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Off the beaten track: Study Abroad in Latin America

Friendly locals, a vibrant culture, lip-smacking cuisine – history and modernity in equal measures. Latin America possesses everything one can hope for. And students all over the world have taken note.

Latin America has emerged as an exciting alternative study abroad destination among students seeking high quality higher education at an affordable price. Of course, the countries usually at the top of the list for international students – Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina – have plenty of great options. However, there are other major study destinations in Latin America that may not enjoy the same popularity, but provide the same level of quality higher education at an affordable cost that makes a study abroad experience in Latin America so worthwhile.

A note before you get started –since Spanish is the main language of tuition in all of these countries, good working knowledge of the language is essential for any international student wishing to study here. Once you get admission, you can also avail of the many short-term and intensive language courses available at your local university to supplement your language learning.

So without any further ado, here are the top off-beat study destinations in Latin America for International students:

  1. Colombia – After years of civil strife, Colombia today is safer and more prosperous than ever. In fact, it has overtaken Peru as the fastest-growing economy in South America. Its capital, Bogota, is one of the most prominent business hubs in the region, and also home to Colombia’s top two universities – the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, ranked 254th in the world, and Universidad de Los Andes Colombia, ranked 256th in the world this year. Both the universities feature in the top 15 in the Latin American rankings as well.
  2. Costa Rica – Apropos to its name, which translates to ‘Rich Coast’, Costa Rica is witness to economic prosperity, political stability and high quality of life in Costa Rica, some of the features that attract many from the region to study at its prestigious universities. One of the most peaceful countries in the region, Costa Rica has no military, and hence, there’s more social spending on education and public utilities. Its capital, San José, is a major business and cultural centre in Latin America, and the country’s top university, Universidad de Costa Rica, is located nearby, in a city called San Pedro. Costa Rica’s oldest university, Universidad de Costa Rica is ranked 19th in Latin America, and 411-420 in the world rankings.
  3. Uruguay – Nicknamed the ‘Switzerland of Central America’, Uruguay has a typically laidback character, on full display during the afternoon hours of siesta when the city naps and the shops draw down their shutters. With 80% of its population based in cities, Uruguay is highly urbanized. Its capital as well as its largest city and biggest port, Montevideo, is also home to its two top universities – the Universidad de Montevideo, ranked 501-550 in the world, and Universidad de la República, ranked 701-750 in the world. While the former is a private university, only officially recognized in 1997, the latter is Uruguay’s oldest and only public university.
  4. Panama – Central America’s southernmost nation is the only place in the world where you can swim the Pacific and the Atlantic on the same day. The US Dollar has been legal tender in the country for over a century and yet, the comparable cost of living means there’s plenty more bang for the buck here, an attractive proposition for aspiring tourists and students alike. Higher education at the public universities in Panama is free of cost, even for international students. In addition to almost 90 higher education institutions in the country, a number of US universities also have branches in Panama, including Florida State University and the University of Louisville. Both its top two universities, the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá and the Universidad de Panamá are based in the country’s capital, Panama City.
  5. Venezuela – Among the most urban countries in Latin America, Venezuela is known widely for its petroleum industry. It is one of the world’s leading exporters of oil and a founding member of OPEC. With an increased investment in higher education over the past decade or so, the country has seen a dramatic rise in university enrollment and standards of higher education. Over the past 15 years, 13 new universities have been set up in the country. The nation’s capital and largest city, Caracas, is a busy hub for business and industry, as well as a centre for culture in the region. It is also the city where many of the top institutions of the country have set up their main campuses. The highest ranking institution in the country, Universidad Central de Venezuela, also has its campus here. A premier public university founded in 1721, it is the oldest university in Venezuela and one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
  6. Peru – Home to the spectacular Machu Picchu, there couldn’t be a more ideal destination than Peru for students seeking cultural and geographical diversity in their study abroad experience. A distinctly multicultural nation, Peru has residents of European, African and Asian descent, along with being home to the world’s largest population of indigenous Americans. Native American, African, European and Chinese influences can be found in everything – from Peruvian culture to its cuisine. 18 Peruvian universities feature in the QS Latin American rankings, with the highest of these being Pontificia Universidad Católicdea del Perú. A private university based in Peru’s capital, Lima, it is ranked 25th in Latin America and 430-440 in the world as per the QS rankings.
  7. Ecuador – One of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Ecuador, also boasts of a unique culture that fuses diverging influences – indigenous, European, and African. Ecuador has a long history of higher education, with two universities dating back to the 17th century. Of the 70 universities in the country, as many as 12 feature in the QS Latin American rankings. Based in its capital, Quito, the top-ranked university in Ecuador is the Universidad San Francisco de Quito – the only university in the world to have campuses in the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest.

If you intend to make one of these countries your next study abroad destination, you would be well advised to check out international scholarship opportunities for Indian students.

Abhishek Saluja

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