Leaving the bubble behind

Last week, the Office of Study Abroad announced a change in its financial policies – one that may end up saving students a few hundred dollars. If you’re thinking about taking advantage of the possible lower costs, check out this list of some of the most popular hotspots for those looking to expand their horizons beyond the bubble of Foggy Bottom. Don’t forget that this list does not include all the places GW students study abroad, and that students can always propose different programs to the Office for Study Abroad for approval.

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

South of the equator is a beautiful vista with a city plan and an architectural style that resemble those of a European capital. Due to its location, summer and winter are reversed, so students looking to get a tan while they study abroad in the summer should think twice before going. GW offers two programs here: one at the Universidad Católica de Argentina and another at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella. Students at both programs must have taken the equivalent of six semesters of Spanish, live with local families and are fully integrated into Argentina’s culture. For those seeking a more independent experience, GW has approved two other programs through IES Abroad, which require students to have taken four semesters of Spanish language to enroll.

2. Accra, Ghana

Straddling the Atlantic Ocean in southern Ghana, Accra is a bustling and vibrant city. For students looking to experience life in a decidedly offbeat destination, GW has approved two programs through CIEE and SIT Study Abroad that concentrate on international business and cultural studies. The local environment also provides ample opportunities for students to be engaged in field research, thanks to the country’s rugged landscape.

3. Madrid, Spain

This city seems to have it all: the capital of Spain has thriving culture and commerce, a temperate climate (for the most part) and arguably one of the best nightlifes in the world. But students looking to this hopping destination must plan significantly in advance, since GW only offers one program at the Universidad Autonóma de Madrid. Because courses are taught entirely in Spanish, students must have completed at least four semesters of study in the language before they are able to enroll. Both non-GW and GW students attend the program.

. London, England

Located on the British Isles, London is a popular study abroad destination for many GW students. Despite its reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world, London has become considerably more affordable in light of the global economic downturn. According to City Mayors, an international think tank that focuses on urban issues, London scored the 21st spot on the list of the world’s priciest places in 2009. That is significantly down from when it took first place in 2008. Students can study at institutions like King’s College and the London School of Economics and Political Science, but before applying, know that many of these programs require a high grade-point average for admission.

5. Paris, France

Known for the glitter of the runway and the international crowd it attracts, Paris is also a popular destination for students. GW offers several programs for students going to this iconic destination with its tree-lined boulevards and timeless architecture. Among the many options available are programs at the American University of Paris and at Sciences Po, a name that obscures the wide breadth of courses it offers, ranging from political science to finance. For students who are interested in studying alongside students from different schools in the U.S., independent companies like IES Abroad and the Council on International Educational Exchange offer alternative options.

6. Istanbul, Turkey

Bridging the gap between Europe and Asia, the city once known as Byzantium and Constantinople usually dazzles visitors with its gigantic mosques and scenic views. Observers are not being fooled – this cultural crossroads is full of vibrant markets, rooftop restaurants and enough sights to wear out even the most active traveler. Students looking to take advantage of this bustling city should consider studying abroad at Bogazici University, named for the Bosphorus Strait that divides Istanbul in between two continents. GW has also approved another program at Koc University that it operates in conjunction with CIEE.

7. Hong Kong, China

A British colony until 1999, Hong Kong is well-established as an international city, and one of dramatic contrasts. Anni Ylagan, a senior who studied abroad last year, told of the dichotomies that characterize this tiny district, home to just over 7 million people. Unlike those studying in Europe, Ylagan said, “I took my lessons from the man who sold scrap metal on the corner, the financial executives I saw crammed into the metro, and the old woman who sold fresh coconut juice at the market on my way to school.” For interested students, GW offers an exchange program through The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and allows students to attend a program that Syracuse University operates at the City University of Hong Kong.

8. Beijing, China

The capital of China, Beijing is full of historic monuments like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. And with the city making a considerable effort to improve air quality following the 2008 Olympics, one might consider Beijing something of a magnet for those heading abroad. GW students drawn to the Far East can select one of several programs operated by independent companies like CIEE and IES Abroad. The broad range of living options makes Beijing especially attractive – depending on the program, students may either live in dormitories, apartments or homes with local families.

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