A Guide to Studying Abroad in England Beyond London

By Amanda Cohen on January 26, 2018

When people think about studying abroad in England they think of London because (1) it’s beautiful, (2) there is plenty to do there, (3) it is an English-speaking country, (4) it houses a large amount of culture, and (5) it is the destination of the royal wedding and it houses the much of the royal family. Since London is a happening place to study abroad, many people forget that there are other places in England that are just as good to go for a semester abroad, if not better. I’m not sure if we can attribute this discrepancy to the study abroad agencies or college students’ past geography teachers (pause for laughter), but I want everyone to know that there are so many other places to study abroad in England, other than London, and I want to tell everyone why they are so great.

It would be impossible for me to go into each and every place in England, but I will do my best to give everyone ample information on the places that I believe are study abroad-worthy. In addition, I will direct you to websites that have even more information on each specific English country. Keep on reading if you are thinking about studying abroad, or if you are just thinking about traveling and want to learn more about these amazing countries.

Infographic by Amanda Cohen

Oxford, England

Oxford, England is probably runner-up to London when people decide to study abroad in England, and its popularity is not at all surprising; there is so much to do here and you truly do get a good bang for your buck. Academically, Oxford is a renowned place to go because of Oxford University; in fact, Oxford University is ranked as the #1 university to study at in the entire world. Not only is Oxford academically stimulating and rigorous, but the location and the overall beauty of the campus is truly remarkable and would make any abroad experience memorable. If you don’t want to actually take classes at this university, but you want to absorb the scholarship that is breathed out from the walls, you can take a walking tour for only $20.79 (Trip Advisor). It is unclear if this is included in the walking tour, but be sure to visit the Bodleian Library while on the Oxford campus. The building itself is remarkable and the history of the library, which houses over 12 million printed books and manuscripts is extremely interesting to learn about.

I know that most people don’t choose to study abroad because of the academic rigor of the classes offered, but rather, students use their time abroad to absorb different cultures that present them with a greater and more well-rounded worldview. A weekend trip that should be on your bucket list if you do decide to study abroad in Oxford is the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. The Cotswolds are home to the beautiful Blenheim Palace and, even though there’s tons of shopping and restaurants, you will get the feel of old-time England when you visit this heritage-rich area. Cotswolds also has many beautiful churches, many of which date back to medieval times, including the Bampton Church which was used on a number of sets for the hit television series “Downton Abbey.” Even though the Cotswolds has 13 incredible museums, I think that your time would best be spent at some of the historical houses in the area. The Kelmscott Manor, which used to be William Morris’ summer home, is gorgeous inside and out. As the creator of the arts and crafts movement, Morris’ house reflects the creativity and beauty that comes from pursuing one’ artistic prowess.

In addition to experience the food and culture offered by Oxford, you can also go on television/movie set tours for the Harry Potter Movies and “Downton Abbey” series. If you are a Harry Potter fan, like myself, your jaw will drop when you find out that you can walk about Diagon Alley, the Great Hall (where the food always looked so delicious), and Dumbledore’s office. You can even see how Dobby (may he Rest in Peace) was made to look like Dobby. After your tour, you can go to the café in the studio for some delicious butterbeer and snacks (but mostly butterbeer). You can also purchase a separate tour in which you drive to the various filming locations for the “Harry Potte”r scenes. If you love “Downton Abbey,” you will love the tour of the filming location, in which you get to see the infamous Highclere Castle. For more information on both of these trips, visit Trip Advisor!

Cambridge, England

Cambridge is a beautiful city, as it sits on the River Cam and boasts beautiful cathedrals, universities, and museums. Similar to Oxford University, Cambridge University is one of the top universities in the entire world. In addition, Cambridge is the home to King’s College. Depending on what study abroad program you go through, you may have the chance to study in the very classrooms of these two amazing campuses. However, if not, you can take a walking tour of either university or both. In addition to these two colleges, you can also visit and/or take classes at Clare College, Pembroke College, Trinity College, and Queens’ College. Cambridge is a fantastic place to further your education while abroad because there are so many places to take classes. Trip Advisor gives a detailed list of various educational sites in Cambridge and will also give you great prices for the tours.

Since there is so much rich history in Cambridge, it can be difficult and overwhelming to take it all in, which is why museums should be a crucial part of your study abroad experience in this city, and in any other city you choose to visit. The Fitzwilliam Museum boasts collections of paintings, photographs, sculptures, manuscripts, jewelry, music, and more from a plethora of countries and time periods. The museum also offers a variety of online exhibits, for those of you who are intrigued but aren’t planning on traveling to Cambridge anytime soon. Another museum that must be on your list is the Imperial War Museum Duxford, which is a museum dedicated to aviation history and the people who worked with the RAF. The IWM is different than many museums because rather than seeing traditional pieces of art, you get to see historical aircrafts and can even watch an airshow and/or fly in a vintage plane around the premises. I cannot stress to you all enough how important it is to take advantage of these two museums.

