If you’re one of the lucky students to study abroad this Fall, you might be missing your usual Halloween festivities during this season. But your international campus might be closer to some frightful festivities than you think.
If you thought venturing into the world solo to study abroad scary, just wait till you see what spooky places waiting just around the corner, at these Top 12 international education destinations for Americans, along with some paid travel opportunities to experience these destinations—for FREE!
While Italy is one of the most beautiful places you could choose to study abroad in Europe, you can’t help but feel the lingering horrors of the past while visiting some of the most famous landmarks and cities.
Whether you’re studying in Calabria with a Unica Admission Scholarships, Bologna with the Unibo Study Abroad Grant or Tuition Waiver, or a multi-city program like CIEE’s annual Global Cities Grant—you never know what’s lurking above or below ground.
The Colosseum, for example, is an iconic image of ancient Rome. But this very site was the death bed of more than 400,000 people who competed in the gladiator games against vicious animals. These deadly games lasted for over a thousand years where emperors would decide the life or death of a soldier or at a whim.
Need more horror? In the basement of the Church of Santa Maria Della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome holds the Capuchin Crypt, which is oft-visited by lovers of the macabre because of its unique decorations—its walls are ornately covered by the bones of more than 4,000 friars. Cree-py!
And if you find yourself in Piazza Navona on the night of a full moon, you may encounter the ghost of Donna Olimpia, who was hated by the masses for her quick rise to wealth and power during 17th century Rome as “gatekeeper to the Pope”. Her spirit remains in the plaza for revenge on unsuspecting visitors who are advised not to look directly at her!
The dreary weather hanging over England was probably the first thing you notice when you arrived for your study abroad. But beware— you’ll discover that the clouds aren’t the only thing casting a shadow over the city.
The Tower of London will definitely give you spooks if you encounter one of over a dozen ghosts rumored to haunt it. I guess that happens when you use a building as a home for human sacrifice for centuries on end.
According to legend, if you mosy over to Wakefield Tower when the clock strikes midnight, you’ll see the ghost of Henry VI who was imprisoned and murdered here in the 15th century. Look into stories of The Two Little Princes and Anne Boleyn too. It’ll give you goosebumps.
Visit the East End to embark on an immersive Jack the Ripper tour to get in the mind of one of London’s infamous serial killers in the late 1800s. The tour covers key investigation sites while tracking him down and potential murder sites of some of his five victims.
And while it might be tempting to stay at the St. Briavels Castle during a trip through the English countryside, this youth hostel is still haunted from its days as a castle where guests have reported baby cries from one of the rooms or a mysterious knight walking the grounds at night.
💰 London is one of the top cities to study abroad in the UK using programs like the Hester Bly World Scholarship and the Clarendon Scholars program at Oxford are excellent ways to make your international education dreams happen, on a dime.
The Institute of International Education estimates that over 26,000 American students head to Spain to study abroad each Fall; it’s easily one of the top places to study abroad. But you might want to wait until spring break to truly explore Spain because this season is sure to stir up some of the creepiest experiences you’ll have while studying abroad.
Next time you wander off the Madrid campus of Saint Louis University, head south to the House of the Seven Chimneys for a chance to see a ghost floating between the stacks.
You could always visit the Casa del Ave María, one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona and an example of the artistic Modernism period. But did you know that the building used to be called the Casa del Meido—House of Fear? *cue creepy intro music*
It was named as such because of an inexplicable and regular scream one could hear in the midnight hour. The house was abandoned for an unknown reason—legend saying that the owners fled in the one night simply fled because of horrible events that happened—and artist Joan Güell bought it.
Very vague. Very creepy. 10/10, must-visit.
Even with more than 200 different study abroad programs in France—like American Village Language Counselor Program, OECD Internship Programme, or the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) Traineeships—it’s hard to avoid picking a city that isn’t riddled with bone-chilling stories and spooky attractions.
A study semester in Paris is literally a movie moment and dream! But 65-ft below ground hides a dark history of six million buried skulls in the catacombs of Paris.
With the Paris cemeteries overflowing with dead bodies during the Black Plague, these catacombs were established beneath the city in a network of tunnels expanding 200 miles with some corridors filled floor to ceiling with skulls. Be sure to stay with your group during your tour to avoid getting lost in the spooky halls.
