By: Amy at University Language On: February 13, 2012 In: Study Abroad, Travel Comments: 0

Some of the top study abroad countries for Americans are well-known student destinations, but others may surprise you.

The United Kingdom and Western Europe remain popular (largely Italy, Spain, and France), as do Spanish-speaking countries like Costa Rica.

Students are also flocking to China, Japan, and Australia.

Check out the 11 most popular study abroad destinations for US students in 2016!

Top Study Abroad Countries for US Students


Number of US Students

Percentage of US study abroad students

1. United Kingdom



2. Italy



3. Spain



4. France



5. Germany



6. China



7. Ireland



8. Australia



9. Costa Rica



10. Japan



11. South Africa



While the top 7 destinations haven’t changed from the 2014/15 school year, Australia overtook Costa Rica as the 8th most-popular destination.

Any of these countries can be ideal for study abroad, but they can also have drawbacks. Here are some aspects of studying abroad to consider before you decide whether to follow thousands of American students to a top country, especially one of the big three (the UK, Italy and Spain).

Pros of Studying Abroad in a Top Country

The presence of many fellow American students provides a sense of community. You’ll be able to socialize and possibly travel with people in a similar situation, which can help curb homesickness and increase comfort.

Some of the best universities in the world are located in these top study abroad countries. You’ll get a great education at what’s often a bargain price compared to many American colleges. Also, in several of the top countries, you’ll be in or near some of the world’s most famous cities.

Resources may be easier to find. A university accustomed to having many American students will be used to helping them with aspects of study abroad such as translation of school records, scheduling, housing, and transfer of credits.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia there will be language adjustments, but not significant language barriers. English is also spoken frequently in most of the top countries, whether or not it’s the primary language.

Cons of Studying Abroad in a Top Country

A university with a lot of Americans may become insular. It’s easy to fall into a “bubble” where you’re only spending time with other American students and not getting to know the country or its people. At a top study abroad country, you may have to make more of an effort to broaden your experience and social circle.

If you’re going abroad to improve your language skills, you obviously aren’t choosing the UK — but you may not wish to choose Rome or Paris, either. Choosing a smaller city or town in a more popular country will decrease the likelihood of locals seeing you as a tourist and therefore only speaking to you in English (as a redhead who tried to practice her Italian in Florence, I can attest to that!).

You will probably still get a fairly typical college experience. This is great, unless you’re looking for something a little bit different. My own time spent abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, was similar to studying at an American university.

There were specialized courses and fascinating historical landmarks, but there were also exams, essays, study groups, and dormitories. If you want to explore the wilderness or the ocean, or otherwise try out an entirely different way of life, consider more rarely visited countries.

In some cases, the cost of living may be higher than it would be in other countries. Most of the top countries are full of large cities, which means not only cultural high points, but also spending more money. Think about the exchange rate and the likely cost of living when choosing a country.

The experience of studying abroad is different for everyone, and you have a lot to think about when picking a college and country.

How ULS Can Help

If you’re applying to colleges overseas, ULS can help with all your translation needs. From diplomas and transcripts to recommendation letters and student resumes to medical records and birth certificates, we provide professional, certified translation services in more than 200 languages.

Contact us today to learn more about our translation services. Call 1-800-419-4601 or simply fill out our free quote form.

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John B
John B
6 years ago

As an American graduate of TWO Canadian universities, I cannot believe that Canada was not at the top of this list, and you do not even place it among the top 11 (unless you are one of those Americans who think that Canada is part of the United States).

Kaytie at University Language
Kaytie at University Language
6 years ago
Reply to  John B

Hi John,
This “top” list is determined purely by statistics, specifically, how many US study abroad students went to each country in the 2011/12 school year. When considered from this perspective, Canada does not make the list. Less than 1 percent of all US study abroad students choose Canada as their destination. You can check out the full Open Doors Report here:
Of course, Canada is still a great place to study abroad, or be an international student! We certainly didn’t mean to imply otherwise.
Thanks for commenting!
Kaytie at University Language