By ISA Staff, Caroline Tosbath and Kendra Ansotigue
For some students, the draw to study abroad is based on the opportunity to experience history and culture first-hand. Historic streets, temples, art galleries, museums and parks are abundant in most of ISA’s program cities. They’re the places you read about in your world history class. They’re the cities that hosted some of the most renowned artists, writers, poets and thinkers to date; Salvador Dali, Michelangelo, Pablo Neruda and Franz Kafka! With study abroad, these places and these people can truly come to life. If you’re the type of student who wants to spend hours in some of the most beautiful museums in the world, discuss famed paintings and experience a city that radiates richness in culture, the cities below are your perfect fits.
Caro’s Top Picks:
Prague, Czech Republic: Prague is bohemian charm. This city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it is overflowing with culture; it boasts famous museums, theaters, opera houses and castles! It was the home to Charles IV, a Holy Roman Emperor; one of Hitler’s favorite cities; and under communist rule until 1989 when the Iron Curtain finally fell. In Prague, you are sure to spend your days exploring monuments that reflect its history. Spend your day exploring the Prague Castle, Art Nouveau museums, the Astronomical Clock in Old Town, the Franz Kafka museum or having a picnic in Charles Square (the largest medieval square in Europe, that’s now a park!). Prague has been known as Europe’s hidden gem and it truly is a fascinating city.
Rome, Italy: Where to even begin in Rome? I spent a weekend in Rome during my time abroad and every single day was filled with sight-seeing. Everywhere I walked there was something astounding to see; the Vatican, the largest church in the world – Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the lucky Trevi Fountain. Not to mention, countless museums! Rome is bursting with historical significance and showcases history and art from Ancient Rome, the medieval ages, the Renaissance and more. It is an archaeological hub, a city filled with art, fountains, sculptures, piazzas (town squares) and a destination for ancient roman cuisine. If you’re up for long, beautiful walks and history on every corner, Rome is for you!
Meknes, Morocco: Meknes is another city deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site! This city is a fascinating blend of Islamic and European history. Students can explore mosques, the Bab Al-Ansoure (one of the most beautiful gates in Morocco), the Roman ruins at Volubilis and the hilltop city with the tomb of Moulay Idress (the great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad). The contrast between the old medina of Meknes and the new city of Hamria, which was designed solely for French and European settlers, symbolizes the eclectic mix of cultures found here. Let us not forget the famed markets and bazaars known as qissarats (covered markets) which each specialize in different products; textiles, carpets, babouches (leather slippers), spices and jewelry! Meknes is one of the quieter and unassuming cities in Morocco, but anyone who visits is astounded by how much exploration it has to offer.
Kendra’s Top Picks:
Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, Chile: Two cities with so much history and culture intertwined throughout the streets, Valparaiso and Vina del Mar bring so much depth to the wonderful country. Students will have the ability to wander aimlessly through the Museo Cielo Abierto (Open Sky Museum) and Cerro Bellavista (a neighborhood turned into an outdoor art museum), as well as visit the Quinta Vergara Park, or explore the three houses of the Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. The Naval and Maritime Museum (museum about the history of the Chilean Navy) and the Ex- Carcel (a historical prison transformed into a museum, theatre, concert stage, and more!) are also exciting places for students to discover.
Havana, Cuba: The old fashioned cars, the colorful buildings, the beautiful beaches: Havana offers students the ability to take a trip back in time and immerse themselves in Cuban culture. Visiting Santa Clara (the site of the last battle of the Cuban Revolution in 1958), Old Havana, or the Plaza de Armas, students will be discovering new things every day. Even the University (Universidad de las Artes) has a very unique history of its own. For students looking for a study abroad experience unlike any other, Cuba is the place for you.
Granada, Spain: Home of the incredible La Alhambra and the Cathedral where the most famous King and Queen of Spain (Isabel and Ferdinand) are buried, Granada gives students the ability to dive deep into the history of Spain and experience all it has to offer. From being surrounded by beaches and mountains alongside strong traditional Spanish culture, this city not only offers the best of both worlds, but allows a full immersion into the a culture so strong in its roots. For students looking to get a little taste of Spain’s Moorish past while enjoying the sunshine, eating tapas and taking siestas, Granada should definitely a stop on the list!