Spotlight on Semester at Sea

Permission to Board for a Semester At Sea!

semester at sea

Semester at Sea is a multiple country study abroad program. Since 1963, it has been offering opportunity to students of all majors. The University of Virginia is the program’s academic sponsor, although students from 250 – 300 colleges from all over the world participate each year. The program emphasizes comparative academic examination, hands-on field experiences, and meaningful engagement in the global community. Students from all majors can participate as Semester at Sea offers coursework from 20-25 disciplines. A wide variety of course work is integrated with relevant field studies and credits earned are transferable to the participant’s home college.



Semester at Sea goes to six different continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. In between stops, they study and prepare for their next adventure. At each location, students get to fully immerse themselves in the culture and activities of the region. They visit significant historical, cultural and political sites as well as natural and manmade wonders like the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Great Pyramids of Giza, Angkor Wat and more. Natural history comes to life on the Galapagos Islands and the Praia Do Forte Marine Turtle Research and Preservation Project.

Faculty and Staff

semester at sea 2

Semester at Sea would not be possible without a team of 26-30 educators that love to innovate, stimulate and provide a flexible and diverse global education. Courses occur on board ship and then there are practical exercises and additional learning opportunities out in the world and predetermined field labs. Each voyage has a completely different faculty than the one before. In addition to the educators, each as an assistant staff member to provide extra support.

Housing and Hosting



While on location, students can explore the regions through community exploration and home stays. Carefully vetted homes, families and individual share their homes and culture with the students, demonstrating their life style, culture, celebrations and traditions during their stay. They get first-hand interaction with business professionals in their majors, professors, area college students, writers and artists. Past remarkable interaction opportunities include visits with Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The students also give back by participating in Habitat for Humanity, Operation Hunger, Dalit Village Work Project, Missionaries of Charity and Calabar Favela. This gives them the real world opportunity to converse and work with local individuals and leaders to gain an appreciation for a different way of life.

The Ship


The MV Explorer was built in 2002. It is 590 feet long with seven decks, weighs 25,000 tons and has a maximum capacity of 836 passengers. The cabins and staterooms are well-maintained and offer plenty of space for living and learning while on board. In addition, the ship has nine classrooms, a computer lab and 9,000 volume library. Students also have access to UVA’s online resources and a computer lab. Everyone on board stays connected with internet communications, the latest technology and an on-board IT staff to keep it all up and running.

Semester at Sea offers an opportunity of a lifetime with the comforts of home with the excitement and wonder of traveling abroad.  It is a great introduction to fields of global study and to prepare a scholar to navigate the global stage regardless of their career choice.

Find more info on Semester at Sea here

Post by Nathalie Baudet

3 Things You Should Know When Dining in Italy

Coming back from Italy, I thought I would share a few things to keep in mind with dining at a trattoria to spare you some of the embarrassment I’ve been through:

1) It’s a four course meal.

Italian meal

A good thing to keep in mind when ordering is that, in Italy, meals are generally articulated around four different dishes:  Antipasti (appetizers), Primi piatti (first dish), Secondi piatti (second dish), Dolci (dessert). Unless you’ve climbed the Etna earlier that day, I suggest ordering a Primi piatti as a main course, that way you have room for desert.

2) Don’t ask for a spoon.

Don't use a fork

I’m sure you’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating: don’t ask for a spoon to eat your spaghetti. At best you’ll look like an uneducated tourist, at worst you’ll offend the waiter, the chef and the other clients.

3) Have a Limoncello.


It might feel rude for Americans to stay at the restaurant table after the meal is over but in Italy, it’s part of the tradition. Especially if you’re eating at a family-owned trattoria, make sure to ask the owner for a liquor after dinner. My favorite is a lemon one called limoncello. And why not invite the owner to sit down why you and chat?…in Italian of course!

