Which First Year Abroad Program Is Right for Me?

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First Year Abroad

If you’re considering a first year abroad program for an exciting freshman year of college, first, excellent choice, and second, it’s time to decide which specific program is right for you. Let’s explore our 14 first year abroad destinations! 

What Is First Year Abroad? 

Happy girl with her arms outstretched in Paris

As a quick refresher, first year abroad is a way for students to study abroad freshman year (or for a semester of freshman year). Just like freshman year on any U.S. campus, while on program, you’ll take intro-level college courses and earn credits toward your degree. The biggest difference with first year abroad? You’ll get to live and go to school in an international city and truly experience the world. It’s an awesome opportunity to kickstart an international education and learn about different cultures. 

All of this works through our academic partner and school of record, Dean College. You’ll be enrolled as a student there, and then when you return home after completing your first year abroad program, you’ll have a few different options, including: 

  • Go on to earn your degree at Dean College 
  • Apply to a CIEE partner college or university to ease the transfer credit process 
  • Use your international experience to impress the admission team at your dream school of choice 

Read More: What Is First Year Abroad?  

Now that we’re through that refresher, let’s take a closer look at our first year abroad programs to find which one will pique your interests and make for an incredible first year of college. 

First Year Abroad Programs

Students in Plaza Mayor doing an activity

CIEE First Year Abroad currently offers 14 amazing program destinations that span the world. You can choose a 12-week semester in one location or 6-week blocks in two locations. You can choose a fall semester, spring semester, or even combine both to make up a full year. First year abroad students can really design their own freshman year.   

Let’s look at some of our program locations; note which destinations sound the most compelling to you based on your personal and academic interests. 

Freshman Year in England 

Our first year abroad program in England takes place in the country’s capital, London. What isn’t there to say about London? As one of the world’s most influential cities, you’ll learn more about its art scene, music, fashion, museums, comedy, and theater. 

CIEE London, your school for freshman year in England, is located in the University district and conveniently near the British Museum, Trafalgar Square, and a ton of cafes, restaurants, and art galleries. You’re in for a treat here. 

Some of your guided excursions include a boat ride along the River Cam, visiting the Roman remains in Bath, traveling to George IV’s infamous Pavilion, and going on a delicious food tour through Soho’s Chinatown. 

Beyond London, we consider these other English attractions must-sees during your first year abroad: 

  • The captivating British Isles 
  • Stonehenge 
  • The Tower of London 
  • Windsor Castle 
  • The White Cliffs of Dover 

And that’s just scratching the surface. As you dive into your course curriculum, you’ll have ample opportunity to explore this lively and exciting city. 

Freshman Year in Monteverde  

A small yet magical part of Costa Rica, Monteverde is bound to provide an impactful experience for your first year abroad. Known for its eco-tourism and sustainability efforts, Monteverde is the perfect firstyear abroad opportunity for students interested in environmental engineering, a variety of STEM-related topics, and of course, sustainability. 

You’ll get to experience the Cloud Forest Reserve and learn more about native species, including flora, fauna, and wildlife. You’ll also get to go on excursions to coffee plantations, sustainable farms, and a variety of local organizations, like those with reforestation programs. Monteverde makes for a super cool and enlightening freshman year.   

Freshman Year in Spain 

CIEE’s First Year Abroad in this Mediterranean delight is an experience like no other. A freshman year in Spain includes two incredible cities: Barcelona and Seville.

Freshman Year in Barcelona 

As Spain’s largest city, Barcelona is packed with culture, sports, fashion, finance, media, and entertainment. This metropolitan city is situated among beautiful beaches and stunning mountains, so not only is it gorgeous, it’s also fascinating. You’ll get to learn more about Spanish culture (flamenco dancing, anyone?), try some incredible tapas, and explore interesting neighborhoods. 

During your freshman year in Barcelona, you’ll get to hike Collserola, visit Museu Picasso, travel to the medieval town of Girona, and more. Get ready for a packed freshman year in Spain! 

Freshman Year in Seville 

Seville is an inspiring cultural city filled with rich history. You’ll feast your eyes on the Guadalquivir River, indulge in tapas, and visit some of the country’s most important historical landmarks, including the Plaza de España, The Royal Alcazar, the Toree del Oro, the Triana neighborhood, and much more. Your freshman year in Seville will be an adventure into the past and a look into the city’s exciting present.   

Freshman Year in Sydney 

Located in the Land Down Under, Sydney boasts some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. You’ll get to visit world-renowned natural landmarks like the Blue Mountains, Bondi Beach, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, and many more. 

In addition to being a home for environmental exploration, Sydney is a cultural and historic haven with one of the world’s oldest civilizations, the Aboriginals, as the first inhabitants of the area. The city features a robust art scene, and about one-third of the population was born outside of Australia, so the city is quite international, promising a unique and diverse first year abroad experience. 

Your school for freshman year, CIEE Sydney, is located right in downtown Sydney, minutes away from public transportation, so adventuring throughout Australia is quick and easy! Traveling to the Land Down Under will be a fascinating adventure. 

Freshman Year in France 

A freshman year France guarantees a magical experience. CIEE’s First Year Abroad program takes place in the capital, also known as the City of Light, Paris.

This remarkable city is brimming with some of the most iconic attractions and sites in the world. Not only will you get to take in landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre Museum, but you’ll also learn about modern French culture and how this fascinating city has impacted the world in fashion, business, cuisine, and the arts. Your freshman year France will be an unforgettable experience. 

Some of your guided cultural excursions include visiting the Fragonard Perfume Museum and learning about the history of perfume making in France, studying the champagne industry in Reims, traveling to Normandy, learning more about WWII, visiting local cheesemakers, and more. 

Whether you decide to spend freshman year in London, freshman year in Spain, or take on freshman year France, and beyond, you’re going to have an incredible first year abroad experience. We can’t wait for you to get started.