This article will discuss the top 10 happiest countries to study abroad and work in 2022. Some countries are happier than others, just like some people are happier than others. Also, a nation’s happiness seems to be the aggregate of the happiness of its citizens. And for the international student, studying in a country with greater joy equates to a unique and fruitful academic program. This is without many of the uncertainties associated with academics for international students in less happy countries (taking the current war in Ukraine and the associated sanctions on Russia as a case in point).
While education is the foundation of a happy life, happiness is its core. In their hunt for the ideal institution, students sometimes overlook the importance of personal fulfillment, and as we all know, a happy, dynamic, and engaging atmosphere is vital for studying. Combining this characteristic with academics may do wonders for kids’ growth since they get to experience a lifestyle that is not only learning-intensive but also gives back smiles. If you want to visit some of the happiest countries to study abroad, you have come to the right place.
How Do We Know the Happiest Countries to Study Abroad in 2022?
For over a decade, the OECD organization for economic cooperation and development has maintained a “Better Life Index,” an index of the happiest countries to study abroad and work globally. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index, launched in May 2011, is a pioneering endeavor to develop economic indicators that better reflect numerous economic and social success dimensions.
The platform consists of a dashboard that provides data and insights into critical indicators that measure well-being, environmental quality, public service quality, and security. Also, it has an interactive tool, Your Better Life Index (BLI), which encourages citizens to create their indexes by ranking each indicator based on its importance in their own lives.
This initiative began in 2011 in response to the Commission’s findings on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, also known as the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission. The recommendations from the study sought to address fears that standard macroeconomic statistics, such as GDP, did not accurately reflect people’s current and future well-being. The initiative aims to create social and welfare metrics that better represent progress, focusing on four main areas: environmental sustainability, greater well-being, lowering inequality, and system resilience. The ‘beyond growth’ approach to economic advancement is new.
The OECD Better Life Initiative encourages co-production of what we may standardize by promoting dialogue between the public and government. First released on May 24, 2011, the index comprises 11 well-being themes. Each of the 11 themes consists of 1-4 indexes, which are fine-tuned each time as insights are obtained from prior years’ data. Initially, each of the 11 themes is equally weighted to get scores and rankings for 30+ nations in each area of well-being to objectively ascertain the happiest countries to study abroad, live and work. The following are the themes:
- Housing: housing conditions and spending (e.g., real estate pricing)
- Income: household income (after taxes and transfers) and net financial wealth
- Jobs: earnings, job security, and unemployment
- Community: quality of social support network
- Education: education and what one gets out of it
- Environment: quality of environment (e.g., environmental health)
- Governance: involvement in democracy
- Life Satisfaction: level of happiness
- Safety: murder and assault rates
- Work-life balance
Data on these themes are published yearly, and OECD countries are ranked based on their derivative scores. You can find out more details from the OECD Better Life Index Website.
Top Happiest Countries in the World
The World Happiness report for 2022 is to be released later this month. However, using the methodology of the Better Life Index and available data, it is not so hard to piece together the happiest countries in the world — many of these are the top countries for study and work for intentional students. Based on the 2021 World happiness report, here are the happiest countries in the world(and abroad):
In a 2021 report, Finland is the world’s happiest country, with a score of 7.842 out of a maximum score of 10. The report’s authors attributed Finland’s residents’ strong emotions of civic solidarity and mutual trust with helping the country win the top spot and (and more crucially) navigating the COVID-19 epidemic. Furthermore, Finns believed that individuals were free to make their own decisions and had slight suspicion of government corruption. Both of these characteristics have a significant impact on overall happiness.
With a score of 7.620, Denmark is the world’s second-happiest country. Denmark’s values for each of the six variables are pretty close to Finland’s. Indeed, Denmark outperformed the leader in many areas, including GDP per capita, generosity, and the perceived absence of corruption, indicating that it may take the top place soon.
Switzerland, the world’s third-happiest country, had a total score of 7.571 out of 10. In general, Swiss people are highly healthy, having one of the lowest obesity rates in the world and a lengthy life expectancy. The Swiss also have a relatively high median wage, around 75% greater than the US, and the highest GDP per capita among the top seven. Furthermore, Switzerland has a strong sense of community and a strong opinion that it is a safe and clean nation, which is statistically correct. Switzerland, along with Iceland and Denmark, is one of the world’s safest countries.
Iceland is the fourth-happiest country in the world in 2021 and one of the happiest countries to study abroad, with a total score of 7.554. Iceland has the highest sense of social support among the top seven happiest countries (higher even than Finland, Norway, and Denmark, which all tied for second place). Iceland also had the second-highest generosity score among the top seven, though you should note that it was only ranked 11th overall.
The Netherlands (also known as Holland to many tulip fans) beats Norway to the fifth-happiest country globally, with a score of 7.464. The Netherlands outperformed every other top-seven countries in terms of charity, and it also showed a notable absence of perceived corruption.
