Written by Joanna Hughes

Studying abroad means the opportunity to discover an entirely new environment. But why limit yourself to just one? Depending on where you’re studying, many interesting places, cultures, and people are just a hop, skip or jump away. Read on for a roundup of magnificent places to visit from wherever you are in the world.

1 If your home base is in South America….

Head to the Galápagos Islands. Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, this remarkable chain of islands and islets in the Pacific Ocean was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions somewhere between three million and five million years. Today, the Galápagos Islands boast breathtaking landscapes and wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, along with the distinction of having inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution and his resulting book, On the Origin of the Species.

Says Travel and Leisure of this inimitable destination, “As amazing as you think the Galápagos Islands will be, they routinely exceed expectations. It’s a place where lizards swim, birds walk, and humans, for once, don’t take center stage.”

Flights to the Galápagos Islands are plentiful from the mainland of Ecuador, and insiders say there’s no clear-cut choice for when to go. While summer months and winter break tend to be the busiest times of year for tourism, the cool dry season between June and November attracts the most amazing marine life.

2. If your home base is in the UK….

Think the Shetland Islands. Just 600 miles north of London, Shetland comprises more than 100 islands (just 15 of them inhabited) and spans the 100 miles between Fair Isle and Britain’s northernmost point, Out Stack. Dubbed “the last untamed corner of the UK” by Lonely Planet, it’s renowned for its gorgeous scenery, rich history, and winged creatures. Flights -- must under an hour and a half -- are abundant from major Scottish airports as well a Bergen, London and Manchester. A 12-hour overnight ferry offers a less expensive alternative to flying with the added benefit of the chance of seeing seabirds, dolphins and porpoises from the boat.

Another option? Iceland. Declared by The Telegraph to be “the most fascinating country on the planet,” Iceland’s rare combination of accessibility -- it’s a three hour flight from London -- and affordability is attracting more and more visitors to its glorious shores. In addition to being a prime destination in and of itself, Iceland is also a popular layover for travelers between North America and Europe.

3. If your home base is in France or Italy…

Corsica is a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean and accessible year-round by both air and sea, Corsica offers a phenomenal fusion of French and Italian influences.

Enthuses Lonely Planet of this intriguing island, “Jutting out of the Med like an impregnable fortress, Corsica resembles a miniature continent, with astounding geographical diversity. Within half an hour, the landscape morphs from glittering bays, glitzy coastal cities and fabulous beaches to sawtooth peaks, breathtaking valleys, dense forests and enigmatic hilltop villages. Holidays in Corsica will therefore be incredibly varied: from hiking and canyoning to working your tan, enjoying a leisurely cruise, delving into the island’s rich history and sampling local specialties.

4. If your home base is in the US….

Your neighbor(s) to the north are waiting, and offer all the wonders of a visit to Europe without leaving the continent.

Says National Geographic of Montreal (a one hour-flight and less than a five-hour drive from Boston), “Cosmopolitan Montreal is a beguiling blend of old and new, where North America's largest concentration of historic buildings rubs shoulders with a towering modern metropolis. And the whole is infused with a diverse cultural mélange that's reflected in its food and art and expressed through the francophone city's unique joie de vivre.”

Venture further north and you reach Quebec City. “It's clear from first sight that Quebec City offers a touch of Europe that's distinct on this side of the Atlantic. Dominated by the historic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, it's the only existing walled city north of Mexico, and the city's extraordinary people and attractions—as well as its architecture—will tempt you to linger,” continues National Geographic.

Studying on the west coast, meanwhile? Consider weekend trips to  Vancouver and Yukon. Says US News & World Report of the former, “Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground: Its chic atmosphere, high-fashion boutiques and fondness for health-conscious eating have earned it the nickname "Hollywood North,” while Thrillist declared the latter to be one of its “16 Easy Getaways for an Epic Weekend Outside the US.”

And these are just a few examples of what’s waiting for you on your study abroad adventure. Did you discover a favorite getaway of your own? If so, please share your recommendations in the comments section.

ArticleStudy Abroad
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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