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How Music Students Can Make the Best of Studying Overseas

Flutist Julie Scolnik gives her personal advice on studying abroad while being a music student

As a student, traveling to a new country can be a transformative experience. Music students, in particular, get the opportunity to study and play their instruments in a new environment and culture. VC reader Emily wanted some expert advice before starting her semester abroad.


Dear Emily,

I was twenty years old when I landed in Paris to study the flute with French master Maxence Larrieu, and to take French civilization courses as part of my Junior Year Abroad program with Wesleyan University.

This was a new adventure at the start of my career as a musician, and although life was very different back then in the pre-internet era of the late seventies, there are some aspects of studying abroad for a young student that will never change.


— Learn the language before you go! Try to become as fluent as possible. For example, read in French, watch French films with French subtitles!

— Immerse yourself in as much culture, art, and history (not just music) as you can while there.

— Enroll at the conservatory rather than only private instruction with your master teacher, in order to find peers for chamber music. 

— Try every pastry, and explore every tiny street.



— Consider freelancing if you meet local working musicians.

— Try to avoid fraternizing uniquely with people who are from your country. 

— Pretend you don’t have a cell phone and see how much more moved you will feel in a foreign land.

— Don’t meet your teacher at his recording sessions or rehearsals. Set boundaries and keep it professional.




Julie Scolnik is a concert flutist and the founding artistic director of Mistral Music, a chamber music series which since 1997 has been lauded for its virtuosic artists, imaginative programming, and the personal rapport she establishes with her audiences. She is the author of a newly published memoir, Paris Blue, a memoir of first love,  set against a backdrop of classical music and Paris in the late seventies.

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