Thinking About Studying Music Abroad?

Been dreaming about a semester near a gorgeous beach off the coast of Spain? How about Paris, Croatia, Tel Aviv, or Ghana?

Study abroad is a popular option for students in many fields who want to explore another culture. Musicians and educators often talk about the benefits of spending time immersed in another country’s lifestyles and customs, in preparation for life as a music professional. From broadening your perspective as a human being and a musician to experiencing how your interests are taught, shared, and supported outside of your home turf, study abroad offers a compelling opportunity to learn in a new context.

Can I Still Graduate in Four Years?

BM performance degree candidates at many conservatories and music schools find that it is not possible to study abroad during the school year and still graduate within four years.

Schools that do build study abroad into the four-year curriculum typically require you to be at least a sophomore or, more likely, a junior; maintain a minimum GPA to qualify; and plan your study abroad well in advance in order to be sure you can fit it into your curriculum.

Bachelor of Arts students typically have more leeway in choosing coursework, and can incorporate a semester or sometimes an entire year abroad without delaying graduation. Music technology and music business majors may also find it easier to fit study abroad into a four-year curriculum. There is no set rule about study abroad; be sure to check with your school.

What Happens to My Financial Aid?

If you are receiving financial aid and decide to study abroad during the school year, your aid will typically continue and be applied to your study abroad tuition. Be sure to verify this with the study abroad office at your school. Many universities have their own connections with schools in other countries and you can get full credit through those programs for whatever you study. Check with your school about receiving credit if you decide to study abroad through another school’s program.

What About the Summer?

Studying abroad during the summer may be an easier option for music majors. Other ways to gain a different cultural perspective include service-learning travel projects offered by many schools and organizations, attending and/or performing at summer music festivals, and cobbling together your own plan. Some schools offer travel allowances, grants or scholarships for these purposes. Check with the study abroad office as well as the music school or department to see what’s available as well as to solicit other creative suggestions. Note that the visa process in itself is time-consuming and complicated; be sure to seek help from your school and allow enough time for your paperwork to clear.

For more on study abroad, see… Study Abroad as a Music Major


  1. India is the best place to go to for advanced studies in music. It also has some of the world’s oldest musical instruments. It’s classical music is more developed than the western.

  2. Kaiti

    I’d highly recommend the Jamaica Field Service Project. It’s open to students majoring in music education, music therapy, and other non-music fields (those students serve as literacy tutors). Music therapy professionals are also able to attend for continuing ed credit. It’s a great program which allows for field work/clinical experience in a country with great culture and music. We also had a B.A student on my trip, so I think it’s a little flexible. Ethnomusicology students would probably also be accepted. You can find the program at

  3. Music Minor

    Although I’m an English Communications major, I am a Music minor and was thinking of places I could study abroad that would complement both studies.I would like to know if you had any recommendations on places to study abroad for Music majors. My friends that are Music majors could benefit from knowing they can study abroad too. I was wanting to know of universities in Europe and other places that would provide a good experience to study music.

    • Many schools have an agreement with colleges and universities in other countries to ensure that the credits earned will transfer, and that you’ll be paying the same amount for the semester (or more) abroad as you would at the school you attend in the US. So it’s best to check with the college or university you currently attend or where you want to apply.

      Note that most schools require that you be at least a sophomore before you participate in a study abroad program. To ensure that you can graduate in four years, be sure to start talking with your academic adviser a year before you plan to study abroad.

      As stated in this article, at most US schools at this point in time, BA students (and music minors) will have an easier time fitting study abroad into a four-year program.

  4. Thanks for your insights and recommendations. We’ve been hearing about some BM candidates switching to a BA to incorporate study abroad into a four-year curriculum. We encourage students to think about how the type of degree they’re getting will actually serve them once they graduate so that they can make wise decisions and choices about the BA vs. the BM.

  5. Cleveland Johnson

    Having taught (and administered) in an excellent School of Music for 25 years, I can tell you that Music students who study abroad grow by leaps and bounds compared to those who don’t. Watching students across their four-year career, I’ve witnessed so many students who entered with fairly modest abilities (compared to their peers), who return from a semester abroad and just blow the socks off the competition when they return. They seem to make the one big (perceived) downside of study abroad–i.e. being away from applied study with their major teacher–work to their advantage. These students return to campus with wider horizons, broader perspectives, more diverse repertory interests, new friends from other American conservatories, and impressive connections to musicians in another part of the world. Music has truly come alive for them, through travel, and it shows in their dedication, their curiosity, and their playing.

    Music students tend to study in Western European locations, for obvious reasons, since the American music curriculum is still very euro-centric. Excellent programs include the IES Study Abroad programs

    For the more adventurous student, an exciting new option, considering the age we live in, allows undergraduate musicians to look farther afield. MUSIC EDUCATION ABROAD has an intriguing program in India that could be excellent for composers, performers, music educators, as well as for any students interested in ethnomusicology. There won’t be many graduating music majors looking for work (or grad school admission) who’ll have experience like that to showcase in their resumes and applications.

    Currently, music students are among the least well-traveled of college students. But being so tied down (to their home institution, their applied teacher, and their traditional curriculum) could come back to bite them as the music field becomes increasingly competitive, diverse and globally connected. If it was up to me, I’d REQUIRE my students to study abroad!

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