Eerily Beautiful Abandoned Places

1) Michigan Central Station

by James Cheadle/Alamy

by James Cheadle/Alamy

This hulking Beaux-Arts train station was the tallest train station in the world at the time of its construction in 1912. It was designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed and Stem—the same architects behind New York’s Grand Central Terminal—but has been abandoned since 1988.

2) Gunkanjima

by Shayne Hill/Xtreme Visuals/Getty

by Shayne Hill/Xtreme Visuals/Getty

More than 10,000 people lived on this tiny Japanese island up until the 1970s. Once home to an active coal mining facility owned by Mitsubishi Motors, Gunkanjima (or, literally, “Battleship Island”) is now entirely abandoned.

3) Nara Dreamland

by Demotix/Corbis

by Demotix/Corbis

Japan’s troubled version of Disneyland closed in 2006, but all of the park’s roller coasters, arcades, and souvenir shops remain intact.

4) Maunsell Forts

by Chris Laurens/Alamy

by Chris Laurens/Alamy

These sci-fi towers were constructed in the Thames estuary to protect England’s coast from German air raids during World War II. After being abandoned in 1956, the forts were briefly used to broadcast offshore radio stations.

5) Kolmanskop

by Michele Burgess/Alamy

by Michele Burgess/Alamy

Kolmanskop was once a thriving diamond mining town—home to the southern hemisphere’s first X-ray station and Africa’s first tram—but the dwindling diamond field was exhausted by the 1950s. Now, sands of the Namib desert have overtaken the town.

6) Pripyat

by Vladphotos/Alamy

by Vladphotos/Alamy

Pripyat was vacated just a few days after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, abandoning 15 schools, a hospital, a rail station, and an amusement park.

7) Varosha

by Corbis

by Corbis

Once a popular beach destination for stars like Brigitte Bardot, the resort town of Varosha was abandoned during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Its inhabitants never returned.

8) Train Cemetery

by Infinita Highway/Getty

by Infinita Highway/Getty

Uyuni is best known as home to the world’s largest salt flat. But travelers can also visit the antique train cemetery, where many mining company trains were abandoned in the 1940s, when the industry collapsed.

9) Lake Reschen

by Lugris/Alamy

by Lugris/Alamy

Beginning in 1940, Italian electric company Montecatini built a dam to unify the area’s two lakes—Reschensee and Mittersee. As a byproduct of the dam, local villages were entirely submerged. In Graun, this 14th-century church bell tower is the only reminder that the village ever existed.

10) Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters

by Epa/Vassil Donev/Corbis

by Epa/Vassil Donev/Corbis

When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, it left behind this massive relic, perched at an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet. The new government hopes to restore the immense building.

11) City United Methodist Church

by Jeffrey Phelps/Aurora Photos/Corbis

by Jeffrey Phelps/Aurora Photos/Corbis

The United States Steel Company paid $385,000 toward the construction of this $1 million Gothic beauty in the 1920s, but now the church lies in decay.

12) Ship Cemetery

by Michael Runkel/Alamy

by Michael Runkel/Alamy

Mauritania’s second-largest city is home to the world’s largest ship graveyard. The city’s port is home to more than 300 rusted vessels, as corrupt officials took bribes from boat owners, allowing them to abandon their ships.

13) Balestrino

by CuboImages/SRL/Alamy

by CuboImages/SRL/Alamy

This picturesque Italian village was owned by the Benedictine abbey of San Pietro dei Monti in the 12th century and was once a bustling village full of olive farmers. Population began to decline, however, in the late 19th century when a series of earthquakes struck the area. The remained residents were relocated in 1953 due to geographic instability.

14) Nicosia International Airport

by John van Rosendaal/Alamy

by John van Rosendaal/Alamy

The customer waiting areas, restaurant, and check-in counters at this abandoned airport remain exactly as they were in 1974, when the Turkish invasion of Cyprus began.


