Study Off the Beaten Track in the US
When considering where to study abroad in the US, the first places that come to most international student’s minds are New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and maybe Chicago, but there is so much more to America! Some prefer to go off the beaten track, or travel to an unusual place less popular and well known. Take a look at these brief descriptions of weird and wacky American cities and see if any of them might be your cup of tea.
The first of three cities situated in beautiful New England, the historic northeastern part of the U.S., Portland is nestled along Maine’s rocky coastline. This up-and-coming city is developing a reputation for its great food, beer, and arts scenes. Duck Fat is probably the most famous restaurant here, so much so that Bostonians make the two-hour drive north from Boston without a second thought.
With several schools to choose from, such as Maine College of Art, University of Southern Maine, and University of New England you have quite a selection. If you love rustic New England, delicious seafood and local beer but don’t mind long, cozy winters, Portland, Maine is worth a try!
Providence, Rhode Island
An industrial city with a whole lot of culture and character, including farmers’ markets, the nearby Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, beaches, WaterFire events along the Woonasquatucket river, Providence is a small city with a lot to offer. Their food culture revolves around seafood, so come and try a Stuffie (a clam stuffed with sweet meat or some of their incredible Portuguese food.
Providence has a number of excellent schools, including the top-ranked Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Johnson & Wales and University of Rhode Island (URI) not too far away.
If you want a taste of New England, but Boston seems too clichéd, check out Providence!
Montana is known as Big Sky Country: wide open spaces of cornfields and mountains, where the crystal blue sky over head feels immense, like you’re seeing it in HD for the first time. In Montana, your back yards are Glacier and Yellowstone, two of America’s most famous national parks, with all variety of wildlife—bears, bison, moose, elk, deer. Situated in the heart of it all, Bozeman is a one-of-a-kind college town.
Bozeman has that safe, small town feeling, where everyone knows everyone. Surrounded by mountains, the possibilities in Bozeman feel endless. Whether you want to try rock climbing, rafting, fly fishing, or cross country skiing, there’s something for everyone here. Montana State University was recently named one of the best colleges for outdoor adventures, so much so that adventurous professors from around the world at taking jobs here.
There is a sense of the Wild West, you’ll see locals working the fields, horses and cows grazing, and endless abandoned coal mining towns. However, cozy bars are still the center of social life, especially during the cold winters when local bands play at your favorite brewery next to an open wood fire.
Bozeman is a small town, but there are great opportunities for international students such as INTERLINK, Montana State University’s Intensive English Program. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, want to spend time hiking with fellow outdoorsy people and then finish your day with some local craft beer, consider Bozeman
Austin may be technically in Texas—home of George Bush, George W. Bush, and all things oversized—but don’t expect to see too many cowboys or horses within the city limits. Austin’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” for a reason: this city is truly a unique place, and feels unlike any other part of Texas.
If you’re a meat eater, you can’t possibly miss Austin, famous for some of the best barbecue in the country. And with its proximity to Mexico, the Mexican food is out of this world. Vegetarian or even vegan? Don’t worry, there’s plenty here for you too, including BBQ tofu “ribs”!
Rainey Street, a row of historic houses converted into bars and restaurants, is a unique spot you can hang out in what used to be someone's living room, while eating some of the best tacos of your life and listening to a lively bluegrass band. Austin’s Bangers Sausage House sums up the vibe perfectly by saying it’s “Not too rowdy, not too laid back, just a good old fashioned good time.”
The University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University as well as the massive Austin Community College are all within a stone’s throw of this beautiful city. If you want an all-American experience with a touch of that weird wild west twang, Austin should be on your list!.
Nestled in the mountains of Vermont, but only a few miles from Canada, Burlington is known for some of the best fall foliage in the country, as well as beautiful hiking and skiing spots. This town is quintessential New England, with a hint of weird, in the best way possible. Uncommercialized to the extent that billboards were outlawed in the 70’s, Burlington is a hippy mecca, where all wacky walks of life come together to celebrate music, good beer, and nature.
Burlington is a small town, but the students from the Champlain College and University of Vermont make up a large part of the population, so there is always something going on! However, if that doesn’t quite do it for you, take 20 mile drive across the border to New York and check out the scene at SUNY College of Plattsburg.
