There are many ways in which you can study history across the globe as an undergraduate. One is to move abroad to study your undergraduate degree. Another, perhaps less daunting, option is to take a year abroad. Alternatively, you could study history globally in another way by studying at a university with a diverse range of specialist departments. There are many factors that should be considered when choosing where to study, and these can appear all the more intimidating when looking abroad. Choosing the right university is key; if you choose the right one all of the obvious fears of studying abroad are immediately countered and overtaken by the reality of fully-embracing a new culture – which is arguably what the study of history is all about!
The great strength of studying history at Cambridge (besides the course), for me has been the town itself. Cambridge town is very small, this allows you to get to grips with your surroundings and settle in as quickly as possible. Living in Cambridge you are surrounded by history, and beautiful architecture. While after a month or so, this is easy to take for granted, the beauty of your surroundings come into their own when you’re having a difficult work-day (which happens for everyone), the buildings around you provide an instant reminder of the reasons why you are studying at such an intellectually rigorous institution.
In this author’s humble opinion, the major selling point of Columbia is its location. Situated in the Morningside Heights neighbourhood of Manhattan, Columbia University places you at the centre of New York’s cultural scene. Guaranteed 4-year housing removes a large portion of the stress involved with finding housing in New York. The cultural scene of New York endows Columbia with a unique diversity, a diversity that gave birth to the first gay rights advocacy group on any college campus, for example.
Established in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institute of higher education in the US. This immediately endows the institution with a heritage of obvious interest to any historian. While they could be considered superficial, the dining halls at Harvard are a major strength for anyone studying history. The solitary nature of the history degree, makes such communal areas invaluable for providing an easy opportunity to socialise and integrate quickly into the community.
London has repeatedly been ranked one of the best places in the world for its student life. As a cultural capital there is a diverse range of museums, art, food (etc, etc.) that will satisfy all tastes. Of the many institutions London has to offer, I have chosen LSE for its specialised department in economic history. Economic history is entwined in the very socialist founding of the university and it remains one of the best places in the world to study the intersection between science and humanities.
The strength of Leiden University’s history degree lies in its international orientation. ‘Home of specialists on virtually all regions in the world’, Leiden is able to satisfy demands for a more global style of history teaching. Leiden ranks 1st internationally for history outside the UK and the US. Situated on two sites (Leiden and The Hague), if you choose to study at The Hague side of Leiden University, there is 11km of coastline available for beach and sea sports.
Perhaps one of the best ways to study history around the world is to choose a course which offers a year abroad. This option is particularly good for those who feel (quite understandably) at 18 they are not ready to move country. UCL excels in its year abroad programme, offering both emotional and financial support for students needing it on their year abroad. When in London, UCL offers a range of ways in which to access the vibrant culture of London, notably in offering student discounts for museums, exhibitions, transport, etc.
Edinburgh has been ranked the second best city to live in the UK. Of particular note on the Edinburgh culture scene is the Fringe Festival, which is the worlds largest arts festival. In 2018 Fringe featured over 55,000 performances. Edinburgh is an ‘internationally-focused’ university, which provides a Go Abroad Fund, which grants 250 students to go abroad each year.
There are many different factors to consider when looking to study abroad, whether that be for the entirety of your degree or for a year abroad. Each of these 7 choices have different strengths and weaknesses, however all of them sit comfortably within the top 20 rankings for studying history across the world. World rankings are dominated by institutions of the UK and USA. This accounts for their prominence in this list. In terms of resources, course and teaching-style the likes of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge are leading in their field. The benefits of such a level playing-field (in terms of academics), is that it allows you to make a choice more strongly based on personal preference, be that sport, culture or proximity to home (I would not blame you if that were the case, do not underestimate the restorative power of a quick visit home!).