And the stories of King Arthur might lead you deep in the Brocéliande Forest near Brittany in search of the Fountain of Barenton to drink from the magical spring, but make sure to avoid the trail to the ‘Valley of No Return.’
Legend says that an angry sorceress in love cast a spell on the valley to trap visitors for eternity with no concept of direction or time! (Honestly, sounds like my last Tinder date…)
Germany is one of the spookiest destinations to study abroad in Europe that blurs the line between what’s real and make-believe.
A trip to the site of the Berlin Wall is a must to discover the harsh realities of more than 100 people killed trying to cross the wall to escape communist rule over Berlin in 1961-1989.
💸 The DAAD Scholarship is an excellent way to support your studies in cities like Berlin, where these spooky attractions are sure to give you some fright this season.
💸 Arthur F. Burns Fellowship – Professional journalists, keep an eye out for the annual Spring deadline for this program that allows U.S., German and Canadian journalists the opportunity to live and work in each other’s country!
The Berlin Wall Memorial still preserves a section of the wall and a watchtower, now used as an open-air museum. Also, journey into the Berliner Unterwelten secret tunnels to see the desperate conditions endured by refugees attempting to cross the wall.
Frankenstein Castle in Mühltal is not only a bucket list visit but will give genuine chills as you tour the ruins, which were the former home to a real-life scientist who performed anatomy operations on dead bodies.
💸 American high school graduates 18-24? The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals was made for you! Study German language abroad for an entire semester, with fully paid airfare, tuition costs, housing costs, and monthly stipend!
And visiting Peacock Island at midnight isn’t warranted, thanks to the dark figure haunting the island said to be cursed with *dun dun dun* black magic.
The eerie sound of Irish bagpipes in the distance of the foggy Irish twilight could spook anyone, year-round. But especially during Alls Hallows Eve, it’s the perfect time to look into the history of horror to be found here!
Dublin inspired the setting for Abraham Stoker’s 15th-century novel, Dracula, and there’s no shortage of creepy buildings like the Dublin Castle that could easily be housing one—you know, an immortal vampire!
Take a spooky tour of the Kilmainham Gaol, and you might be one of the next visitors to feel the unsettled souls of tortured prisoners in this former prison.
Your Irish scare-list also has to have The Nightmare Realm, Ireland’s award-winning haunted house located in Dublin. It creates immersive, theatrical experiences of horror that resemble real experiences!
While there, try to survive while being chased by ghouls through the Gruesome Village of the Damned or visit Molly’s Murder House where there’s only one way out if you happen to encounter Molly.
Toronto, Quebec City, Vancouver, Winnipeg (where students of all nationalities can apply for the University of Winnipeg President's Scholarship for Young Leaders and attend with a $4000 scholarship!) are all stunning cities and study abroad destinations with a lot to offer. Still, it’s also a place where you’re likely to encounter the paranormal.
Casa Loma is a landmark Gothic revival castle in the heart of Toronto popular for weddings and other events, but wander off alone to the stables, and you might hear faint voices with no one in sight.
With the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellowship, Americans can conduct research at a university in Montreal with a $25,000 stipend.
Also, avoid the pedestrian tunnels in Queens Park that are rumored to be haunted by a ghostly woman who was a former patient at a women’s asylum that existed on this very site but was destroyed in the late 1800s.
The vibrant energy and futuristic buildings adorning the skyline will instantly captivate you when you arrive in Shanghai, China, for your studies. But perhaps these antics are just a distraction to the fact that it’s one of the spookiest study abroad destinations.
Shanghai is a place that combines fear and fun thanks to destinations like Disneyland Shanghai, boasting a Halloween theme every year with a ghost parade, spooky shows, and even dress-up days for guests.
💸 Ever heard of the Shanghai Government Scholarship? With it, international students can get their graduates, doctorates, or PhDs completely paid for at Donghua University]
Happy Valley is another park where costumed actors wander the park grounds, and you can play a virtual reality ghost hunting game.
Oaxaca, Mexico, is one of the best places to study abroad to learn Spanish—and one of the most infamously spooky and Halloweeny places on earth.
