The 10 best destinations for studying abroad in 2020

​Recognising that you have a desire to study abroad is only the first step. Choosing the destination is the first real challenge. That decision, however innocuous it seems, with thought of “oh, whatever” will, without doubt, influence many circumstances in your future life. It is no exaggeration to say that there is an entire field of science dedicated to this very subject, i.e. how a young mind goes through the process of making a decision and what the crucial criteria are. The answer to this question impacts the further direction of humanity in every segment of society, and we are talking about a market of several tens of billions of dollars annually.


In SAT Agency we have the rare opportunity to deal with this very subject on a permanent basis, through the availability and processing of a large amount of data, by reading studies and statistical reports, as well as hundreds of reviews written by students themselves, where they all give us first-hand information. You don’t need to be an expert in this area to guess which countries students traditionally go to. Also, it is clear that there are global economic trends which have led to relatively new destinations appearing in the top 10. What is quite difficult to predict, as is the case also in other areas, are the trends and changes in the medium and long term.


Global trends have not passed this very large market by either, so turning to nature, healthy lifestyles, organic food, natural landscapes and untouched beauty is something that has become a must for the young, modern-day, international student. This very fact explains the ever-more frequent appearance of relatively unknown destinations on the global student map, such as Bhutan, Bolivia, Peru, Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, New Zealand, etc.


The technological revolution has brought to the fore a new king among the destinations for studying abroad. The vertiginous growth rates of the Asian tiger economies since the end of the last century have led to them having ever-greater influence in the education sector, among which the leaders are South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. 


A brief review of the table below shows us that there are three newcomers to the list of the 10 most prestigious destinations, as well as a few which have shown a trend of stable growth, behind which stand a clear vision and measurable results. Let’s go over this list together and consider each destination individually and its main characteristics. Maybe we can make you reconsider, if you are already set on one particular destination.

Are you surprised that the UK is not on the list?

1. Japan


Jumping a full six places on the list compared to last year, Japan has positioned itself in first place among the destinations where students go for education. The destination where sushi, Nintendo and emojis were born, Japan is a country which has contributed in many ways to the current development of humanity, way beyond the current pop culture for which it is known. Japan has a long tradition of culture, music and literature, and in the last century gave us some of the most significant technological inventions that have changed the world. It is no wonder that international students have flocked there in order to discover every segment of this unbelievable nation.


Whether you choose the hustle and bustle of a metropolis such as Tokyo, or a smaller city such a Sapporo, you will have many possibilities to get to know the culture and language. Jump out of your comfort zone in 2019 and join the many other students who are already enjoying the large number of exciting things that Japan has to offer.

2. France


If you are a Francophile or even francophone, you will be delighted with the fact that France has climbed three places into second place on the list of the most popular destinations for 2019 and continues to attract a record number of students, despite all the misfortunes that have befallen it in the last few years. For all those in love with French history and culture and culinary treats, romantic evenings of poetry on Montmartre and much more, Paris is unsurpassed.


The amazing Aix-en-Provence is a university complex in the south with easily accessible, gorgeous beaches. For all gourmands there is Lyon, which is considered one of the best-known culinary capitals of the world. Be sure also to check out all the other smaller cities in France which are certainly lively and colourful, but also significantly more affordable.

3. Italy


Italian cooking has its fans across the whole expanse of this beautiful country. The Mediterranean climate and history full of famous events and well-known historical figures is something that has kept Italy right at the top all these years, quite apart from its traditionally high-quality higher education. One should not ignore its improvement of one position since last year, which demonstrates the commitment of the institutions there to continue this positive trend.


Rome and Florence are cities awash with international students every year. Also, Milan and Venice are there, but there are also smaller cities that have their own characteristics that make them stand out from the crowd.

4. Spain


The land of sun and the siesta, although it has fallen one place, is still one of the most desirable destinations for international students. Known for its relaxed lifestyle, free from daily stress, its rich history, delicious food and drinkable and affordable wines, Spain is the ideal destination to continue your studies and improve your knowledge of this widely used global language.


Madrid, as one of the historical and cultural capitals of Europe, is a lively student megalopolis full of activities. If fast living in a large city is not your thing, there are a large number of other, smaller cities with equally active student populations that are easily accessed through the well-connected and well-organised public transport network. Seville, Barcelona, Bilbao and Granada are among the most popular student cities in Europe with their own special stamp and sights you can easily fall in love with and which are difficult to leave behind.


