It’s a tough call deciding where to spend a semester abroad. Although our minds may wander to thought’s of spending a college term in romantic Europe, when it boils down to it, not every European city is best-suited to college students.
If you’re looking for the perfect mix of nightlife, history, culture, academia and location, then take a look at the 10 best places to study abroad!
Amsterdam is arguably the ultimate exchange city. Though it’s incredibly international, it still retains a cosy community feel – just cycling around 9 straatjes neighborhood you’ll be greeted by a stream of familiar faces.
Brimming with boutique cafes, local markets, underground clubs and canal-side terraces, Amsterdam has endless great hangouts spots.
- Universities: The biggest colleges taking exchange students are the UvA (University of Amsterdam), the VU (Free University) and the AUC (Amsterdam University College).
- Accommodation: All exchange students are offered a room in student dorms which are over in the Science Park in the east or near Westerpark in the west. These are usually studio apartments kitted out with their own kitchen and bathroom.
- Cost of living: Try to budget around 800-1000 Euro a month.
- Language: Dutch is pretty tough to learn in just 6-12 months though with some knowledge of German you should be able to pick bits up. The Dutch, however, have impeccable English so no need to stress about it.
- Travel: Just about anywhere in The Netherlands is a short train journey away from Amsterdam, so you can easily fit in plenty of day trips to Rotterdam, Haarlem, Utrecht or Maastricht. And it’s almost just as easy to pop over to the UK, Germany and Belgium.
- Head to: Roest city beach for chilled people, creative events and a cool industrial atmosphere.
During term time, Montpellier is abuzz with student activity and southern French flair. A bustling university, shed-load of cultural events, reasonable rents and endless summers are a pull for students far and wide.
- Universities: There are 3 successor universities to the University of Montpellier, each one specialising in a different field.
- Accommodation: Rooms in halls of residence are somewhat limited so get in touch with the Montpellier CROUS as soon as possible. Rent prices are reasonable, coming in around 450 Euro a month.
- Cost of living: Ideally, budget something like 900 Euro for the entire month.
- Language: You’ll best experience the city with a decent level of French, but there are plenty of tandem programmes to bring your French up to speed.
- Travel: It’s pretty easy to travel around in the South of France, with Marseille, Toulouse and Nice a short journey away. You could even nip over to Barcelona or Northern Italy which are only a few hours away along the coast.
- Head to: The Place Jean-Jaurès district for student hangouts, live music and weekend brunch.
Nestled in the south of Spain, Córdoba draws students in with its glorious weather, friendly people and delicious food. After the afternoon heat passes, people spill out onto the streets to wander together through the squares, enjoying tapas, beer and flamenco guitars until the early hours.
- Universities: Opening only in the 70s, the University of Córdoba is still a fairly young establishment, though it has a developing Erasmus scheme and welcomes some 600 exchange students each year.
- Accommodation: You’ll have the option of renting a shared flat with other students or living in halls of residence through the university (note: you may even get a swimming pool).
- Cost of living: The cost of living is generally much cheaper in the south of Spain. Expect to pay between 400 and 600 Euro monthly.
- Language: Expect a strong southern Spanish accent, though most young people speak decent English and are happy to make the effort.
- Travel: Seville and Málaga are all in close proximity and easy to access. For heading further afield, hop on the high-speed AVE train across to Portugal or even a 40-minute ferry over to the North African coast!
- Head to: Bar Santos for tasty tortilla de patata, cold beer and great outdoor ambience.
Located along the river Neckar, nestled amidst the woody hills of Königstuhl and Heiligenberg, Heidelberg is a gorgeous little German town. It’s been drawing artists and intellectuals from far and wide over the years and, as a result, has become one of Germany’s most popular student cities.
- Universities: Heidelberg is home to a real range of universities from the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (Germany’s oldest university) to the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg (Jewish religion and culture).
- Accommodation: Rent can be quite pricey, particularly in the city centre. International students tend to have priority getting university housing – these are usually shared apartments or dorms of 12 people. Many German students live in private apartments in the nearby towns of Eppelheim or Dossenheim.
- Cost of living: Factor an overall budget of something like 750 Euro a month.
- Language: For Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, you’ll need sufficient language skills (ideally B2 level), though the SRH Hochschule Heidelberg offers more and more courses taught in English.
- Travel: Large German cities like Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart and Munich can be reached in 1-3 hours. The French border is just an hour away.
- Head to: the Neckarwiese for BBQ gatherings, amazing views and chilled summer evenings.
Boasting the youngest population of all major UK cities, Nottingham’s reputation as a dynamic hub of culture precedes it, making it a popular choice among students from both home and away. A succession of cool bars, shops and restaurants have sprung up around the emerging Lace Market district, a quarter mile square that was once at the forefront of the lace industry.
- Universities: Home to 2 of the UK’s top universities – the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. Both have great Erasmus schemes and loads of partner unis.
- Accommodation: Rooms in student halls are usually offered on a first come first served basis. It’s not uncommon that these contracts only cover term time and exclude holidays.
- Cost of living: Public transport and going out prices are all pretty affordable on a student budget. You can reckon with anything from £200-£270 a month for a room to around £450+ per month for a house.
- Language: It’s a fairly neutral Midlands accent, with a few Northern pronunciations on words like ‘laugh’ (say it: ‘laff’).
- Travel: Right in the heart of England, it’s well connected to the rest of the country, with major cities like Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester all just round the corner, and London only a 2-hour train journey south.
