Deciding where to study abroad is probably one of the more difficult decisions in life. You have to figure out how to finance your studies and to decide what university and which programme is the best for you. But besides all that, it is also important to choose the right city to live in!
Of course, big metropolises such as Berlin, Paris or London might come first to your mind when thinking about great cities to study in Europe, but small cities have their own advantages. Maybe you will have your best study experience in Lappeenranta, Eindhoven or Dortmund instead!
Advantages of studying in a big city
1. Easy to mingle and meet people from new cultures
European metropolises are very cosmopolitan, and it is therefore easy to adjust since people are used to foreigners like you. You will meet other internationals, maybe even from your own country, and you most probably won't miss the traditional food from home, since there are international restaurants and supermarkets spread all over the city.
It's incredibly exciting and interesting to discover all the little funny and maybe not so well-known details about other countries and traditions. You will have the chance to have your mind blown away and to discover things that you know nothing about. Most importantly, you will also make friends in the process and have awesome experiences with them, which is one of the best things you can do in life, after all.
2. Plenty of things to do in your spare time
A wide offer of cultural activities as well as an exciting nightlife should keep your pretty busy. Additionally, exploring all the hidden corners and beautiful places in a large city will take you some time.
This will also help you discover your favourite spots where you want to hang out, read a book, enjoy a drink or just take a walk. With so many things to explore, one thing is certain: you won't get bored.
3. Always a chance to escape the hustle
Whenever you’re fed up with the hectic pace of the city, you can always take the train or the bus and visit the quieter surroundings and enjoy beautiful and natural landscapes. This will allow you to slow down a little bit and take your mind away from studies or the constant notifications from your phone.
Simply take the time to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and why not go for a picnic with some friends, if the weather is nice? You will enjoy it a lot and the difference will definitely be noticeable once you return to the city.
Check out the student life in these large metropolises:
If you want to apply to a university located in a big city in Europe, here are a few we recommend:
- PSB Paris School of Business
- Riga Stradins University
- Kaunas University of Technology
- Geneva Business School
- Glasgow Caledonian University
Disadvantages of large student cities
1. Possible high living costs
Life in a metropolis is quite expensive compared to smaller cities. It might be quite a difficult task or even impossible to find a good, affordable and centrally located accommodation. Be prepared to pay 400 EUR/month in a big European city for a tiny room in a house, which you have to share with numerous housemates.
You think dormitories are a good alternative? Since most universities in Europe's metropolises have existed for hundreds of years and have been growing continuously, they usually do not have a campus. Most students live in private accommodation and there might be no or just very few dormitories.
2. You'll spend some time commuting
University buildings are usually spread throughout the whole city, so transportation will take some of your free time and money. If you are unlucky, even lectures in the same department and on the same day are held in different buildings, requiring you to travel back-and-forth through the city during the day.
3. Difficult to experience the genuine local culture
It might be difficult to get in touch with the locals and experience their culture and cuisine. Additionally, you might also find it hard to learn the local language if everybody speaks English and you are surrounded by other people from your country.
Advantages of studying in a small city
1. Enjoy low living costs and student discounts
Living costs in small cities can be very low. You will be surprised how cheap living in Western Europe can be! If you study in a smaller city in Germany, for example, you can get a room in a dormitory or a shared flat for around 250-300 EUR/month.
You can use the money you save on accommodation and living costs to travel. There are thousands of exciting destinations to explore. Since distances are quite short in Europe, most destinations are just perfect for a weekend trip! Many affordable airlines can be found at the airports close to the smaller cities, by the way!
Additionally, student life can be better in smaller cities. In some of them, students account for more than half of the population! That usually means that you can find lots of student-friendly restaurants, bars and clubs that offer special discounts to students.
2. Get the real taste of the local culture
A small city makes it easier for you to experience the local culture and learn the language. Outside the university, you might be one of the very few foreign people in that city. That's a great opportunity to personally develop yourself by overcoming the challenges you will encounter when you are trying to adapt to a new language, culture and environment.
Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the best experiences you can have during your studies abroad. Along the way, you can also build up great friendships with the locals!
3. Receive more personal attention from the university staff
Small student cities often mean a smaller number of students enrolled at the university, which eventually leads to receiving a personalised attention. Universities will have a better staff to student ratio, allowing for a more interactive educational experience, which often means having your own tutor who will support you and offer advice during your entire study period.
Disadvantages of small student cities
1. Not a lot of student job opportunities
Most of the time, job opportunities in a small city will be harder to find, particularly if you don’t speak the local language very well. And even if you do, you won’t get to choose from too many options. You will probably find most student jobs are available on the university campus. However, competition may be fierce since many students like you will want one.
2. Less active social life
In small cities, a big event like a concert is likely to be organised only once every three months or so. So whenever you hear about them, don’t hesitate to go. That is if you are really into this kind of social gatherings.
As for bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants, there are probably not so many, so you might end up seeing all of them during your time spent in the small city. That’s still great because you’ll inevitably find a favourite one, become a loyal customer and enjoy special offers.
3. Adjust to fewer services and facilities
You may not be able to find some of the things you took for granted in your hometown. For instance, if you’re accustomed to a certain coffee brand you drank each morning or a clothing store you used to buy from – all these may not be available. You will have to develop creative solutions and simply adapt to what you’ll find in your new location.
Have a look at these interesting small student cities:
So, where to go?
The final decision on choosing between a big or a small city is of course still up to you and based on your individual opportunities and preferences! However, you should keep your eyes open and check all your options!
Don't just remove Lappeenranta or Totnes or Cadiz from your list, just because you have never heard of those places before. In the end, you might have the best study experiences right there and it would be too bad if you missed this opportunity!