The Best Study Abroad Destinations for Book-Lovers

  • Grace Lower
Jul 16, 2019

Reading, like travel, allows us to experience a world beyond our own. 

With a well-chosen book in hand, you can explore a bustling metropolis, a remote village, or a galaxy far, far away — all from the comfort of your favorite reading nook. As aphorist Mason Cooley famously put it: “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” 
 
If you’re fortunate enough to study abroad, why not let your taste in literature be your guide? A well-planned trip can bring your favorite stories to life, while a great book can add context to a new destination. That’s why voracious readers are often the best travelers: curiosity is at the core of both experiences.
 
Whether you’re a fan of thick biographies or breezy beach-reads, your favorite books can help you narrow down your travel destinations. Here are a few study abroad ideas for the book-lover in you. 
 

If you like: Drama and Mystery

You’ll love: England

England, with its overcast skies and maze-like streets, has been the backdrop for centuries of intriguing tales. London, in particular, was home to the first modern police force, and one of the first internationally known serial killers: Jack the Ripper. The city’s history of crime and intrigue led to literary masterpieces like the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1984, A Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Of course, no mention of English literature is complete without acknowledging the great Bard himself: William Shakespeare. 
 
Many of London’s historic spaces carry somber stories of their own. The best-known example is the Tower of London, which gained a reputation for imprisonment and torture in the 16th century, following the infamous beheading of Anne Boelyn. Westminster Abbey is another favorite haunt — with more than 3,300 historical figures buried or commemorated within its halls. And the beloved-yet-controversial British Museum sheds light on the complicated stories, lives, and artifacts from around the world.
 
In addition to its many attractions, London has one of the largest concentrations of universities in the world. Because of this, there are countless programs serving students of every background and degree path. For a true bibliophile, what could be better than studying great literary works in the setting that inspired them? 
 

If you like: Fantasy

You’ll love: New Zealand

Author JRR Tolkien is often heralded as the father of contemporary fantasy. His most famous works, The Lord of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, take place in a geographically diverse land of Middle-earth. New Zealand was a natural pick for the film adaptations of Tolkien’s books. Its blend of rolling green hills, jagged mountains, and endless coastline seem to have come directly from the pages of a magic-filled book.
 
Fans of any fantasy series — from Game of Thrones to Wheel of Time to Discworld — will no doubt appreciate New Zealand’s otherworldly beauty and rich heritage. A weekend visit to Hobbiton, a hike along the Franz Josef Glacier, or a kayak trip through Milford Sound can feel like stepping into a mythical setting. Students of history and linguistics will take particular interest in learning about the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori
 
As a student, you’ll want to note that New Zealand has only eight universities of its own. Consider the kind of learning environment you thrive in, and look for programs that are well-aligned with your academic plan of study. Regardless of what you choose, New Zealand is an ideal place for a semester of exploration. 
 

If you like: Love and Romance

You’ll love: Italy

For centuries, Italy’s rustic charm and vibrant culture have captured hearts and imaginations. For fans of love stories, the “Fair Verona” of Romeo and Juliet may come quickly to mind. To this day, you can still visit Juliet’s home in Verona, Italy, and pay your respects at her tomb. Meanwhile, E.M. Forster's dreamy A Room with a View sends its heroine traveling throughout the Italian countryside — making a notable stop in Florence to admire its frescoes. The more contemporary novel, Call Me by Your Name, takes place in Western town of Bordighera. And of course, Eat, Pray, Love breezes through Rome and Naples in a celebration of Italy’s fantastic culinary tradition.
 
Italy is home to around 90 universities, many of which are open to study abroad programming.  Regardless of your area of study, a stay in Italy demands an immersion in the history and art. Marveling at the renaissance architecture in Florence or gazing dizzily at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is made all the better by learning the story behind the masterpieces. When told correctly, this historical context can make you fall in love with Italy a little bit more.
 

If you like: Magical Realism and World Literature

You’ll love: Colombia

One of the defining traits of magical realism is the way it combines a practical view of the modern world with deeply surreal, dreamlike elements. And it doesn’t take a literature scholar to see that Colombia embodies a magic realism of its own. With a pristine Caribbean coastline to the north, the towering Andes Mountains slicing through the middle, and the mighty Amazon rainforest to the south, Colombia has a patchwork of landscapes unlike any other country. In urban areas like Bogotá, modern skyscrapers intermingle with Spanish colonial architecture to create a dynamic mix of old and new. 
 
It makes sense, then, that one of the most prominent authors in magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez, called Colombia home. His award-winning novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in a Time of Cholera feature fictitious Colombian towns, but draw heavily from the port cities near Colombia’s Caribbean coast. García Márquez’s cherished works have helped Colombia gain notoriety within Latin American literary canon. 
 
Today, students from around the world visit Colombia to study Spanish language and literature. It’s easy to see why Colombia is a source of literary inspiration. From the cobblestoned streets of Cartagena to the ruins of Ciudad Perdida, Colombia is a cocktail of mystery with a touch of magic.
 
 
It’s great to read literature that’s set in your destination, but the studying doesn’t end there. Researching important details on student visas, travel insurance, and safety precautions will ensure that your study abroad story is a happy one. So, read up!
 
 
 

About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

Read more of Grace’s blogs

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