21 Famous Women who Studied Abroad

December 4, 2012
Famous Women who Studied Abroad

The benefits of studying abroad are undeniable. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or where you go, studying while traveling will bring you closer to the local culture through education, experience, and immersion.

With almost 300,000 students going overseas to study each year, you probably already know a few study abroad alumni yourself. Nearly three-quarters of those traveling students are female. You may not have realized, though, that there are also tons of famous women who have studied abroad. Check out this list of female celebrities who studied abroad and get inspired by your favorite musician, writer, activist, or actress to take the leap to study abroad!

21 Famous Women Who Have Studied Abroad

Julia Child 

The famous chef, author, and TV host, attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris before also studying under master chefs in France.

21 Famous Women Who Have Studied Abroad

Hillary Clinton

Our Secretary of State, one of the biggest proponents of study abroad, spent time learning overseas as well. Check out her video on studying abroad for International Education Week 2012. Today, she is also the most-traveled Secretary of State ever!

Penelope Cruz

This Spanish actress left her home country to study theatre at Cristina Rota’s New York school for several years.

Sista Soulja

All-in-one activist, novelist, actress, and hip-hop artist, studied abroad during her  undergraduate at the University of Salamanca in Spain. She also spent time traveling in England, Finland, France, Portugal, Russia, and Spain.

Alice Walker 

An important activist and author of The Color Purple, spent time studying in Uganda.

Amelia Earhart 

Amelia studied to become a nurse’s aid in Canada after becoming inspired by the returned wounded WWI soldiers.

Eleanor Roosevelt 

This former First Lady, author, and activist studied at a private finishing school in London, England.

Sylvia Plath

This female poet and author received a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College in Cambridge.

J.K. Rowling 

J.K., the author of the Harry Potter book series, is from the United Kingdom and studied abroad the Exeter University in France.

Carrie Fisher 

Yes, Princess Leia herself studied abroad – not on Alderaan or Tatooine though. In 1973, she spent 18 months at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie worked on her acting skills for a short time at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

 Women who Studied Abroad

Gloria Steinem

This famous feminist activist wrote her first book, A Thousand Indias, while studying as a Chester Bowles Asian Fellow in India.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth’s study abroad adventure was a “life-changing” one, as many are. She spent a year in Talavera de la Reina, Spain in high school and she hasn’t been able to stay away. Ever since she was 19, she has continued to visit Spain annually, calling it a second home.

21 Famous Women who Studied Abroad.

Vera Wang 

One of the world’s most renowned fashion designers was inspired by the life and art around her during her time studying abroad at the University of Paris (Sorbonne).

Charlize Theron

The talented and charitable actress Charlize Theron is originally from South Africa so she became a study abroad student at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.

Cynthia Nixon 

This Sex and the City star spent a Semester at Sea sailing around the globe to visit a handful of new countries in 1986.

Geena Davis 

You may know Geena Davis from classics like A League of Their Own, but what you don’t know is that her study abroad experience took her to Sweden. As a high school student, she lived with a family, went to school, and learned Swedish for a year.

Mother Teresa 

It comes as no surprise that this humanitarian woman spent time helping others and learning abroad. Born and raised in Macedonia and Albania, Mother Teresa studied English at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland before doing missionary work in India at age 18.

Marie Sk?odowska-Curie

One of the most famous female scientists of all time, Marie Curie, was born in Poland and studied a variety of subjects from math to physics to chemistry at University of Paris (Sorbonne) in France.

Diana, Princess of Wales 

Even royalty study abroad! Princess Diana spent time at a finishing school in Switzerland.

Kristi Yamaguchi

This Olympic figure skater spent time studying in Canada while she trained to be a member of the US Olympic team.


Just think – many wonderful famous women studied abroad before we had ever heard of them. Their passion for learning and exploring led them to study abroad, take risks, and develop their independence and self-reliance. Seeing new cultures while you are young will teach you about yourself and new cultures at the same time, making you a prime candidate for celebrity status in just a few short years! Who knows, maybe even you’ll be on this list someday!

Know of any other celebrities who took their studies abroad?

Katie Boyer has a passion for meaningful travel. She studied public relations and Spanish at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is now happy to be working in the Bay Area with Go Overseas as the Volunteer Abroad Website Director. Follow Katie on her blog, Twitter, and Google+.

Photos for 21 Famous Women who Studied Abroad by Unsplash.

4 thoughts on “21 Famous Women who Studied Abroad

  1. December 6, 2012

    To learn about more famous people who studied abroad, visit my website: http://www.sarahmcnitt.net/studyabroadpeople.php !

  2. Chris
    December 5, 2012

    Thank you. I shared this article with our student on our Internaitonal Exchange website for our university. We send out 350-400 students around the globe every year for a semester or a year, most are young women (though many young men take the opporuntiy as well). Very inspiring.

  3. December 4, 2012

    Loved the article! Just reaffirms why traveling is so important–it clearly helps develop incredible women!

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