- Head to: Spanky Van Dykes for vintage records, cheap burgers and indie vibes.
Leuven is a small but true student city, with just under half its population comprising students! The university is dotted with parks, bars and cafes, leaving you with almost unlimited student hangout spots. And with each faculty boasting its own student-run “Fak Bar”, cheap beers and impromptu get-togethers are never far off.
- Universities: The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven is the oldest, largest and most prominent university in all of Belgium. Its campus fosters a great community, and there’s a large, integrated international student population.
- Accommodation: Rent for your average student room will cost something like 250-350 Euro. It’s definitely worth finding a place in the main ring (Heverlee) if you can.
- Cost of living: The K.U.Leuven estimates a budget of around 800 Euro.
- Language: Belgians are pretty open to different languages (given Belgium has 3 official languages: Dutch, French and German) and their English is generally very good, particularly among students.
- Travel: Leuven is more or less at the centre of the urban triangle that connects Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne, making for plenty of opportunities for weekend trips.
- Head to: STUK for smooth jazz, experimental cinema at student rates.
The capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is a city of two halves; loved for its fine dining and brick terracotta roofs on the one hand, and its thriving nightlife and graffiti-embellished piazzas. The ESN and AEGEE student organization ensure a packed calendar of events and activities, fostering a close-knit student community.
- Universities: Founded back in 1088, the University of Bologna is one of Europe’s oldest. It currently offers around 18 English language courses.
- Accommodation: Unlike much of the rest of Europe, students in Italy are generally expected to organize their own accommodation. EasyStanza and Bakeca Bologna should be your first port of call for flat hunting, and check the Bologna Erasmus Facebook groups regularly for people advertising free rooms.
- Cost of living: As one of Italy’s most prosperous cities, living costs can be quite high. Try to avoid eating out as this is where your budget will really feel it.
- Language: Not too difficult to get the gist if you’ve got some knowledge of Spanish or English. The university offers free Italian courses but these fill up quickly so sign up as soon as you can! Alternatively, look into Madrelingua, a course that offers Erasmus students a 30% discount.
- Travel: Bologna’s just a 1-hour train journey to Florence and Parma, and there are new high-speed services on to Milan.
- Head to: Piazza Verdi for cobbled pavements, student-filled cafes and buzzing energy.
While it may not boast the biggest student population in Austria, Innsbruck is a popular choice among Erasmus students for its location in the heart of Europe and easy access to nature.
- Universities: Innsbruck is home to 2 widely respected universities: the University of Innsbruck and the Innsbruck Medical University. Both are centrally located within the city and welcome hundreds of exchange students each year.
- Accommodation: There are several options when it comes to getting a student dorm, but for around the same budget it’s quite possible to find yourself a shared flat off campus.
- Cost of living: Around 800 Euro should cover all your costs. If you’re planning on hitting your fair share of slopes, it would be worth investing in a Tirol ski pass that’ll get you access all across the region for the whole season.
- Language: Be prepared for the Tyrolian accent which can lead you to believe that you’ve entirely lost your ability to understand German – the round vowels and “chs” sounds can take a bit of adjusting to.
- Travel: Innsbruck enjoys a fantastic location in the heart of the Austrian mountains, opening up heaps of opportunities for Alpine exploration – hiking, snowboarding, kayaking, you name it, it’s never far off.
- Head to: Weekender Club for student nights, alternative music and live DJs.
The student life and culture in Coimbra is second to none. In fact, the entire city gravitates around the university and its students, making it incredibly easy to feel at home. The city is dotted with picturesque parks and plazas that make for great hangouts on a nice summer afternoon.
- Universities: Referred to as the “City of Knowledge”, Coimbra’s home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra.
- Accommodation: It can be tricky to find a good shared flat but even a place in the centre shouldn’t cost much more than 400 Euro.
- Cost of living: Living costs in Portugal are generally very affordable, and 600 Euro a month should be enough to get by.
- Language: There are a small number of courses offered in English and exchange students can make arrangements with lecturers to do exams and assignments in English. International students are also advised to take an Intensive Language Preparation Course before the start of term – some knowledge of a Latin language will definitely help you pick up some Portuguese.
- Travel: Right in the middle of Portugal, you’ve got the major cities of Porto to the north and Lisbon to the south. Just hop on a train and you’ll be in Spain in a couple of hours.
- Head to: the Praça da República for tree-lined paths, low-key bars and student buzz.
A hub of culture that boasts countless museums, galleries, cinemas, bars and clubs, Prague has become an increasingly popular spot for exchange students. It’s easy to assimilate yourself into Prague’s student community, with various orientation schemes and organization helping new students find their feet.
- Universities: Charles University is the oldest university in Eastern Europe.
- Accommodation: There are several dorm options, the most famous ones being the Kolej Hostivars and Strahov. Though they’re a bit further outside the city centre, they’ve got a great international vibe and frequently host parties.
- Cost of living: A room in student halls can range between 100-300 Euro and general outgoings are pretty low if you avoid the tourist hotspots.
- Language: Czech is certainly one of Europe’s more complicated languages, particularly when it comes to pronunciation. Fortunately, most locals speak a good level of English to help you get by.
- Travel: Straddling Eastern and Central Europe, Prague makes for a great base to explore a whole number of neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Slovenia, all of which are a few hours away.
- Head to: Café Prádelna for charming furniture, homemade ice cream and great coffee.