If you’re not sold on this town yet, let us direct your attention to the free ice cream will: Burlington is the home of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, whose factory you can visit for free samples!
Surprisingly flat but within an hour’s drive of some of the biggest mountains in the US, Denver, Colorado is an adventure-seeker’s paradise. Whether your sport is rock climbing, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, or drinking Denver has you covered. As one of the quickest growing cities in the country, with a population with an average age of 34, it’s impossible to miss a weekend camping trip with all the new friends you’ll make here.
Not only are schools like University of Colorado and College America Denver options, but you have Boulder, a fun little hippy town, right down the street with a bunch of great community colleges to choose from.
If you love to hang out in a great city Monday through Friday, but take a break and dive into the wilderness over the weekend, Denver is the perfect fit for you.
No, that’s not a typo: there are two Portlands in the U.S.—actually, there are over 30—but two of them are well-known and cool enough to make our list of weird places to study. The Portland in Oregon is a quirky city in the Pacific Northwest, just a short drive from two other awesome cities: Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. Portland is known for hipster craft beer joints like McMenamins, retro arcade games, lush local hikes along the coast, and, well, rain—lots and lots of rain.
In case the Portland Japanese Garden, street art and graffiti, interactive movie theaters, and the International Rose Test Garden don’t keep you busy enough, you can spend an entire afternoon at Powell’s City of Books, the largest independent bookstore in the world.
Portland is home to Concordia University Portland, Pacific Northwest College of Art, and Portland State University, to name just a few. If you’re looking for a weird place to study, watch a few episodes of Portlandia to see if you can handle the weird!
In the heart of America’s south, not far from the massive metropolitan hub of Atlanta, sits Savannah, Georgia. Walking down the streets of Savannah, between picturesque homes, beneath dangling tangles of Spanish moss, you can easily picture horses and carriages rolling over the same cobblestone roads. Sample a variety of southern cuisines: buckets of shuck-your-own oysters, shrimp and grits, or southern fried chicken.
Southern hospitality and confederacy run deep in this part of the country, so there is history everywhere you turn. Are you a Tom Hanks Fan? If so, you can take a stroll through the square where he waited for his bus in Forrest Gump and compared life to a box of chocolates!
With an artsy school like Savannah School of Art and Design, a techy one like Savannah Technical College, and Savannah State University, there’s something for every kind of student here.
If you don’t mind shucking yourself, talking to the locals about the weather (spoiler alert: It’s hot), and regular reminders of America’s dark past, Savannah is a beautiful spot to spend a semester!
New Orleans, Louisiana
You may have heard Creedence Clearwater Revival sing about being “Born on the Bayou.” Well, New Orleans sits right on the Bayou, a very wet area in the south of Louisiana. NOLA, as many affectionately call it, was once a French territory, so a visit here can feel like taking a step back through European history. Throw in that southern influence, green trees canopied over streets flowing with jazz music and a rich history, and NOLA feels truly magical.
With the party scene on Bourbon St, you may find it hard to get to class, but if you do, there are many great colleges such as Tulane and Loyola University of New Orleans right nearby. After class, take a stroll through the numerous art galleries, take a break to do some homework in the abundant parks, and end your day by hopping on a ferry or street car home!
NOLA is also one of the few places in America where you can drink in the streets, so grab an old-fashioned and go for a stroll along the river! If you love jazz, seafood and ghost stories and have the kind of hair that can handle the humidity, New Orleans might be the perfect fit for you.
We use the idiom the calm before the storm to describe the very calm, quiet, or peaceful time before a big argument breaks out, a big change happens, somethSet in central Tennessee, Nashville is the place for you if country music is your thing. Indeed, simply the name Nashville is often used to represent the country music industry. A short walk down Music Row, and you’ll see why: neon lights, cowboy hats, and live music pouring out into the streets at all hours of the day and night.
Some of our other suggestions are known for there beer, and you can certainly find a great craft brew at ---, but Tennessee is bourbon country, so order a shot of Jack Daniel’s with that beer. You'll need it to cool off your tongue when you try Nashville’s signature dish, hot chicken.
