Top 10 scenic locations to study abroad

Stunning photography by international students captures the most scenic destinations to study abroad
September 16 2016

It’s often said that being a student provides you with the best opportunities to travel that you’ll ever be likely to get. With that in mind, here are just a few of the most scenic locations to study abroad and expand your horizons, as documented by finalists in the IES Abroad Photo Contest.

Barcelona, Spain

Park Guell, Barcelona by Brooke Stafford
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/Brooke Stafford, Penn State
Selfie of IES student Carly Spellman overlooking Antoni Gaudi’s Park Guell


As the capital of the Spanish region of Catalonia, Barcelona is often considered one of the true cultural hubs of Europe. Students here are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to scenery and atmosphere, with stunning natural views out over the Mediterranean Sea being paired with the famous Gothic architecture of Barcelona Cathedral. The city has its fair share of high-quality universities to boot, such as the University of Barcelona, nestled deep within the city.

Freiburg, Germany

Sunny Dayon Blue Bridge, Freiburg by Sofia Deer
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/ Sofia Deer, Whitman College
“It's a tradition for Freiburgers to hang out on the blue bridge when the weather is nice, so we joined them on our last day.”


The university town of Freiburg has been known as a centre for learning and education for hundreds of years, and has been called home by a number of famous doctors, scientists and scholars. It’s not for those attributes that Freiburg makes this list, however, important though they are. Located in southern Germany close to the French border, Freiburg is famous for its long, warm summers and its stunning views over the Black Forest mountain range, to say nothing of its medieval architecture and cathedral.

Cape Town, South Africa

Bo Kaap & Table Mountain, Cape Town by Greer Cowan
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/ Greer Cowan, University of Vermont
Sunset over Lion’s Head and Table Mountain with the historic and colourful Bo-Kaap neighborhood in the foreground


As one of the three capitals of South Africa, and perhaps its most famous city, Cape Town is one of the premier tourist destinations in Africa. The city itself offers a diverse range of British and Dutch architecture and culture, alongside strong native influences. In addition to this, Cape Town plays host to some of the most diverse biological regions in the world; Table Mountain has more plant species than the entirety of the UK. Students here also have the choice of studying at some of the country’s finest universities, such as the University of Cape Town.

Santiago, Chile

Parque Nacional Torre sdel Pain, Chile by Ian Oechsle
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/ Ian Oechsle, Anderson University
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile


Santiago is the economic, cultural and political capital of Chile. Founded by Spanish settlers in a basin surrounded by the Andes mountain range, the city offers a blend of wonderful natural beauty with unique and varied colonial and post-colonial buildings. Santiago is also one of the most developed and largest cities in South America, and as such is home to some of Chile’s finest universities, many of which feature strongly in the Latin American rankings.

Sydney, Australia

Snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef by Michael Kaplan
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/Michael Kaplan, University of Rochester
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. This picture was taken inside a giant clam.


Sydney is simply one of the most famous and most iconic cities in the world, offering everything a prospective student from inside or outside Australia could ever want or need. Aside from the well-known man-made structures of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the jaw-dropping Opera House, students here have access to stunning areas of Australia’s natural beauty, such as the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney isn’t short of studying options either, also being home to some world-renowned universities such as the University of Sydney.

Rabat, Morocco

Dunes, Rabat by Melissa Strauss
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/ Melissa Strauss, University of Michigan
“Following our camel ride through the Sahara desert, we climbed the dunes to watch the sunset while on a field trip to Merzouga.”


Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Rabat on Morocco’s Atlantic coast is one of the most famous centres of culture in North Africa. Rabat’s “old town” contains some of the best examples of classic Moroccan culture and lifestyle anywhere in the country, while the city’s more recent French influences are also clear to see. The city is flanked by the seemingly endless Atlantic Ocean to the west, and by equally endless and equally beautiful sand dunes and deserts to the east.

Granada, Spain

February in the Hills, Granada by Jessie Hook
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/ Jessie Hook, University of the South
“A moment enjoyed on a brisk February evening in the hills of Granada. Quality company, glowing views, and a picnic of course.”


Situated in the province of the same name, and marking Spain’s second appearance on this list, the city of Granada offers something very different from its Catalonian cousin to the east. Granada is home to an eclectic mix of stunning Islamic architecture, having been the last Muslim-governed city in Spain, alongside more recent Spanish and European influences. The city also differs from Barcelona in its location, being surrounded by the rolling hills and valleys for which Spain is so famous.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Igazu Falls, Buenos Aires by Khali Nanji
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/Khali Nanji, University of Texas at Austin
Iguazú Falls, Buenos Aires


As Argentina became home to a huge wave of migrants from Europe and other regions of Latin America, so has Buenos Aires become a diverse and cosmopolitan city. While its Italian and Spanish influences are evident and ubiquitous, the marks made by German and French minorities are also keenly felt. Buenos Aires also benefits a great deal from Argentina’s obvious natural beauty, and offers a number of the country’s best universities for prospective international students who wish to study here.

Shanghai, China

Tibet Mountains, Shanghai by Jessie Hook
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/Paige Scrivener, University of Tennessee
Religious tradition meets magnificent nature


Shanghai is often referred to as China’s “second city”, although with a population north of 20 million people and a history stretching back well over a thousand years, you’d be hard pressed to notice the secondary status. Aside from being one of the largest and most significant economic centres in the whole of Asia, Shanghai is among the Chinese cities that have seen incredible development in recent decades, with titanic gleaming skyscrapers rising alongside traditional Chinese communities. As you’d perhaps expect from a city of this magnitude, Shanghai has some of the premier universities in China, and accepts a huge number of international students every year.

Christchurch, New Zealand

'Only Half Way Up', Christchurch by Molly Caldwell
Photo courtesy of IES Abroad/Molly Caldwell, Ithaca College
“In Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, the Mueller Hut Track brings you up 1,800 metres high to a panoramic view of Mount Cook and the many alps and glaciers that surround it.”


Last but certainly not least, the city of Christchurch is perhaps the most geographically isolated of all the entries on this list. While the city of Christchurch itself is certainly easy on the eye, the true wealth of studying here is found in the nation of New Zealand itself. Being a small country, students here can easily take the time to explore all that these amazing islands have to offer, from long stretches of beach along its Pacific coastline to the mountain ranges further inland: the phrase “something for everyone” could have been invented for New Zealand. It’s also no bad thing that New Zealand and Christchurch play host to some excellent universities as well.

Photographs are taken by IES Abroad spring and summer 2016 students who are finalists in the IES Abroad Photo Contest. Anyone can vote for their favourite photos by “liking” them on Facebook. Winners are announced on 19 September 2016.

Reader's comments (1)

Iguazú falls is like 1000 km from BsAs.. and Merzouga is about 6 hours on a train from Rabat... Is the same as recommending Paris because London or Amsterdam are great places. It makes no sense!!!

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