Gate A-4

Live & Learn


Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be…

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20 Reasons You Should Drop Everything And Visit New Caledonia (and not just because that’s where I’m from! )

1. First of all, that water.


2. You can sail along that pristine water in a yacht.

Nouvelle-Calédonie 2

3. You can snorkel, surf, and kite surf.

Nouvelle-Calédonie 3

4. Spend time with the locals.

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5. Go for long walks on white sand…

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6. …or maybe just do absolutely nothing.

Nouvelle-Calédonie 6

7. The Barrier Reef is the second largest coral reef in the world.

Nouvelle-Calédonie 7

8. There’s a place called “Joking Cliffs”.

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9. There’s an island covered in pine trees.

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10. You can see some incredible sights from a helicopter.

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11. And landscapes that will take your breath away.

Nouvelle-Calédonie 11

12. You can hike and explore the bush.

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13. Breathe that sweet tropical air.

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14. And indulge in French wine and escargot on a tropical beach…

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15. …as the sun sets and looks like this:

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16. This is a place where giant green rocks float on pristine, glass water.

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17. It’s just…

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18. …SO…

Nouvelle-Calédonie 18


Nouvelle-Calédonie 19

20. Do you really need a 20th reason??.


Part of this post was initially published by New Caledonia Tourism on BuzzFeed. See it here

7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free)

Humboldt University in Berlin

Since 1985, U.S. college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition fees keep rising. In Germany, they’ve done the opposite.

The country’s universities have been tuition-free since the beginning of October, when Lower Saxony became the last state to scrap the fees. Tuition rates were always low in Germany, but now the German government fully funds the education of its citizens — and even of foreigners.

Explaining the change, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a senator in the northern city of Hamburg, said tuition fees “discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study.  It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

What might interest potential university students in the United States is that Germany offers some programs in English — and it’s not the only country. Let’s take a look at the surprising — and very cheap — alternatives to pricey American college degrees.

1) Germany


Germany’s higher education landscape primarily consists of internationally well-ranked public universities, some of which receive special funding because the government deems them “excellent institutions.” What’s more, Americans can earn a German undergraduate or graduate degree without speaking a word of German and without having to pay a single dollar of tuition fees: About 900 undergraduate or graduate degrees are offered exclusively in English, with courses ranging from engineering to social sciences. For some German degrees, you don’t even have to formally apply.

In fact, the German government would be happy if you decided to make use of its higher education system. The vast degree offerings in English are intended to prepare German students to communicate in a foreign language, but also to attract foreign students, because the country needs more skilled workers.

2) Finland

Helsinki Harbour


This northern European country charges no tuition fees, and it offers a large number of university programs in English. However, the Finnish government amiably reminds interested foreigners that they “are expected to independently cover all everyday living expenses.” In other words: Finland will finance your education, but not your afternoon coffee break.

3) France

Eiffel Tower

There are at least 76 English-language undergraduate programs in France, but many are offered by private universities and are expensive. Many more graduate-level courses, however, are designed for English-speaking students, and one out of every three French doctoral degrees is awarded to a foreign student.

“It is no longer needed to be fluent in French to study in France,” according to the government agency Campus France. The website provides a comprehensive list of the available courses in France and other European countries.

Public university programs charge only a small tuition fee of about 200 dollars for most programs. Other, more elite institutions have adopted a model that requires students to pay fees that are based on the income of their parents. Children of unemployed parents can study for free, while more privileged families have to pay more. This rule is only valid for citizens of the European Union, but even the maximum fees (about $14,000 per year) are often much lower than U.S. tuition fees. Some universities, such as Sciences Po Paris, offer dual degrees with U.S. colleges.

4) Sweden


This Scandinavian country is among the world’s wealthiest, and its beautiful landscape beckons. It also offers some of the world’s most cost-efficient college degrees. More than 900 listed programs in 35 universities are taught in English. However, only Ph.D programs are tuition-free.