There are a handful of universities in and around Nashville, most with music and performing arts programs, like Vanderbilt and Tennessee State
Whether your musical taste is more Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, Jack White and Kings of Leon, or Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, you can start your music career where these icons did right in Nashville.
If you glance at a map, it’s hard to believe that just south of Canada, surrounded by National parks, this little clump of islands and peninsulas actually makes up one of America’s most iconic cities, Seattle. Home to Starbucks, Pike Place Market, and the freshest oysters you can find, this is another foodie’s paradise. Constant farmers markets, street fairs, art shows, and concerts means there’s always something going on. Despite being known for constant rain, the temperature is comfortable year round, and living here means you can skip out on the snowy winters! So up your dosage of Vitamin D supplements, buy a reliable poncho, and get ready for some of the lushest forests in the country.
Seattle isn’t quite as hilly as San Francisco, but it sure is close. If you can climb up the steep streets, you’ll find many schools to choose from, such as Seattle University, Bellevue College, and Cornish College of the Arts.
If the allure of being within just a couple hours drive to the ocean, deserts, and mountains can outweigh the “light” Seattle rain, you might just find your home in this green paradise.
There’s no going wrong, no matter where you visit in California, because well, it’s California! However, nestled right on the San Francisco Bay with a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a perfect Mediterranean climate, and Napa wineries only an hour away, Berkeley is a no brainer.
Berkeley is known for being super diverse, educated and liberal, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to the esteemed University of California at Berkeley, as well as California College of the Arts, and Berkeley City College. UC Berkeley is California’s first college, where the free speech movement originated, and where hippies are speculated to have sprouted from, so this area is rich with culture. Post graduation, this city also offers a ton of great opportunities for start ups and techies given it’s close proximity to Silicon Valley. On the other hand, if you want to take a break from academia for a weekend, there are endless mountains to climb, beaches to sunbathe on, and slopes to ski.
As the nation's first city to impose a soda tax, Berkeley is a health-conscious town, to say the least. If you love to be surrounded by open-minded people, bike lanes in every street streets, and weekly farmers markets, you might have found your new home.
No, Minneapolis isn’t the newest virus going around. It’s one of the biggest cities in Minnesota, just south of Canada! You’re in lake territory now: Minnesota is known for having 10,000 lakes, and Minneapolis is home to more than 22 of them.
Minneapolis is infamous for some of the harshest winters in the US, but don’t worry, they found a solution in one of the longest continuous skyway system in the world! Spanning over 18 kilometers, this climate-controlled walkway connects schools, banks, restaurants, and malls so there’s never a need to brave the snow if you don’t want to! In fact, Minnesotans make the most of their winter by embracing the quieter pace of life and ice skating on one of those 22 lakes, cross country skiing, and of course, sledding!
Close to it’s Twin City, St. Paul is a quick drive away, as is Ontario, Canada! There are plenty of liberal arts colleges to choose from, such as the University of Minnesota, Walden University and Minneapolis college.
If you look great in winter attire, and love clean air, the friendliest of mid western folks and a great quality of life, you may want to consider Minneapolis!
Philadelphia is an undervisited city among tourists, known as “The Birthplace of the United States.” Both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were written here, and the city served as the capital of the U.S. from 1790 to 1800
Don’t get us wrong, Philly is no bore! Take a run up the famous Rocky steps, then follow your nose to tasty Reading Terminal Market to scarf down a Philly cheesesteaks, and end your night on South Street for an offbeat punk vibe with tons of shopping, bars and pizza places.
A quick train ride to both New York City, and Washington, D.C., complete with a bustling city life Philadelphia, or more affectionately known as “The City of Brotherly Love,” is just an overall great city. If you’re a sports fan, you can certainly find your niche among Eagles and Phillies fans. If you prefer to hang out in a local park, check out a rowing race, or just have a quiet coffee, Philly has it all. Of course, there are also many great places to study such as Temple and Drexel University, as well as the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania.
.This not too south, but not too north, location makes all four of the seasons bearable. However, if the humidity gets to you, but you can take a dip in the ocean at the “Jersey Shore,” just a quick drive away! If this sounds like your speed, check out Philadelphia!