9 best countries to study abroad, the foodie edition

best countries for study abroad
People celebrate the traditional event that starts the "Beaujolais Nouveau" edition in the streets of Lyon, central-eastern France. Source: AFP

We often think about the best countries to study abroad as places with just good universities.

But why can’t it also be the no. 1 food destination too?

Imagine spending four years in a country where you’ll get the best of both worlds: a globally-respected degree and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to savour the world’s finest cuisines.

The good news is there are countries that are perfect for international students who are foodies.

In many locations, you can explore food markets teeming with exotic ingredients and discover the secrets of culinary traditions passed down through generations.

Picking the country with the best food, however, can be tricky since everyone has a different preference for their favourite food. 

best countries for study abroad

Life is short. Spend it at the best countries for study abroad, according to foodies. Source: AFP

Who decides which countries have the best food?

According to US News Best Countries rankings, these countries have the best food:

  1. Italy
  2. Spain
  3. Mexico
  4. France
  5. Greece
  6. Thailand
  7. Turkey
  8. Portugal
  9. Brazil
  10. Morocco

CNN’s list of the 10 best cuisines in the world is slightly different:

  1. Italy
  2. China
  3. France
  4. Spain
  5. Japan
  6. India
  7. Greece
  8. Thailand
  9. Mexico
  10. United States

Why would these lists matter to international students, especially when thinking about the best countries for study abroad? 

The answer is simple (and important): Food gives us insight into a country’s culture.

For many countries, food is how traditions and heritage are passed on. Dishes, recipes and even specific ingredients tell us the history of a place or a glimpse of a different time.

Studying abroad isn’t just a time for you to get a degree. It’s also a crucial time for you to learn more about the world.

What better way to do this than to use food as a teacher?

Delicious storytellers: Food gives international students a cultural insight

Travelling to the best countries for study abroad where you can indulge your passion for food while pursuing your academic dreams: that’s the goal for many gourmands. Myself included.

I did not decide to go to the University of Glasgow because of the grub. As a Malaysian, I was confident that we have the best food in the world.

When I first heard what goes into Scotland’s national dish, it was enough to make me boke (Scottishism for puke).

Britannica describes haggis as “a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep (or other animal), minced and mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.”

Doesn’t sound yummy to a regular person. But a foodie might wonder: is it delicious?

This rustic dish was even celebrated by Scottish poet Robert Burns, who wrote the poem “Address to the Haggis” in 1786.

When I eventually forgot its ingredients, I tried the dish and had it the traditional way: served with neeps (mashed turnips), tatties (mashed potatoes), and a silky whisky sauce.

And much to my surprise, it was delicious. I have since tried many variations of the dish — even deep-fried as is the Scottish way — with a colourful mix of spices enhancing the haggis itself.

On a camping trip to the Isle of Skye, a random pub served the trio of haggis, neeps, and tatties encased in phyllo pastry with a drizzle of the best whisky sauce I have ever had.

In the rain, roughing it out with nature (as students often do), shivering, this dish warmed my soul.

Through this, I learnt the importance of such sustenance in the blistering cold and the cultural value of using the lesser-known parts of an animal to make a wholesome meal.

To me, food is more than just sustenance; it is a window into the soul of a nation. It reflects history, geography, climate, and the values of a society.

Finding the best countries for study abroad known for their culinary traditions means you’ll nourish your intellect and palate.


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9 best countries for study abroad, the foodie edition


Italy, often referred to as the “Epicurean Capital of the World,” is a dream destination for food enthusiasts and students alike.

Home to iconic dishes such as pizza, pasta, and gelato, Italy offers a culinary education like no other.

Studying in cities like Florence, Bologna, or Rome means immersing yourself in centuries-old culinary traditions, learning the art of pasta making, and experiencing the rich flavours of regional cuisine.

Don’t forget to visit local markets and savour dishes like risotto in Milan, fresh seafood in Naples, and the beloved espresso on your study breaks.

Universities to check out:

  1. University of Bologna
  2. Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (SSSA / Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna de Pisa)
  3. Scuola Normale Superiore (La Normale)
best countries for study abroad

French President Emmanuel Macron looks at a cheeses during a visit at the Rungis International Market, in Rungis, southern suburb of Paris, on February 21, 2023. Source: AFP


France, renowned for its sophisticated culinary prowess, is a top pick for gastronomy students.

Studying in Paris, Lyon, or Bordeaux provides a chance to master the art of French cooking, wine pairing, and pastry making in the heart of it all.

You can explore bustling markets, sip fine Bordeaux wines, and sample delectable cheeses.

French cuisine is all about precision and artistry, and studying here offers an opportunity to perfect your culinary skills while enjoying exquisite dishes like coq au vin and crème brûlée.

Universities to check out:

  1. University of Bologna
  2. Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (SSSA / Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna de Pisa)
  3. Scuola Normale Superiore (La Normale)
best countries for study abroad

It is easy to see why Thailand makes the list of best countries for study abroad for foodies. Source: Lillian Suwanrumpha/ AFP


For those seeking bold and vibrant flavours, Thailand is a top contender in South East Asia.