Norway’s residents (7.392) believe their government takes good care of them, owing to universal healthcare and free college tuition. Norwegians also have a healthy work-life balance, working 38 hours per week on average, compared to 41.5 hours per week in the United States. Norway also boasts a low crime rate and a strong sense of community among its population, something it shares with several of the top seven countries.
Sweden (7.363) rates high in almost every category assessed, though not relatively high. Sweden, for example, has a more significant absence of corruption score than all but four nations globally (two of which are Finland and Denmark), the fourteenth-highest GDP per capita of the 149 countries studied, and the fourth-highest life expectancy among the top seven. Afghanistan was the least happy country in the world in 2021, with a 149th-place score of 2.523 due in part to a low life expectancy rate and a low GDP per capita rate.
It’s worth noting that the study was produced before the current Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, which will influence future ratings somehow. Zimbabwe (3.145), Rwanda (3.415), Botswana (3.467), and Lesotho round out the bottom five (3.512). From the preceding, all these countries have some commonalities: They are European, they are all Scandinavian countries, and two-thirds are monarchies (exciting, right?).
These countries consistently rank as some of the happiest countries in the world, the happiest countries to study abroad, best countries for international students to study and work in 2022. Students, domestic and international, often rank as excellent of the happiest students in the world.
Happiest Countries to Study Abroad (and Work) in 2022
If studying somewhere where everyone smiles are crucial to you while picking a university, you might want to start looking at institutions in Norway. The Scandinavian country has consistently ranked in the top five of the World Happiness Index, making it one of the happiest countries to study abroad in 2022. So, if you want to grin even while writing your dissertation, look at the finest institutions in each of these countries.
Norway is not just the happiest country in the world. Still, it is also one of the most affordable university education, with public education accessible for both domestic and international students. But be warned: a semester fee may be required, and living costs are higher than in other European countries. Suppose that doesn’t deter you from studying in Norway. In that case, you can’t go wrong by applying to the University of Oslo, often Norway’s highest-ranked university according to the QS World University Rankings®. Norwegian university in the capital is ranked equal to 113th in the world. Three more Norwegian universities appear in the most current international rankings. They are Bergen University (=177th), the Norweigan University of Science and Technology (259th), and the University of Tromsø (=377th). It remains one of the happiest countries to study abroad, particularly in Europe.
Norway’s neighbor Denmark is a perennial runner-up in The World’s Happiest list, indicating that the Scandinavian nations know what they’re doing. Denmark is well-known for its beautiful cities, high-end cuisine, and beautiful beaches. Denmark has consistently ranked among the happiest countries to study abroad for international students. The legendary Scandinavian happiness permeates the country, evident in its modern yet relaxing way of life. Denmark boasts numerous reputable universities to support its well-oiled educational system.
These academic institutions, which appear in International University Rankings, are sought after by students worldwide due to their creative course structure and inexpensive tuition rates. However, the cost of living in the country is significantly greater, even reaching 12% more than in the United States. All universities in Denmark are free to attend for EU/EEA students, although fees apply to students from other countries.
Denmark has five institutions in the World University Rankings, although only one is in the top 100: the University of Copenhagen. The university is ranked 68th in the globe as a whole. Denmark’s second-best institution, the Technical University of Denmark, is likewise located in the capital city and is ranked 109th in the world. Other Danish universities included are Aarhus University (117th), Aalborg University (=374th), and the University of Southern Denmark (=390th). Like Norway, it is well classified as one of the happiest countries to study abroad.
Here we have our first non-European country! What is there to be cheerful about in Australia? The weather is nice, the beaches are sandy, unemployment is low, and the minimum salary is nearly double that of the United States. According to the Better Life Index, Australia also has the finest housing (both in terms of quality and affordability), the most civic involvement, the healthiest population, and the best safety (with the lowest murder and assault rates). The Australian National University, located in the capital city of Canberra and now rated 27th in the world, is Australia’s top-ranked university. Indeed, it is one of the best and happiest countries to study abroad.
If Scandinavia isn’t your way, perhaps a university in the world’s fourth-happiest country is the best location for you to study. Switzerland also carries a happiness boon as one of Europe’s most important intellectual centers. Switzerland, like Scandinavian nations, has demonstrated constancy in its levels of happiness across time. Aside from its high happiness rankings, Switzerland is also home to world-class institutes such as ETH Zurich and EPFL, which are consistently ranked among the top 50 universities in the world.
Although Switzerland is an expensive place to live, college rates are comparatively low. The precise amount varies, but at most prominent Swiss institutions, foreign tuition is between CHF1,266-2,200 per year (US$1,265-2,195), which is not much more than the costs paid by local students. Eight distinct Swiss colleges are featured in the most recent World University Rankings, with two ranking in the top 20. Switzerland is home to 14th-ranked Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and ETH Zurich (The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), the world’s eighth finest university (EPFL).
The University of Zurich (80th) and the University of Geneva (=95th) are among the worldwide top 100. The University of Lausanne (ranked 138th), the University of Basel (=141st), the University of Bern (181st), and the University of St Gallen (=288th) are the other four top Swiss institutions.