5) Norway


Norwegian universities do not charge tuition fees for international students. The Norwegian higher education system is similar to the one in the United States: Class sizes are small and professors are easily approachable. Many Norwegian universities offer programs taught in English. American students, for example, could choose “Advanced Studies for Solo Instrumentalists or Chamber Music Ensembles” or “Development Geography.”

But don’t expect to save money in Norway, which has one of the world’shighest costs of living for expats And be careful where you decide to study. “Winters in general are quite different in different parts of the country, with the north having hard, arctic winters, and the southwest mostly having mild, wet average European winters,” the Norwegian Center for International Cooperation in Education notes.

6) Slovenia


About 150 English programs are available, and foreign nationals only pay an insignificant registration fee when they enroll. Slovenia borders Italy and Croatia, among Europe’s most popular vacation destinations. However, Times Higher Education, a weekly magazine based in London, did not list one Slovenian university in its recent World University Ranking.

7) Brazil


This post was initially published by Rick Noack for the Washington Post. See it here

Does Studying Abroad Really Boost Your Job Prospects?

Studying at home – in your own city, your own state, even your own country – is so yesterday. These days, if you want to make the most of your investment in further education, from first degree to top drawer MBA program, you need to study abroad.Everyone seems to agree.

Studying Abroad and Employment

Heads of HR at major corporations regularly complain about the lack of truly international talent, and urge universities and business schools to develop it. Education providers of all types have responded with a wide range of partner programs, study trips and internships.

Even Harvard Business School now sends its MBA class to far flung corners of the globe in its first year. And Michelle Obama has gone on public record stating that overseas study is not just great for the individual but “is a vital part of America’s foreign policy.” Which is quite some endorsement.

But when it comes to the crunch – that is getting you a better, more fulfilling and well-paid job – does international study really deliver?

According to new research carried out by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and posted on its research platform, RSM Discovery, the answer is yes. But it’s a qualified yes.

RSM’s Erik van ‘t Klooster interviewed over 1000 students, interns and alumni from around the world who generally felt that what the study calls ‘educational travel’ improved both their managerial and cross-cultural competencies and also made them more independent, flexible and self-aware.

So far so good. However the study also identified that those who studied or worked in emerging nations felt they benefited a lot less from the experience than those who went to more established economies. Why? For the perhaps predictable reason that they found it more difficult to appreciate the host culture and interact with locals, particularly in countries in Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America.

But isn’t this rather worrying? After all, any conversation with the hiring department of a multi-national will quickly tell you that what they are after in fast-track employees is not the sort of skills you can pick up on a vacation, but a genuine understanding of local cultures, specifically in the BRICS and N-11 countries that are offering so much commercial potential. However, what the RSM Discovery research suggests is that not enough is happening in the right places to effect this. But why?

The problem seems to be two-fold. First, too many students simply haven’t developed sufficient emotional maturity by the time they go abroad to fully benefit from the experience. And second, it’s still too easy at all levels and on all types of programs to exist in a Westernised ‘bubble’ surrounded by a peer group of broadly similar people and with little real incentive or necessity to fully immerse in the local environment.

Of course, there are many universities and business schools that are already doing some imaginative and innovative work in addressing this issue. The Moore School at the University of South Carolina, for example, has gone as far as hiring an anthropologist to make its MBA program more culturally open and immersive. But if the higher education community as a whole is to counter the charge of indulging in what some commentators have branded ‘education tourism’ then it must do more. Otherwise it will be in danger of letting down both its students and the organizations that will go on to employ them.

This post was originally published on

Funny Idioms from Around the World


We use idioms to pepper our speech and writing, often without even realising we’re doing it. These odd little phrases are used to express a sentiment other than their literal meaning. It doesn’t really rain cats and dogs, as the world and his wife knows.

I’ve always been fascinated by foreign idioms; they give us a unique insight into the culture that uses them. Did you know that in German you can say “to live like a maggot in bacon” instead of “to live the life of luxury”? Idioms can tell us a lot about what matters to a nation. They’re a window to the soul.

