Does studying music abroad sound inviting?
It should. There’s so much to gain by leaving the comforts and confines of what’s known and predictable. While the culture, geography, language, customs, food etc. may be very different from what you’re accustomed to, the common denominator is still the passion to study and play music. Learning in a collegial environment with students from other parts of the world can be incredibly inspiring. It can open up creative circuits and bring a wider perspective to your performance, composing, and general understanding of music.
You can study abroad for a degree, certificate, semester, or summer music program. There are many options for all of these. But how can you tell you’re ready for any of it?
We talked with admission folks at schools and programs around the world. What we learned was this:
Start by asking yourself 5 questions
1. How would studying abroad support my goals and dreams?
2. Which program(s) would be a good fit?
3. Am I someone who copes pretty well with change and who knows how to seek out support if and when I need it? Can I spot a potentially dangerous or unsavory situation before I find myself in it? Do I know what to do if it happens?
4. Can I advocate for what I need and want (as opposed to hoping and waiting for it to show up)?
5. Will my family (parents or other key people in your life) support my plan to go to school in another country? Do they have concerns or reservations? If so, what are they? What can I say or do that will help us get on the same page about studying abroad?
You’ll also want to consider
- When is the best time to study abroad? And for how long?
- Don’t assume studying abroad will automatically be more expensive than in your home country, especially if you’re from the U.S. Tuition is typically far less expensive in countries outside the U.S. Some schools in the UK and Europe offer 3-year bachelor degree programs, because students take the equivalent of U.S. general education courses in the last two years of high school. Living expenses may also be lower. But travel back home will, of course, add to your costs.
- Do you want to attend a school where you can speak your first language? Or are you sufficiently bi-lingual to keep up with the formal and informal communication you’ll be immersed in?
- Living in another country will expose you to many cultural differences. For instance, in England and Italy, the drinking age is lower than the U.S. and beer may be on tap in the student dining room. You are expected to know how to consume alcohol in a way that does not interfere with your studies or become injurious to your health or behavior BEFORE you travel abroad. Otherwise, you may quickly be sent back to your home country.
- It’s also important to get a handle on the customs of the country you plan to study in before you leave home and then learn everything you can from the locals once you’re there.
The benefits of studying music in another country can be lifelong and life-changing. That said, for some music students, spending a summer or a semester abroad focusing on other areas of interest may have just as much of an impact on their music and will still provide opportunities to jam, practice, and perform.
If you can answer the first 5 questions and can address the other considerations reasonably well, it may be time to think more seriously about expanding your musical perspective through studying abroad.