Looking to migrate? These are the five best countries to live in as an international student

Looking to migrate? These are the five best countries to live in as an international student

Sometimes, to move forward in our lives and careers, we have to leave our country.

Nearly three out of four employers say that they consider international experience when hiring.  International graduates reportedly get paid more too.

But with 195 countries in the world to choose from and an average cost of US$15,000 to US$35,000 for every year spent abroad, it’s important that we focus on the best countries to live in.

We need to understand what each country can offer us, from the degrees available, how much they cost, lifestyle, safety, language and even whether they have the food that meets our cultural needs.

While global rankings are helpful in helping us find the right universities for us, we need to keep in mind that we also need to choose institutions in the best countries to live in for international students.

The right university + the right country — that’s the equation that’ll help us make the most of our time — and dollars spent — abroad.

Find the best countries to live in and you could just be part of the 80% of students who say that they have a better understanding of the world as a result of their experience — all while having the best time of your life.

But first, what does “best” mean?

The greatest, most suitable, most pleasing best countries to live in.

Cambridge Dictionary describes “best” as “of the highest quality, or being the most suitable, pleasing, or effective type of thing or person.”

How does this apply to the best countries to live in? While we can rely on the experiences of your aunties, uncles and cousins, their opinions can be subjective and prone to their biases.

For more reliable and neutral sources of information, we can look to a few global reports and surveys:

  1. The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) gives us a measure of the quality of life in a country, based on their assessment of how long people live there, what people studied, and how much they make.
  2. The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) give us an idea of how politically stable a country is. It measures six dimensions of governance: voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption.
  3. The Global Social Mobility Index 2022 shows us how people in 82 countries move up or down the social ladder.
  4. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) measures how sustainable 180 countries are.

Combining the above gives us a fuller picture of what it’s like to not just travel, but uproot and move our entire lives to these countries.

Remember, however, that there is no single best country to live in. Everyone’s different, with unique priorities and circumstances.

But the following list of best countries to live in is based on what the vast majority of people want and need from a forest start — and as such, can provide a good starting point for your research.

best countries to live in

The UK is home to over 300 different ethnic groups, the most common being Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black Caribbean Source: AFP

5 best countries to live in as an international student in 2023

1. UK

There are so many things to love about the UK — the royals, the touristy sites, the double-decker buses, and a good ole staple meal of fish and chips.

The country has welcomed migrants since the Roman era and today is home to over 300 different ethnic groups, the most common being Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black Caribbean. In 2021, there were an estimated 1.4 million Indians. The UK has the most multicultural capital city in Europe as well.

But what makes it one of the best countries to live in as an international student?

For decades, the UK has been one of the most renowned countries for its prestigious universities.

Whether you are looking at law at Oxford, anthropology at Cambridge, or engineering at the University of Edinburgh, numerous institutes are ready to welcome you.

Upon graduating, you can follow the footsteps of scores of migrants who have gone on to roles in healthcare, education, construction, and hospitality — contributing an estimated 131 billion pounds to the UK economy.

Outside of the classroom, there are so many exciting and fun things to do.

Take a trip to an iconic city like Bath or Salisbury with some mates. Look out for the nearest pub to share a meal and enjoy a pint of beer before heading back to the bustling city of London.

And what’s great about living in cities like London is its very reliable, convenient and extensive public transport system that consists of buses, trains, and underground tubes.

Everyone speaks English, so asking for directions or help will never be an issue.

For those who love musicals and plays, there is no better place than London. Every year, millions of theatregoers descend upon the city to soak up the beauty of the award-winning performances.

best countries to live in

Fall can be a magical time to stroll through parks, especially if you’re in one of the best countries to live in. Source: AFP

2. Sweden

Sweden is best known for taking care of its people. Most expats will tell you they enjoy a good quality of life in this Scandinavian country. Every year, the country warmly welcomes about 100,000 expats.

Sweden is also fast becoming one of the hottest European hubs for startups, with Stockholm the birthplace of Spotify, Skype and Mojang.

The nation’s two iconic brands — Ikea and H&M — are large employers of foreigners as well.

All of this creates more jobs and more opportunities for Swedes and foreigners to move up the social ladder.

