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Edinburgh, Bologna, or Bordeaux for Study Abroad next Spring?

I have the options for the University of Edinburgh, University of Bologna, and the University of Bordeaux. Which one would be best?

I primarily want a location with great architecture, greenery, and plenty of things to do and explore (museums/galleries/historical sites/student life). I also think ease of traveling within Europe cheaply is an important factor as I want to explore other areas outside my study abroad country. Thanks!

Posted by
1101 posts

Well, Edinburgh is a lot colder than the other 2! I expect all would give you a great student experience in different ways. It would be easier to travel around by train if you’re in mainland Europe, but Edinburgh is well connected by air to most of Europe. Obviously, you don’t have the language barrier there either.

Posted by
332 posts

I primarily want a location with great architecture, greenery, and plenty of things to do and explore. I also think ease of traveling within Europe cheaply is an important factor as I want to explore other areas outside my study abroad country.

All 3 have these things.

Posted by
773 posts

Wow, what choices! Well since all 3 have so much to offer, what about other things you might enjoy? Food - EXCELLENT food in either Bologna or Bordeaux. Are you interested in immersive language study in either French or Italian? Personally, I would choose either for the language exposure, but that might not be your cuppa. And train service - easy to hop on a train and go exploring nearby amazing places if you're already on the continent.

Posted by
1595 posts

The choice should depend on where you would get the best education to further what you want to do in life, not the surroundings.

Posted by
1784 posts

It is my understanding Bologna is a robust higher educational city with many US colleges who have extensions in the city. This would be a great opportunity for you. It is also a great city itself and has very good transportation. Bordeaux I found to be a nice city, but nothing compared to the region of Bologna. Edinburgh is a very nice city, but would make your trips within Europe a little more difficult and the weather there seems to always be iffy day to day. Wherever you choose, it sounds like you can't miss such a great opportunity.

Posted by
873 posts

Ryanair Airlines has revolutionized travel (especially student travel) across Europe. Check out their and other cheap flight websites. You can be on the continent from Edinburgh as quickly as you can by train from Bologna to any other country. In other words, pick the #1 educational opportunity and build out your adventures from there.

Posted by
8201 posts

You have no losers there.

Take University of Bologna. The food is better in Italy, and especially in Bologna. Weather's also better during the school year. Italy's everyone's favorite vacation destination too.

Posted by
359 posts

As several other posters have commented, the choice you make should be dictated by the situation that provides the best educational opportunity for your chosen field. There is a secondary issue for your consideration as well. Do you already speak French or Italian, or are you willing to put some time into learning the language of your host country? Your courses may be in English and I'm sure you would be able to navigate basic purchases. However it's very difficult to really experience the culture of a place without a basic knowledge of the language.

Posted by
27328 posts

I think Bologna is a clear winner from the standpoint of variety of local day trips possible by train or bus.

To check options for longer trips requiring flights, go to and enter, in turn, each of your three possible study locations as the point of origin. Then be sure the "Direct flights" box is checked so you see only non-stop flights, hover over the Destination box and click on "Explore everywhere". I don't think all the flights have been loaded for months as far out as March and April 2024, so you might do best to look at October or November of this year. Choose the month you prefer and then click on Search.

You'll get a list of the countries reachable by non-stop flights. Click in a country box to see the cities with non-stop flights. Some flights don't run every day, and there's a difference between having just one flight a day and four or six when you're planning a short trip. You'll have to drill down more to get that level of detail, but this will give you a start.

The reason for focusing on non-stop flights is that the cheapest way to cover long distances in Europe is a flight on a budget airline, and if you need to connect on a budget airline, you are likely to end up paying, in effect, the total fare for the two flights. And the trip may take 5, 6 or 7 hours, not counting having to get to the first airport early.

A quicker look, based on current flight options, can be found on the website It produces a list of destinations showing the days the flights run and how many departures there are on a typical day.

Posted by
39 posts

I've been in all three cities within the past six months. They're all great, have big student populations, and lots to do. They're also very different culturally.

In terms of vibe, Bordeaux feels laid back yet sophisticated -- think San Francisco. Bologna is gritty, edgy, and lively -- think Brooklyn. Edinburgh feels elegant yet friendly -- think Boston.

The best for traveling within Europe (using discount airlines) would be Edinburgh. Plus the airport is a quick, cheap bus ride from the central city. With both Bordeaux and Bologna, you'll have a variety of week-end trips within those countries by train or bus (e.g., to the ocean, mountains, historic towns), but may have to travel to other towns first to get cheap flights to elsewhere in Europe. On the flip side, Edinburgh also has the most tourists of the three, so you'll have to contend with crowds in some areas.

Language will be a big factor. When you speak the local language, you can really immerse yourself in the local culture. Plus you'll be able to join free and cheap events. Things offered in English in Bordeaux or Bologna will be designed for foreigners and pricier.

Posted by
5444 posts

My son is a student at University of Edinburgh. He is having an amazing academic and student life experience, for what that is worth. If you have questions about UofE, let me know.

Posted by
6994 posts

French universities can be a bit of a mess, and Bordeaux is not the best starting point for cheap travel in Europe. I would choose one of the other two.

Posted by
773 posts

OP, I would love to hear which university you choose, and why, enjoy your semester abroad! I went to the University of Tübingen for a year and had a fantastic time, once I got over the shock.