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The basics
THE USA: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Southwest USA

Southwestern USA’s landscape is quite different and incredibly spectacular. Its cities are interesting, diverse, and more affordable for international students. Our guide will tell you more.

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The Southwest of the USA is also known as the American Southwest and the Southwestern United States. It’s inland and so much warmer and drier than in other regions. It’s the ideal region for international students to explore. 


Let’s first look at the states that are in the Southwest of the country:

  • Arkansas covers 137,754 square kilometres with a population of just over three million people.
  • Arizona is more than double the size of Arkansas, with 7.44 million people.
  • Louisiana is 135,382 square kilometres and has a population of over 4.5 million.
  • New Mexico, although only the fifth largest state, only has a population of 2.1 million people.
  • Oklahoma has a population of over four million.
  • Texas is the second most populated state in the entire country, with a population of nearly 30 million people. 


With a combined population of over 50 million, this region of the US is more populated than Spain or Canada. 


You may want to explore other well-known study regions for international students, such as the Northwest of the USA and Western USA


What is Southwest USA like?


Location and demographics

All the above states, except for Texas and Louisiana, are landlocked and located in the driest part of the USA. The region has also been greatly influenced by different nations and communities. Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona are three of the ten states with the highest Native American population. However, it’s important to note that the indigenous American population has declined significantly through land dispossession over the past two centuries. 



Culture and history

Due to its landscape, this region of the country is well known for gold mining, cowboys, and the filming of Hollywood’s western movies. Historically, the region was influenced by the Spanish. The invasion started with the Aztec empire in Mexico. The Incas in Peru then travelled further north to what would become Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Spanish would lose their territories in the Spanish-American war, but the influence of the era is still present in its architecture, art, and its people. 


This part of the USA has been enriched by immigration from Mexico and South America. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the USA, with more than 41.8 million people speaking Spanish at home. 


What cities are in Southwest USA?

Here are just a few of the major cities in this region of the country:

  • Phoenix (Arizona) is also called the ‘Valley of the Sun’, and is the 5th largest city in the USA.
  • Tucson,(Arizona) has 350 days of sunshine a year and everything from a desert to shopping.
  • Santa Fe (New Mexico) is the oldest capital city in the USA and is well-known for its rich Native American culture and art. 
  • Houston (Texas) is known for NASA’s Space Centre and the first word to be spoken on the moon. 
  • Tulsa (Oklahoma) is the birthplace of the world-famous Route 66 and is also famous for oil production.
  • New Orleans (Louisiana) is known for its jazz music, Creole and Cajun cuisine and its Mardi Gras festival in February each year. 


How much does it cost to live in Southwest USA?

Depending on where you live, the cost of living can vary quite a bit in this part of the USA. International students should budget between USD 14,000 and USD 21,800 per year (USD 1,160 and USD 1,800 per month).  


Find out more about student living costs in the USA.


What services are there in Southwest USA?

Much like the cost of living, the services available depend on where you live. In more populated areas, you will find great bus and public transport services. 


Travelling around the USA by car is the easiest option, but you can still explore this region by train and bus. Amtrak has various train routes with connections throughout the region.  


For a cheaper option, you could try intercity buses. For example, the Greyhound bus company can take you from Dallas to Phoenix in two hours. If you have Student Advantage Card, you can get a 20 per cent discount on the bus ticket, as well as other benefits in stores and travel companies.  


What are the post-study options?

To stay in the USA after you graduate it’s important to follow the strict visa rules. There are exceptions, but usually, international students have just over a year to find a relevant role or continue their studies.  


Graduates from universities in the region have excellent career opportunities open to them. The Southwest of the USA is also home to major multinational companies such as Apple, Amazon, Boeing, Dell, ExxonMobil, Intel, and the US Air Force to name only a few.  


Find out the top 5 graduate careers in the USA.


What universities are in Southwest USA?

Universities in this part of the country may be considered better value for money as the cost of living and tuition fees in some cities and universities are lower than in other areas of this massive country. Here are just a few:



What are the main attractions?

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is without a doubt the main attraction in Southwestern USA, and the view is known globally.



You could also try hiking, kayaking or horse riding along the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico or learn about Cherokee culture and life in the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. You can also visit Legoland in Dallas-Forth Worth, visit The Sixth Floor Museum dedicated to President John F. Kennedy who was shot in Dallas or visit the Space Center in Houston.


What must you see in Southwest USA?

This part of the USA is a perfect blend of the modern world, rich culture, and stunning scenery. Here are just a few of the main attractions you must see:


  • The Grand Canyon is perhaps one of the most famous natural landmarks in the world. It’s 1.6 kilometres deep, 445.7 kilometres long and 28.9 kilometres wide. and has over 700 unexplored caves but only one that you can visit. Horseshoe bend in Antelope Canyon is also a must-see.

Close to the edge. View at Horseshoe Bend, a meander of Colorado river in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, United States.


  • Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’ in New Orleans is the last day of Carnival season and is always the day before Ash Wednesday.

: Mardi Gras parades through the streets of New Orleans. People are celebrating and welcoming locals and visitors. This is the biggest annual celebration of the city.


  • Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

: Hot air balloon Mass Ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta


  • The Four Corners is the only place in the USA where you can literally stand in four states at the same time.


Metal plaque on the ground showing where the four states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado come together in one place.


It may not have the attraction and fame of New York or California, but the southwestern part of the USA has its own unique offerings. If this information has made you curious about living and studying in this part of the USA, why not use our course matcher tool to find your ideal study path.


Study in the USA


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