Studying in Bangkok or Chiang Mai means immersing yourself in the world of Thai cuisine, known for its aromatic herbs, spicy curries, and intricate street food.

Outside of uni, you can attend cooking classes, visit legendary night markets, and indulge in dishes like pad Thai, green curry, and mango sticky rice.

It’s why studying in Thailand is both a culinary journey and a cultural immersion.

“Studying abroad in Thailand isn’t just about books… it’s about bites too!” says Sheng Ping Sooi, who was an exchange student at Chulalongkorn University.

“Your study abroad experience won’t be complete until you’ve tasted your way through the country’s vibrant food options. From their road-side boat noodles to the Michelin star Pad Thai, Thailand’s food culture is the perfect study in delicious diversity.”

Universities to check out:

  1. Prince of Songkla University
  2. Chulalongkorn University
  3. Siam University
best countries for study abroad

Kiyoshi Kimura (C), president of Kiyomura Corp., the Tokyo-based operator of sushi restaurant chain Sushizanmai, displays a dismantled bluefin tuna the company bought for 193.2 million yen (1.8 million USD) at auction at his main restaurant in Tokyo on January 5, 2020. Source: AFP


Japan is a haven for food lovers, with its sushi, ramen, tempura, and delicate kaiseki cuisine.

Studying in Tokyo or Kyoto allows you to explore Japanese culinary traditions, from the precision of sushi-making to the Zen philosophy of tea ceremonies.

While you’re here, explore Tsukiji Fish Market, enjoy authentic sushi, and witness the harmony between food and aesthetics in Japanese culture.

Universities to check out:

  1. University of Tokyo
  2. Kyoto University
  3. Osaka University
best countries for study abroad

Those with a sweet tooth should certainly try churros while in Spain — one of the best countries for study abroad. Source: Jaime Reina / AFP


Spain offers an unbeatable combination of warm people, great wines at affordable prices and amazing tapas sold at almost every corner.

Studying in Barcelona, Madrid, or Seville means indulging in tapas, paella, and churros with chocolate.

Spanish cuisine is all about socialising and sharing, making it a perfect match for students looking to make friends while exploring the flavours of the Iberian Peninsula.

Here, take the chance to experience the passionate world of flamenco during your study-abroad adventure.

Universities to check out:

  1. University of Valencia
  2. University of Salamanca
  3. University of Barcelona
best countries for study abroad

TIME magazine has included the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on its list of “The World’s Greatest Places” for 2022. Described as a “culinary melting pot”, Thessaloniki is on the list for its vibrant gastronomy scene. Thessaloniki also became the first Greek city to join UNESCO’s Network of Gastronomy. Source: AFP


With its Mediterranean diet and ancient culinary heritage, Greece is a paradise for food lovers.

Studying in Athens, Thessaloniki, or Crete offers a chance to indulge in olive oil, feta cheese, and the freshest seafood.

Explore bustling food markets, savour traditional Greek meze, and soak up the sun while dining at seaside tavernas.

Greek cuisine is a testament to the health benefits and pleasures of Mediterranean eating.

Universities to check out:

  1. National Technical University of Athens
  2. University of Crete
  3. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
best countries for study abroad

The careful use of spices in Indian food makes it one of the best cuisines in the world. This also makes it one of the best countries for study abroad. Source: Manjunath Kiran / AFP


India’s diverse cuisine reflects its rich history and cultural tapestry.

Studying in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, or Jaipur means embarking on a spicy and aromatic journey.

With this, you’ll learn about the myriad spices, regional dishes, and street food that define Indian gastronomy.

Dive into dishes like butter chicken, biryani, and dosa, and explore the colourful markets filled with exotic ingredients.

Universities to check out:

  1. Indian Institute of Science (IISc)
  2. Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay)
  3. Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi)

best countries for study abroad


If you’re a carnivore at heart, Argentina should be on your study-abroad radar.

Cities like Buenos Aires are famous for their steak houses (parrillas), where you can feast on juicy Argentine beef paired with Malbec wine.

Don’t forget to learn the art of asado (barbecue) and immerse yourself in the passionate world of tango music and dance.

Hence, it’s clear that Argentina offers a unique blend of culinary experiences and cultural immersion.

Universities to check out:

  1. University of Buenos Aires (UBA)
  2. University of San Andres (UdeSA)
  3. University of Cordoba (UCO)
best countries for study abroad

South Korea, one of the best countries for study abroad, has a fried chicken shop at every corner. Source: AFP

South Korea

South Korea offers a unique blend of traditional flavours and modern culinary innovation. Studying in Seoul or Busan means diving into the world of Korean barbecue, spicy kimchi, and savoury bibimbap.

Explore bustling street food markets, learn the art of Korean cuisine, and savour dishes like bulgogi and hotteok.

It’s no wonder why South Korea’s food culture reflects its rich history and is a delightful fusion of tradition and contemporary tastes.

Universities to check out:

  1. Seoul National University
  2. Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST)
  3. Sungkyunkwan University