Asia – the far-off land, very foreign and exotic to our Western cultures have become somewhat more familiar and accessible in the last couple of decades with the increase of expat job possibilities, lower costs of travel, and different international universities encouraging students to study abroad.
More and more young and enthusiastic students decide to spread their wings to fly outside of their comfort zone and instead of applying for an international exchange somewhere close to home, they rather experience extraordinary life in a truly contrasting culture.
For my last year of studying International Business at the University of Ljubljana, I decided to meet the world, so I applied to study abroad in South Korea. It was most definitely the best experience of my life and from there I had the chance to travel around other majestic Asian cities.
I would recommend it to anyone who’s up for a little adventure – to those who enjoy making friends from all over the world, those who appreciate different learning approaches, those who like chaotic streets, full of night markets and amazing sights, and for those who are true explorers in their hearts.
Based on my one year experience of studying in Asia, which created inspiration and encouragement to live and work as a travel journalist (I am still traveling around), I am introducing you to the best places to study abroad in Asia with most outstanding universities, which will not only give you a degree but also shape you into an independent and a brilliant individual.
Seoul, South Korea
My study abroad actually took place in the 5th largest city in South Korea – Gwangju, and although it was the most fascinating adventure of my life, I would recommend you choose Seoul instead, especially if this will be your first-time visiting Asia.
It is a perfect blend of the East and the West, since the Korean tendency to follow American trends but yet staying very true to their own culture is unlike any place in the world. You will never be bored in Seoul, primarily because of its greatness, and secondly, because of all the crazy cool things it has to offer. From contemporary museums, cute Hello Kitty Cafes, Korean BBQ, or worldwide food to clubbing in the biggest nightclubs in the world. Moreover, the Universities of South Korea are very admired and appreciated.
The only thing that shocked me was their discriminative behavior towards the white race because unlike the Chinese people, Koreans think quite highly of themselves and might show it in ignorant and mindless behavior. Well, I decided not to focus on these types of events and instead of making a big drama out of it, I took it as a part of an exceptional cultural experience.
2. Shanghai, China
If you are a big city person, then Shanghai is definitely a great place to study abroad. With over 24 million inhabitants, it ranks as the biggest city in China and one of the biggest cities in the world. It is one of the coolest places to experience, mostly because it offers much contrast – from gigantic buildings and substantial downtown areas to small streets full of everyday life glimpses.
Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive city in China’s mainland, but instead of staying for a whole year, you could get a perfect educational adventure with the Shanghai Summer School Program and spend your next summer there.
Don’t worry though – you can make it work anywhere. Instead of dining out, you could explore amazing flavors of night markets and spend your holidays in Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand, since flying from Shanghai to other nearby places is very cheap!
When South Korea can be a bit rejective and unwelcoming towards foreign students, Singapore is its complete opposite. I have never seen so many different races, cultures, and districts in such a small place. Singapore is in fact an island city-state with only 725.1 square kilometers in area. It is one of the most luxurious Asian cities with hotels such as Marina Bay Sands with a rooftop pool that overlooks the skyline of the city. Luckily, the view is available to anyone from the terrace alongside the pool – an expensive cocktail will buy you one of the best views in the world.
Singapore is an amazing city to study particularly because of its diversity – you will study in teams with students from the Middle East, India, Australia, Polynesia, South America, and so on.
4. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto is undeniably one of the most gorgeous and dazzling Asian cities. It is unlike any other big and busy place, since its wide areas, green parks, and cycling paths give you enough space to relax and joyfully roam around the city. It is a great choice of international exchange for those who cannot stand big metropolises but would still like to stay in a modern and highly developed place.
It is great to rent or buy a bike there and use it as a means of transportation and exercising activity. Kyoto is somewhat traditional and classical in comparison to Tokyo – abundant with historic temples, Japanese traditional houses (Minka), and small corner inns, where old ladies serve the best ramen in the world.
5. Taipei, Taiwan
Taiwan is a beautiful studying destination in Asia for all the nature lovers out there because it offers many different ranges of the countryside – from mountains, caves, beaches to breathtaking natural gorges. I recommend you base in the capital city of Taipei, which is so much fun! There are many Western students who will be happy to show you around, and you will be able to make some great connections with Asian students too because the atmosphere there is very open-minded. When I was studying in Korea, I visited a friend studying in Taipei and we visited many amusing night markets, had the best pizza in Asia, and went on a two-day trip to the South of the Taiwan island to relax and enjoy the beach after hiking around the Taiwanese valleys. Definitely an underrated place, I guarantee you will love it!