If you’re worried about not being able to connect with your Swedish colleagues, don’t be.

Swedes are the best in the world at speaking English as a second language, the global EF English Proficiency Index says.

If you need to learn Swedish, the government offers free classes called SFI. So that covers all bases for languages.

Getting a visa is much easier if you already have an official job offer from a Swedish employer, with some exceptions, of course. EU and Norwegian citizens do not even need a visa to work in Sweden.

Not sure if the country is right for you to work and live in? Try going in first on a working holiday visa and see if you like it. Jobs can be found here.

best countries to live in as an international student

Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Cottesloe Beach, pictured here. Source: Greg Wood/AFP

3. Australia

Australia, or “Straya,” as the locals would call it, has been a haven and one of the best countries to live in for international students.

Here, the weather is beautiful all year. Even in the winter, it is never too cold.

People living in Australia don’t make drastic changes to their lifestyle according to the seasons like the rest of the world might.

What does this mean? Want to go for a run in the middle of summer? Sure, just bring some extra water with you.

Keen to have a “barbie” with your mates at the nearest beach in winter? Sure thing, just make sure you clean up the space after.

But why live here? If you are looking for a balanced lifestyle, this is one of the best countries to live in.

Australians are known globally to have some of the calmest and most relaxed demeanours, which means it’s great place to study, raise a family or start a career.

And you can do it with an estimated 7.3 million foreign-born migrants just like you. That means more than one in four people you’ll meet in Australia are from abroad, predominantly from India, China, England, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Each city has a vibrant nightlight, and workplaces are usually fond of bonding over a meal and drinks after work.

Any diet will never really be an issue here; there is something for everyone.

Craving some Asian food for dinner tonight in Adelaide? Or are you a vegan searching for something hearty in Perth this afternoon? We’ve got it covered.

best countries to live in as an international student

If you love the cold, you will love Canada. Here, people enjoy their lunch on benches at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto during the winter. Source: Geoff Robins/AFP

4. Canada

Here’s some great news for those looking at the best countries to live in as an international student.

Canada has announced that it is betting big on immigrants to fill the gap in its economy left by the ageing workforce.

This means Canada will welcome about eight times the number of permanent residents each year than the UK and four times more than its southern neighbour, the US.

Even better, Canada is one country that offers you the chance to migrate there without having a job offer yet.

This is made sweeter still by the fact that Canada tops several rankings for quality of life:

In 2022, Canada was ranked #2 in the world by the Human Development Index, and #1 in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Life Index.

So, what are some of the reasons that Canada has made it on our list of best countries to live in?

Its high standard of living paired with quality of life is one of the main factors to consider.

The country’s exceptional healthcare system is renowned for being one of the best in the world. Most residents apply for public health insurance.

If you are an international student with a young family or parents, you can be assured the country is extremely safe.

In a country where everyone speaks English, you will be encouraged to maintain your culture, religion, and practices in everyday life.

In fact, there are more than 140 languages spoken in Toronto itself, while more than 20% of Canadians were born outside of the country.

best countries to live in as an international student

There are plenty of things to love about Germany, including its vibrant cities and beautiful nature. Source: Wolfgang Rattay/Pool/AFP

5. Germany

Among the best countries to live in as an international student is Germany — the birthplace of BMW, Adidas

Germany has been steadily gaining ranks in becoming one of the top study destinations for international students. Most tend to stay after they’ve completed their studies.

What makes this country with the fourth largest economy in the world stand out?

According to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the labour market is very attractive to foreigners.

Not to mention the satisfaction level that students feel from their universities, says DAAD President Prof. Dr. Joybrato Mukherjee.

“The current findings show that Germany is an extremely attractive place to study,” he says.

In fact, a survey revealed that 81% of the 120,000 German and international students said there were good career prospects after graduation.

What about the lifestyle here? From its many historical places to visit and all-year-round festivals to exploring German culture through its scrumptious food, you will never be bored.

For those who are more adventurous and want to take the scenic route, Germany is where you can ride a bike anywhere and even connect with fellow cyclists who will offer free accommodation if you are riding through Europe.

This brings us to the next factor; Germany shares borders with nine other countries, placing it right in the heart of Europe.