A fourth Nordic country completes the top five happiest countries globally, with Finland behind its neighbors. Finland has ranked first in the World Happiness Rankings for three years, proving that it truly is the country of happiness. With a continually contented populace and a pleasant way of life, the government has ensured that educational improvements are not sluggish. The Nordic secret to happiness is something worth researching and implementing for the rest of the globe, and what better way to do it than to travel to the nation in search of information.
Finland is well-known for its renowned Helinski University, which has produced a slew of Nobel Laureates and political leaders during its long history. Although most university courses in Finland and Sweden are taught in Finnish or Swedish, there may be some English language courses available, so it is worth looking around. Tuition in Finland was entirely free for all students, which would have earned it a worthy place on our list of happiest countries to study abroad and top study destinations for international students in 2022. However, the government of Sweden made some changes recently to implement fees for non-EU/EEA students.
The most recent World University Rankings listed ten Finnish universities. The highest-ranked of these is the capital’s University of Helsinki, placed 91st. Aalto University, Finland’s second-best university, is located in Helsinki, ranking 133rd. The Institution of Turku, Finland’s third best-performing university, is located in historic Turku and is rated 234th globally. Tampere University of Technology (319th), the University of Jyväskylä (=338th), and the University of Eastern Finland (=382nd) are the three surviving Finnish universities in the newest ranking.
6. United States of America
Although you may expect one of the world’s most powerful countries to rank higher in the Better Life Index, the United States still comes out on top regarding family income and financial wealth. The United States also has the best collection of elite universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, currently ranked first in the QS World University Rankings (MIT). With abundant opportunities, a robust technological culture, and a high number of international students, the US ranks as one of the top academic destinations for international students and one of the happiest countries to study abroad in 2022.
Our fourth monarchy on the list! While known as a part of Europe’s ‘low lands, the only ‘low’ this nation encounters is frigid temperatures in the winter. When it comes to educational competence, the Netherlands is greatly underrated. The top universities in the Netherlands offer world-class education at the highest intellectual level, attracting thousands of students from all over the world each year. While the country’s nature is pleasant, to say the least, the inhabitants are equally kind and cordial to international students pursuing education, earning it a spot on our list of the happiest countries to study abroad.
The Netherlands, an economically strong country, ranks highly in practically all Better Life Index parameters, including high average income per capita, low unemployment, and individual liberties. Another element is clean air, and the country is famed for its stunning scenery and liberal town—students in the Netherlands rank as some of the happiest students in the world. The University of Amsterdam, located in a popular city and rated 58th globally, is the top-ranked university in the Netherlands.
8. New Zealand
There is no question that New Zealand is a happy country, having been one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries. With a thriving mix of native and settled populations, New Zealand’s education system has witnessed significant growth in recent years. Thanks to the student-friendly policies that schools effectively implemented during the pandemic testing period, its institutions are well-known worldwide. Despite being four spots behind its sister island of Australia, New Zealand ranks in the top ten happiest countries to study abroad on our list because of its magnificent beauty, low levels of air pollution, and a strong sense of community. The University of Auckland is New Zealand’s top-ranked university, ranking 94th globally.
The Swedish education system is held in high respect across the world. Because of their student-centered approach, the country has become a hotbed for technical courses and ranks one of the happiest countries to study abroad in 2022. The Land of the Varangians also carries the Nordic charm of happiness, managing to rank first in happiness rankings even during the COVID 19 testing phases. In the Kingdom of Sweden, here are some of the top institutions for international students: Lund University (#97), KTH Roya Insitute of Technology (#98), Uppsala University (#124), Chalmers University (#139), Stockholm University (#181). All rankings are based on the 2021 QS World Rankings of Universities
Although it does not have a university listed in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings®, nothing can detract from Iceland’s status as one of the top ten happiest countries to study abroad. Iceland may not have the most tropical climate (the name gives it away). Still, it features pure air, beautiful lunar-like icy landscapes, unusual species, low crime rates, a tiny population of only 320,000 people, and high life expectancies. Reykjavik University is the most well-known of Iceland’s seven universities.
Studying abroad, while a dream several students, can be made a lot pleasant if one picks a country known for its low crime rate, tranquillity, high standard of living— essentially a happy nation. Many of the countries listed above, asides from being the happiest countries to study abroad, are also some of the happiest countries to live and work and top study destinations for international students in 2022. Thinking of living that serene life you have always dreamt of? Check out any of these destinations today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which country is best for studying abroad?
This is quite subjective. As an international student, you would probably have what you are looking for in a study destination. This would differ from what other international students would consider in their preferred study destination. Speaking generally, indices like ranking on the World University rankings, HDI, and World happiness report support the assertion that Norway, the USA, Australia, Switzerland, and the countries listed earlier in this article are the best and happiest countries to study abroad.
Which country has the happiest students?
Research has suggested that students in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world, and experts say that there could be several reasons why this is the case. A UNICEF report published last year found that children in the Netherlands had the highest sense of well-being.
Which countries are the cheapest to study abroad?
QS research has revealed that Norway, Taiwan, Germany, France, Mexico are the top five cheapest countries to study abroad.
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