Studying Abroad: A Good Fit for Music Students

Posted By on August 2, 2011

College students will be moving back to school in a few short weeks and the start of another school year is upon them.  Whenever August rolls around I find myself reminiscing about college — in particular, my study abroad experience.  Are you or any of your music students  interested in studying abroad?

Statistics from the past two decades show a slow but steady increase in the number of U.S. students who study abroad.  However, the year 2009 shows a decrease in the number of study abroad students by .8%;  this brought the 2009 number down to 260,327 U.S. students who study in a foreign country.  This is the first year in the past 25 where the number of students studying abroad did not increase, due most likely to the economy.  Of the more than a quarter million American students who studied abroad in 2009, only 7% were in the arts — that’s music and fine arts combined.   I found music major participation suprisingly low, given the natural cultural and musical opportunities study abroad can bring.   

I’m intrigued by the questions this raises.  Are few music major going abroad due to the intense courseload they take on in college?  Do music majors feel they can’t leave their home university?   Are music departments recommending foreign study to their students? 

Studying abroad is a valuable opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and learn about music from a different perspective.  It’s one thing to learn classical music history here in the States, it’s totally different to learn classical music history while sitting in Beethoven’s old apartment in downtown Vienna!  Actually seeing the piano where he sat for hours and composed, and seeing how he and other composers of that time lived – it’s an experience that can’t be duplicated.

As  a college freshman I decided that I was going to study abroad.  My school had students who studied abroad, but not music majors.  As a sophomore I began structuring my music curriculum with my study abroad program in mind.  I was told that it would be difficult to study abroad because I was a music major and therefore had so many required courses that I had to take.  Yet, I was determined to do it,  and I did, and graduated on time.  

I chose to study in Vienna, Austria — which, in my opinion, is one of the best cities to study music!  (Ok, well I may be a little biased!)  But in all seriousness, it is an excellent city to study music for all the obvious reasons.  After thorough research, I went through the IES abroad program.  The things that I learned while I was there are incomparable and a great addition to the rest of my music education that I received here in the States.  The opportunity to learn another culture and fully immerse yourself in it is incredible!

If you find any of your students interested in studying abroad, encourage them to do it and help them be creative in putting together what they need to accomplish this goal.  Grants and scholarships are available and can help ease the cost.  The experience is like no other, it was one of the best decisions that I ever made.

This August marks 9 years since I was in Vienna.  The friendships and the valuable life lessons that I learned back then are still fresh in my mind today.

For more information about studying abroad for music students, check out:

https://www.iesabroad.org/IES/home.html
http://www.studyabroad.com/programs/music/default.aspx

About the author

Graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance; Studied music in Vienna, Austria for a semester during college; Private piano teacher; Accounts Payable department at J.W. Pepper - Paoli, PA.

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