Other must-sees are the Corpus Clock, the Ely Cathedral, and the Backs. The Corpus Clock is made up of 24-carat gold-plated stainless steel, with a diameter of 4.9 feet. Even though the clock itself does not have any numerical values, the slits in the clock’s face are lit up with blue LEDs. Each slit is arranged in three rings that represent/display hours, minutes, and seconds. This clock is truly one-of-a-kind, so definitely take the time to see it. The Ely Cathedral, built in the 12th century, proliferates a sense of God, love, worship, and belonging. The beautiful, tall ceilings cannot, and should not, be missed. After all of your site-seeing adventures, take the time to relax in the Backs. Along the River Cam, the Backs offers a tranquil experience. The beautiful landscaping and the beautiful river paves the way for great walks and runs, picnics, and boat rides. This is a great place to sit and take in all of the beauty that Cambridge has to offer.

Image via. https://pixabay.com/en/harry-potter-oxford-england-975357/

Canterbury, England

Canterbury, England is the home to many museums, churches, historical landmarks, castles, stores, and restaurants. Most famously, Canterbury boasts the Leeds Castle, or, rather, “The Loveliest Castle in the World.” That’s a major claim, but this castle has never disappointed in the 900 years that is has been standing. The castle grounds take up about 500 acres of the Canterbury/Kent area and are filled with picturesque gardens, parkland, and landscaping. They offer a variety of activities, as well as free-flying falconry displays (now this is something I have to check out). There are also four different places to eat/drink, so you truly can make a day of this adventure. Whether you are looking for a romantic day or a daytime adventure with your friends, Leeds Castle is one of the many attractions that should persuade you to study abroad in Canterbury.

Another attraction not to miss is the Canterbury Cathedral, also known as the “Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion.” Home to some of the most beautiful stonework and stained glasses pieces known to man, the Canterbury Cathedral serves as both a beautiful “monument’ of Canterbury, while also remaining a strong place of worship for many locals. They frequently offer different exhibitions, for example, the Holocaust Memorial Exhibition, as well as house various artists in residence. The extraordinary layout and size of the cathedral should not be taken for granted while on your abroad adventures, as the deep history and morals surrounding the cathedral are shown through both its beauty as well as the fact that restoration efforts need to be made in order to preserve this breathtaking place.

Even though wild animals may seem out of place in Canterbury, there are two wildlife reserves that house beautiful giant cats: the Wingham Wildlife Park and Howletts Wild Animal Park. From African elephants to tigers, to rhinos, you truly get a taste of wildlife in this English city. There are different tours you can take; the one that looks most interesting is Howletts’ lemur experience and their animal adventure challenge. This is a chance for you to be interactive with some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting wildlife, so you definitely need to take advantage of it. In addition, Howletts offers a treetop challenge, which is a ropes course… so you are essentially acting like some of the primates that you see in the park. At Wingham, you can get up close and personal with a red panda (talk about a great Instagram opportunity, am I right?). You can even feed the penguins… I did this in South Africa and this was such an amazing experience; 10/10 would recommend.

Image via. https://pixabay.com/en/king-s-college-cambridge-uk-swan-60889/

Windsor, England

Windsor, England is one of the official homes of the British Royal Family. Because of this, Windsor Castle is definitely hot spot for travelers and study abroad goers. Since the castle is still used to house some of the Royal Family, you cannot actually go inside of the castle, but the breathtaking views from the outside are absolutely worth it. Looking at this castle will make you feel like you are the Princess of Genovia from “The Princess Diaries.” The castle is also home to the St. George’s Chapel, which will actually be the location of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding. The chapel itself is famous for the intricate ceilings and Gothic designs, which is why it is a popular tourist destination. The Queen’s Beasts rest on top of the chapel, which is representative of fourteen heraldic animals. These small, yet lavish and sentimental details are what make the castle and the chapel must-sees.

A trip to Windsor would not be complete if you did not go to see the prehistoric monument Stonehenge. The standing stones are beautifully settled on a green field in a somewhat circular shape. Many people believe that Stonehenge is the site of burial grounds and has proliferated projects to uncover more information about this beautifully interesting monument. Another must-see is the Dorney Court Tudor house, which has been the home of the Palmer family for 450 years, which is thirteen generations of pass-down. The house itself is gorgeous and is a popular place to get married in England. The house is most famous for its beautiful architecture and landscaping… even though the house itself is quite large, you feel a sense of homeyness that is present when you walk into a small cottage.

Image via. https://pixabay.com/en/stonehenge-monument-prehistoric-2326750/

From Oxford to Cambridge to Canterbury to Windsor, I hope I have persuaded you to look beyond London if you are considering studying abroad in England. Take advantage of the rich history that manifests in these different cities and take advantage of an opportunity to travel, which doesn’t come around all that often. Safe travels to all my readers!

I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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