We wanted to explore the world in all its linguistic glory, so we asked artist and illustrator Marcus Oakley to draw some of his favourite idioms from across the globe. We hope they inspire you to learn the local idioms next time you travel.

1. “Into the mouth of a wolf”

Language: Italian
Translation: In bocca al lupo
Meaning: Good luck!


“Into the mouth of a wolf” is a very popular Italian phrase that’s similar to our “break a leg”, and perhaps much more understandable. You’d say it to someone facing a tough trial or nerve-wracking performance, such as an exam or a concert. But don’t say “thank you” in response: it’s bad luck. The correct answer is “may the wolf die”.


2. “Not my circus, not my monkey

Language: Polish
Translation: Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy
Meaning: Not my problem


While more cryptic than just saying “not my problem”, the Polish expression “not my circus, not my monkeys” makes perfect sense, and is a lot more fun to say. Poland can offer a traveller some difficulties in terms of cultural customs – holding your thumbs means good luck, not crossing your fingers, for example. You’ll probably need a bit of luck, what with all those monkeys running around.


3. “To have a wide face”

Language: Japanese
Translation: Kao ga hiro i
Meaning: To have many friends


We all know that Asian countries have the best proverbs. Well, they also have some fantastic idioms too. “Having a wide face” means you have lots of friends and are well liked. It could be based on reality, as men with wide faces supposedly earn more money and are more attractive to women. Or it could come from the Chinese concept of “face”, which is where we get our own term, “losing face”, from.


4. “To have the midday demon”

Language: French
Translation: Le démon de midi
Meaning: To have a midlife crisis


For the funniest idioms, look no further than our cross-channel neighbours in France. “To have the midday demon” means “to have a midlife crisis”. And what better way to explain reaching 50 and suddenly swapping the suit and tie for a ponytail and a Harley than demonic possession?


5. “To feed the donkey sponge cake”

Language: Portuguese
Translation: Alimentar um burro a pão-de-ló
Meaning: To give good treatment to someone who doesn’t need it


Portugal’s variation on the Bible’s advice about pearls and swine, “don’t feed the donkey sponge cake”, means don’t give fine treatment to those who don’t deserve it. After all, why should we have to sit around chewing raw oats because some idiot’s given all the cake to the donkey?


6. “A cat’s jump”

Language: German
Translation: Katzensprung
Meaning: A short distance away


“A cat’s jump” is in the minority of German idioms in that it doesn’t refer to either beer or sausages. Katzensprung simply means a short distance away, or “a stone’s throw” as we’d say in English. Use whichever one you’d prefer, it’s all sausages to us.


7. “To give someone pumpkins”

Language: Spanish
Translation: Dar calabazas a alguien
Meaning: To reject somebody


As we’re sure you’ve guessed, “to give someone pumpkins” means to turn somebody down. It’s just one example of the colourful idioms you’ll find in Spain, and it originates from Ancient Greece, where pumpkins were considered an anti-aphrodisiac. Try eating one seductively, and you’ll probably see why.

8. “To ride as a hare”

Language: Russian
Translation: Exatj zajcem
Meaning: To travel without a ticket


As home to the Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia probably has quite a few train-related idioms. “To ride as a hare” means to ride the train without a ticket, as we all know hares are prone to do. Apparently it comes from the fact that fare-dodgers would shake like a hare whenever the ticket inspectors would come round.


9. “To let a frog out of your mouth”

Language: Finnish
Translation: Päästää sammakko suusta
Meaning: To say the wrong thing


Finnish idioms have a lovely tone to them, often referencing Mother Nature and their homeland. Having “rye in your wrists” means to be physically strong, for instance, while “own land strawberry, other land blueberry” reflects Finns’ love for the motherland. “Letting a frog out of your mouth” means to say the wrong thing, which makes sense, as spitting a frog at someone is almost always the wrong thing to do.


