The wanderlust list: Leading universities in exciting locations

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller

If you’re considering earning your degree overseas, it’s likely you’ve been surfing every university website Google can churn out; perusing every prospectus you can lay your eager hands on; and applying to every open day your calendar allows…

So you’ve considered the academics, the rankings, the reputation, the campus, course delivery, teaching style, research output and virtually every other educational aspect your brain can think up. Well, that’s a really good start – your degree and the qualification you end up with will always be the most important part. But have you stopped for just a second to consider the experience as a whole; the atmosphere, the culture, the community and, perhaps above all, the location?

After all, the old saying goes that location is everything…

Leave the textbooks on the shelf for just one moment and picture your life post-graduation. The fact is, you’re not going to remember all those nights spent hunched over books in the library or hours in the exam hall. What will really stay with you are the adventures you had, the things you experienced and the friends you made.

Scaling the caves of the rugged Cape Peninsula; falling through the air from a bungee tied to Auckland Harbour Bridge; tearing up the track at the Sepang International Circuit; biking through the trails at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz; or watching 750,000 gallons of water hurtle off the cliffs of Niagara Falls – these are just some of the experiences the wanderlust student won’t ever forget.

If any of those things inspired an itch for adventure, here are five leading global universities in some of the most exciting locations the world has to offer….


With a vibrant cosmopolitan community similar to that of its home city, the University of Cape Town (UCT) boasts a firm reputation for teaching and research excellence. As a rich cultural melting pot with staff and students from over 100 countries in Africa and the wider world, UCT provides an exclusive blend of specialised knowledge with modern, global thinking.


Image via Flickr


Following its progression in this year’s global university rankings, the UCT name is one that glimmers with prestige. Ranked among this year’s Top 10 BRICS universities, as well as within the Top 100 universities in the world for four of its varied subject areas, and in the Top 200 overall in the Times Higher Education ranking, UCT has certainly earned the right to call itself South Africa’s – and indeed Africa’s – leading provider of higher education.

Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa, located in the Western Cape at the southernmost tip of the continent. UCT’s campus lies at the foot of Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak, a regal spire forming part of the natural highland amphitheatre that frames the city of Cape Town. The famous mountain is an unforgettable must-see for any visitor to the region, and the perfect stomping ground for the keen student hiker.

With a string of beaches facing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, UCT students are never far from the marvels of the shore. Whether it’s traversing the rocky shoreline to find a unique view of the city, weaving through the epic waves on a board or in a kayak, or delving deep into shark infested waters to uncover the secrets of the ocean’s greatest predator, Cape Town is the true definition of adventure for those with the desire to travel.

Described as a region that is “stunning from sea to sky”, the UCT campus and the city it resides in is widely considered one of the world’s most breath-taking settings.


The University of Auckland (UofA) is New Zealand’s pre-eminent, research-led institution. Ranked the region’s leading institution by QS, Times Higher Education and the Academic Ranking of World Universities, graduates of New Zealand’s top university benefit from the Auckland name for the entirety of their professional lives.

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The university is located in New Zealand’s largest city, built on a narrow isthmus between two major harbours – the Manukau and the Waitemata. The latter is home to the iconic Auckland Harbour Bridge, a unique experience for any UofA student who takes the time to climb this epic structure, or leap from the top while attached to a chord!

To the west of the city, the Waitakere Ranges rainforest forms a gateway to the glorious west coast surf beaches and an abundance of bush walks, ideal for any UofA student hoping to keep in touch with the Great Outdoors as they take a well-deserved break from the books.


The Malaysia campus of Monash University (MU) is an exemplar of transnational education. As a unique global branch of Monash University, all MU staff and students are part of a global academy with an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research.

Image via Flickr

With its tasty world cuisines, friendly people, cultural events, pristine beaches and dense, exotic jungles, any international student studying at Monash in Selangor is bound to have the time of their life. The Sepang International Circuit, host to Malaysia’s Formula 1 Grand Prix and other motor sporting events, is located nearby, presenting a great day out for students with a need for speed.

Also nearby is the Klang Gate Quartz Ridge, a World Heritage site formed almost entirely from crystal quartz. The ridge accommodates an extraordinary hiking trail, and a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur, a cosmopolitan and cultural hub and a definite must-see for all students of Monash Malaysia.


The University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz), ranked first in the nation for its degree programmes, scholarships and support services by, represents one of America’s most prominent universities. This, paired with its unique, sun-kissed location and happy community vibes, is part of what makes UC Santa Cruz one of the world’s most exciting places to study.

Image via Wikipedia

With 29-miles of golden coastline, Santa Cruz County is home to some of California’s best beaches – which is really saying something for a region well-known for its high-quality breaks!  Here, Santa Cruz students can take advantage of the Covewater Stand-Up Paddle, northern California’s stand-up paddle headquarters. Paddling on a board, catching some rays – there’s nothing forgettable about that!

Other Santa Cruz attractions include the Venture Quest Kayak – an exclusive opportunity to explore the calm California waters direct from the Santa Cruz Wharf. Why not have a go at the California Classic Sail? Or defy the laws of gravity on the Boardwalk’s Giant Dipper? With so much on offer in the county of Santa Cruz, there’s never a dull day for the UC international student.


The University of Toronto (UofT) represents a globally recognized network of faculty members, alumni and partners, creating a unique educational experience for undergraduate and postgraduate students. With one of the strongest teaching faculties across all disciplines, UofT students have the opportunity to learn from and work alongside Canada’s top academics.

Image via Wikipedia

From the great Toronto Zoo to the famous CN Tower, UofT’s home cit is certainly not short on attractions. But for the adventurous foreign student hoping to make the most of their Canadian adventure, the astonishing natural landform of Niagara Falls is just a 90-minute drive away.

Here, students can take a view from the Table Rock site, an exhilarating viewpoint set barely a metre from the edge of Horseshoe Falls. The daring thrill-seeker can even head straight into the falls with the ‘Journey Behind the Falls’; sinking 38-metres through solid rock to stand right next to the tumbling veil of water.

For the prospective UofT student, Niagara Falls is just one legendary tip of the iceberg, and anyone enrolled at this world-leading university will discover another hidden treasure of Toronto with each passing day.

Feature image courtesy of the University of Cape Town

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