, and architecture from all periods of European history. With history on every street corner, Rome is an easy choice for anyone studying history, art, design or architecture.
Known as the birthplace of the renaissance Florence is home to the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo and Piazzale Michelangelo also provides some of the country’s best views. Florence is also a center of Italian fashion and is where many luxury brands like Gucci, are headquartered.
Both cities are full of art, music, architecture, and history and are great locations for trips to other parts of Italy and neighboring countries.
No matter where you decide to spend the semester
You aren’t going to regret your decision to study abroad and it’s unlikely you’ll regret your choice of destination either. Once you get settled into your new home you’ll have an amazing time and make some lifelong friends and memories along the way. If you really can’t decide, look at multi-city programs.
The hardest decision? Choosing when to book your flight home.