10. “To have a stick in your ear”

Language: Danish
Translation: At have en pind i øret
Meaning: To not listen to someone


A lot of Danish idioms will sound familiar to us – “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”, for instance. But Danes would “go absolutely cucumber” at you if you were to “have a stick in your ear”. This means to not listen to someone, which can be a very bad thing to do to somebody with a strong Viking ancestry.


This blog was originally posted on Read it here



Tourism Meets Volunteering

Solidarity tourism is a new and budding trend in tourism, volunteering and travel.  A growing number of travelers are realizing the impact that tourism has on a region or country. Besides positive economic effects, there are possible negative effects in terms of wasted resources (like water at resorts), carbon emissions from modes of travel and degradation of natural areas like coral reefs due to snorkelers, among other things.  Solidarity tourism gives both the traveler and host community a chance to make things better rather than worse.

International Volunteers

The focus of solidarity tourism to the benefit everyone – gather volunteers and local people for a common goal and boost the development of an area, community and economy.  Also known as volunteer tourism or community based tourism, solidarity tourism requires two willing and active participants. The first is the traveler with a giving heart and a genuine desire to be a part of the culture and community, from helping in projects to eating local food and participating in neighborhood events such as church services or festivals.

The second is a community-based tourism planner and coordinating activity. Solidarity tourism works best when the local population controls the activities. This can be how visitors are received through establishment of an itinerary to what to do with the funds generated.  Properly executed, such tourism combined with volunteering offers people from other parts of the world tourist experiences adapted to local realities, in which they experience the culture, the human exchange and a respect for the environment.

Solidarity tourism is a great way to learn something new and give back at the same time. The emotional and mental development that comes with such an experience will pay off. You can be proud of helping others, having an open mind and doing something few others ever do. Hopefully you will be part of a growing movement to improve the world. At the very least, solidarity tourism is a great way to experience something new and do the greatest amount of good while causing the least amount of harm.

Where to start:

Still a student? Check out Global Brigades Global Brigades

Only got a few weeks? Check out Project Abroad Project Abroad

Ready to commit for a year? Check out United Planet united_planet

 NB: The organizations mentioned above have dozens of projects  which allows you to go pretty much anywhere around the world which is great but it is also a good idea to check out smaller associations that tend to be more “boots on the ground”. 
Post by Nathalie Baudet

Abroad But Where?


Best Places to Live Abroad

How many of you have dreamed of leaving everything behind and going on the great adventure of living abroad, if only for a few months?

Then again, adventures are fun but unless you are the Indiana Jones type, ready to pack a single bag, throw a dart of a world map pinned to the wall and go, you might want to give your destination country some more thought.

While I believe every place is worth visiting and any international experience better to have than none, it will all be a lot more enjoyable and meaningful if you find the place that is right for you.

To help you get started, here is the HSBC ranking of the best places for expatriates.

1. Switzerland:

“Three words- Alps, skiing, and food! Try them all!”


2. Singapour:

“Get ready for a life changing experience – for the best. Be open minded and if you aren’t going to give it a shot, then why move abroad?”


3. China:

“Learn the language, do something that scares you every day, you’d be surprised at what you’ll learn…”


4. Germany:

“Enjoy and appreciate the differences!”


5. Barhain:

“For expats, Bahrain is a great place to start a career!”


6. New-Zealand:

“I love this country. I recommend anyone to explore and travel.”


7. Thailand:

“Visit local markets, shops, restaurants, pubs. Visit everywhere in the country, North, South, the coast, the mountains. Everywhere.”


8. Taiwan: 

“Taiwan is a wonderful island, full of interesting places to go to”


9. India: 

“Be prepared for cultural differences, but try to embrace the culture, and not fight it.”


10. Hong Kong:

“Live your life as you if will be here long term, don’t put things off because you think you’ll be gone in a year or two – many stay here longer than they initially expected.”

Hong Kong

See the entire HSBC Ranking:

Are you a student thinking out going abroad? See here which country is ranked best for studying abroad.