Study Abroad is, in all senses of the word, a journey. You can visit places you’ve always wanted to see, build independence, learn a language, and find parts of yourself that you never thought you would know. In my experience, though, one of the best aspects of studying abroad is the ability to not just be a tourist, but live somewhere, get to know the people, and be fully immersed in the cultural differences of the country you are in.

The kind of trip that you dream of can occur in so many locations, though it is important to recognize that the feel of a trip is heavily defined by exactly where you go. Europe is the most popular destination for Study Abroad, with Best Colleges on September 1, 2023, citing “Broken down by region, Europe was the most popular destination for U.S. study abroad students in 2020-2021, with over 66% of all study abroad participants choosing that location.” European countries are aesthetic and popular with U.S. students and can make a great destination; however, they are not your only option. In fact, the perfect vacation destination may not be the perfect location for you to study abroad. That’s what we’re here to help you figure out! Culturally rich and heavily immersive experiences can even more often come in non-traditional locations!

So, what is a non-traditional location? I’m so glad you asked!

A non-traditional location is often considered to be travel destinations that are not tourist-centric or common vacation spots. These are often non-European, a different city than a common location, and often, a location where the people around you are simply living their lives instead of working around tourism.

Personally, my study abroad trip took place in Ecuador, where tourism is incredibly low, and most signs don’t have an English translation on them as a result. However, despite the lack of tailored-to-me infrastructure, I managed to have an even better experience than I had ever thought. As somebody who had only ever heard about the popularized European locations before finding out about this trip, I had pictured myself in those locations for a long time. However, after experiencing the sheer immersion and benefits of studying abroad in Ecuador, I may never go back to traveling to more tourist-based destinations!

There are SO many reasons that you may want to consider a non-traditional location for your study abroad trip, but I’ve condensed it down to a few reasons for you.

1. Cost Efficiency

One of the BIGGEST barriers students face when looking to study abroad tends to be the sheer cost of the experience. Europe and other very popular locations for tourism often have spiked prices when it comes to flights, food, housing, activities, and potential excursions. The cost can feel intimidating for college students, however, the first thing that drew me to my program was just how much cheaper it was than I had thought it would be.

My flight options cost less and the cost of living in the area was lower which made my time in Ecuador fit into the budget that I had. Even our excursions cost less than I expected, meaning I could do more in Ecuador with my money than I ever could have afforded had I chosen traditionally tourist locations.

2. Increases Your Adaptability

The tourism industry is booming, and many of those locations are based around the tourists being in them. There is heavy focus on people being multilingual, signs that have translations, and even entire sections of cities designed for visitors instead of their inhabitants.

However, studying in a non-traditional location, leans into your desire to grow and learn to adapt to the environment around you. It creates an environment that does not just foster independence, but an incredible chance to learn and grow within a culture that is thriving. Allowing you the chance to learn directly from other cultures instead of just learn about them.

Personally, this is where I grew the most while in Ecuador. My Spanish skills improved right off the bat, since signs weren’t translated for us and most people with didn’t speak English. This led to my ability to communicate effectively, despite knowing next to nothing before my trip. This taught me, through trial and error, how to adapt and communicate with people even when I didn’t know the right words.

I grew as a person so incredibly much during my trip to Ecuador, and I often attribute it to the fact that, while I was, by definition, a tourist, I felt more connected than that. Being in a culture that was so different from my own, I was able to learn about myself through interacting with people and their beliefs and backgrounds, making me much more adaptable.

3. Cultural Immersion

One of the biggest goals most students have when it comes to study abroad, as opposed to standard vacations, is the cultural immersion into the local culture. Partaking in it instead of simply seeing it. This can get lost in heavily tourist-populated locations but can be particularly rich in non-traditional locations for Study Abroad.

In other words, being in a non-traditional location drives you into an even more culturally immersive experience and allows you to make even more personal connections with people that live there. You are no longer just a tourist, you’re taking courses, living in the same place as them, and likely interacting with people constantly for food, at the markets, and even just in common hangout locations.

I made connections with people in Ecuador who I still interact with virtually to this day, and the conversations we had with people in tourist-free settings are still at the forefront of the memories I share about my trip as the result of the degree of cultural immersion we were able to experience.

4. Different Experience Overall

Now, we’ve mentioned tourists a lot here. However, it rings true that your study abroad experience will be ENTIRELY different from a vacation. Tourist locations are great in short spurts, but the reality is, common locations will expose you to more tourists instead of the culturally focused experience of non-traditional locations.

Ecuador changed my life and how I view travel, and non-traditional locations prove that this is possible in many places you can travel abroad to. Studying abroad in a non-tourist-based location can change everything about your experience, so it’s important to recognize just how those benefits may make your trip as life-changing as possible! Check out our website to see what non-traditional locations we offer, we can’t wait to see you in advising sessions!