Whether you’re in Mexico learning Spanish on a scholarship, rediscovering your heritage through a funded cultural immersion program, or simply there because you won a travel contest, you have to take time off this time of year to get into the spooky festivities.
Mexican culture traditionally holds Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) over three days, October 31 to November 1, and more than 250,000 celebrate every year. One of the best activities is hearing locals’ stories told in Spanish about their history, families, loved ones, and spooky destinations around town—it’s definitely a quick way to learn the language!
Observe candlelight vigils in cemeteries, color decorations all over town, and appearances by La Catrina, the famous skeleton woman, and symbol of Dia de Los Muertos.
On your way home, you might want to skip passing through the historic center that’s said to be haunted by an evil spirit of a Native American woman who was murdered during colonization and remains out for revenge.
💡 Tip: To study up you can always watch the Disney movie Coco, which was based in Mexico and centered around Dia de Muertos.
Costa Rica’s verdant landscapes and tropical weather are paradises for studying abroad, especially if you are interested in biology, biodiversity, wildlife conservation, or forestry. But even those conservation programs in the rain forest don’t come without their horrors.
You’re in for some real-life fears when face-to-face with venomous snakes, spiders, and big cats creeping through the jungle floor.
If you’re studying here, keep an eye out for these historical landmarks dotting the country make excellent destinations for haunted day trips.
You might have already seen San Lucas Prison on ‘Ghost Hunters International’ exploring the haunted prison cells and paranormal activity that always feels like an extra presence in the room.
💸 U.S. college students could be here for a week on the Wander Abroad Scholarship
💸 And non-students could arrive with the GLASS Mentor Program to mentor youths (all expenses covered, plus stipend!)
And beware of San Juan De Dios Hospital, Costa Rica’s oldest hospital, where the ghost of a nun haunts the halls and sprays victims with a mist of water.
You’ll have to wait until the Spring semester to experience the iconic Holland tulips, but the Fall has its charm—if you like ghost stories and spooky places. The narrow alleys and 16th-century buildings hold secrets that will send chills down your spine.
As if the Amsterdam Dungeon isn’t spooky enough, actors in costumes fill these dark corridors to scare anybody walking through them in one of the best Halloween events in the Netherlands.
💸 Artists could visit The Netherlands as a part of the De Ateliers Programme working and supported by an annual stipend.
💸 Americans can also get a partially funded Master’s degree at Utrecht Excellence Scholarships!
Be mindful of street names such as Spooksteeg, otherwise known as ghost alley, and Bloedstraat, aka blood street, which are popular stops along with Amsterdam ghost tours.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Studying in St. Petersburg is popular for learning Russian in English-taught classes. But don’t stray too far from the group because this city will surely give you some spooks this Halloween.
Peer into the windows of the Mikhailovsky Castle, and you might see the ghost of Tsar Pavel I looking back at you, a Russian Emperor who was assassinated in his castle bedroom in 1801.
Don’t linger for too long at the Obvodny Canal because it’s rumored that lost souls can lure you into the water to the same fate.
During the day, the Alexander-Nevsky Cemetery is an impressive place with artistically decorated tombs of famous Russian architects, musicians, leaders, and other cultural figures, but it’s the last place you want to be at night when these eerie tombs, skulls, and ruins might make you see things that may (or may not) be real.
Short answer, NO. Not all study abroad programs are expensive… or cost anything at all!
Longer answer: I would not have been able to study abroad if I had to pay for it out of my own pocket. I used international education programs and grants to win more than $40,000 USD to fund my year-long study abroad experience.
That's why we developed Packs Light's PTO Dashboard—to highlight and bring awareness to the infinitely long list of international education, funded speaking engagements, international travel opportunities that are completely paid for.
With the PTO Dashboard, you can travel for free!
The traditional holiday of Halloween comes from All Hallow's Eve, coming from the Christian holidays of All Saint's Days. Christian communities around the world still celebrate the religious holiday, but the spooky concept of Halloween as we know it has been commercialized, and you can find celebrations around the global!
The destinations listed in this article are the most popular countries and cities for American students to study abroad in. However, they are the only option of course! There are 297 countries, and I actually recommend for Americans not study abroad in a western country. See why I chose to study abroad in Dubai, UAE, and why you should consider it too.
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