5. New Zealand 


When we mention New Zealand many will remember the breath-taking natural beauty, perhaps most memorably depicted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has contributed to this country’s tourist figures significantly increasing in recent years. New Zealand consists of two islands. The geographical variety of this small country and the high-quality education programme are reasons why international students flocked to this destination last year, catapulting this newcomer into the top 10 at number 5 on this year’s list.


Wellington is the administrative and student capital of New Zealand, where students can enjoy the film landscapes between classes. Dunedin, as a second student option, also has a long coastline open to the sea, as well as many walking and cycling trails. New Zealand is one of the rare destinations which justifies the full meaning of “work hard, play hard!”

6. Ireland 


New on the list this year, the Republic of Ireland is very quickly growing in popularity as an education destination. This small island country is well known for the kindness of its population and the sights to be discovered and visited. Ireland is the home of exceptional literary history (for those less aware of this we recommend Bram Stoker and James Joyce for starters) and the traditional music scene, which is unrivalled. Those in love with art history find in Ireland an inexhaustible source of inspiration at every corner. Ireland has undergone a real boom, with its expansion of active sports in nature, so you can practice all outdoor activities from mountain biking to surfing. The rainy season is long, but that is only a small price to pay for being able to ride through the green hills and to walk through Ireland’s lush forests.

Dublin, as a truly international city, with its many green areas, museums and pubs, is always an interesting option for those most discerning of students. Galway is two hours away by bus and is well known for its arts scene and Bohemian vibrations. Limerick and Cork are equally open to international students. Feel your inner creative life in this spell-binding land of short-story writers!

7. China


Despite falling five places, China is still a popular option for foreign students. With a territory only slightly smaller than the entire European continent, China possesses an equally large diversity. Also, this is one of the oldest civilisations with a written history – 4000 years old. These few facts on their own convince a large number of students every year to continue their schooling in this country.


China’s vertiginous growth has had the effect of persuading business students and foreign language enthusiasts to come in large numbers to enrol in Mandarin language studies. As statistical information varies from year to year, Duolinguo has 2.85 million Chinese language students and this trend will continue to grow in the future. Whether you want to study the language, culture and nation seriously or you only want gain a level of knowledge so that you can informally communicate like the local population, a dive into Chinese culture will be a new and unforgettable experience.

8. Germany


Oktoberfest, cars, Beethoven and sausages are the first associations I have when I think of Germany. A land with roughly 20,000 castles, German history, architecture and culture effortlessly enchant students. It is no wonder that Germany has been in the top-10 destinations for some time and that it has climbed one place compared to last year.


Because of its status as an economic powerhouse, Germany is popular among students of political science and economics. It has earned the epithet of a student-friendly destination and with its clear policies in the education sector it wants to keep that epithet. Berlin is well known in the student world as a city of exceptional cultural and alternative vibrations. Heidelberg is a famous European historical and educational centre. All cities are worlds in themselves and each one has something that makes it stand out. Germany has introduced free schooling, and tuition fees either do not exist or are only symbolic, but that does not mean that it is easy to get into. On the contrary!

9. Australia 


The expanse of this large island, its untouched beaches and cosmopolitan cities will delight every student who, besides studying, is searching for interesting adventures in nature. For a long series of years Australia has been of great interest to all foreign students, especially because English is spoken there and because of the very well organised education system and life in general. Even though Aussie slang can sometimes confuse you, Australians are great fun and very friendly.


Sydney is certainly popular among students who enjoy night life, beaches and cultural activities. It is among the five most popular student cities, with an affordable cost of living and an excellent living standard. Brisbane has the largest art gallery in Australia, as well as other sights, cultural locations, theatres and live music. Outback trekking is recommended for all those who enjoy untouched beauty.

10. South Korea

Although it is in the top 10 for the first time, this extremely modern Asian country is not on this list by accident. The education system, which has started to greatly diversify its programmes, besides the courses in Korean language also offers its future students arts and science programmes in English. Seoul is one more in a series of large cities which, with their energy and tidiness, are something that students find hard to resist. It has a fast and modern life with a very well-planned transport system and an enviable level of English usage among the local population. Sampling the kimchi-jjigae and many other magical, traditional dishes is a must for everyone who visits the Gangnam district.

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