Andrew Wang - 2014 Program Participant
Teaching piano to a 12-year-old boy
Why did you choose to intern abroad?
I wanted to intern/volunteer abroad for personal, academic, and professional reasons. On a personal level, I wanted to expand my horizons, have total independence, obtain some cross-cultural experience, and explore the country of Spain. I also wanted to experience the music culture in a foreign city and get to meet people from all over the world. Academically, I wanted to increase my Spanish speaking proficiency and musicianship skills. Professionally, I wanted to gain more experience teaching music to children.
What made you choose to intern in Spain specifically?
I chose the country of Spain mainly because I wanted to spend time in the city of Barcelona. I wanted to experience the varied and exciting music scene of Barcelona, as well as this city’s other cultural sites and opportunities. I also wanted to increase my proficiency in the Spanish language and be able to easily explore other regions of this country.
Why did you choose Performing Arts Abroad over other international internship providers?
I chose to intern abroad with Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) for several reasons. One is that my music program in college did not allow for students to study abroad during the year, and PAA offered several options for studying abroad during the summer. I was able to fulfill that desire and at the same time gain valuable experience teaching music and living with a host family. Performing Arts Abroad seemed very organized and they were incredibly responsive to my questions. They went to the trouble to arrange an individualized program for me in Spain that best suited my needs. They also incorporated a course in Spanish into the program, which was important and useful to me.
Demonstrating proper breathing techniques for a singing class
Where did you stay during your internship in Spain? What was your favorite part about your accommodation?
I chose to stay with a host family, as I felt this would increase my opportunities to speak Spanish, enable me to have an in-depth cultural exchange experience, and learn more about the life of Spanish families. My favorite part was spending time with the two young boys in the family. The World Cup was taking place, and we all bonded over our interest in this sporting event.
What was a typical day like as a music intern in Spain?
A typical day for me in Spain would start at 7:30 a.m. I would wake up and have breakfast with my host family and head to the music school where I volunteered. I spent about eight hours a day at the music school giving individual music lessons on various instruments, as well as singing lessons to children who ranged in age from seven to 14. I also did music activities with the children and helped them with composing and recording some of their music.
After school ended, I often hung out with the staff or visited a cultural site before heading back to my host family’s home. I would spend some time on my computer doing work for the music school such as writing a blog, and would then have a late dinner with the family (at about 9:00 p.m.). I would then watch some TV with the children or just talk to them about their day. After they went to bed, I would go out to a music club to hear some great live music performances.
What is one of your most memorable experiences from your time in Spain?
One of my most memorable experiences was going to Escolania de Montserrat, which is the home of the oldest boys’ choir in Europe. There is a music school there that dates back to the 14th century. This world-renowned choir performs daily in the Basilica for visitors from around the world and I, fortunately, was able to see this on the last weekend they were singing before they went on tour. As a singer and music education major, this was a phenomenal experience. I will never forget the beautiful voices I heard from these young boys in a most magnificent and historical setting.
A group of children posing for a photo in one of my music classes
What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?
The biggest challenge I faced abroad was when I encountered individuals who only spoke Catalan Spanish and did not speak any English. Catalan Spanish is different than the Spanish taught in the U.S. and, at times, it created communication problems with some working class adults and the young music students who did not know as much English as the older students.
What advice would you give to others interested in interning in Spain?
I would tell people who want to intern in Spain to stay with a host family and take advantage of visiting the many beautiful cities in this country. I loved Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid, and one should take advantage of the many cultural aspects of these cities, such as the food, the art, the history museums, the music, etc. If one speaks any amount of Spanish, I would make every effort to converse with the people in Spanish, as this is a good way to improve your Spanish proficiency.
How has interning in Barcelona impacted your life?
My summer interning in Barcelona through Performing Arts Abroad was a life-changing experience for me. From the food to the sites to the people I met, I considered it to be one of the greatest cities I have ever visited.
While at my internship, I had the opportunity to work with a great mentor who went out of her way to guide me and made sure I gained a lot of hands-on experience. It was also a pleasure to work with the students and improve my Spanish along the way. I loved working at my internship so much that I am still currently working for them, as I am organizing all their piano music for the upcoming year.
I also had the opportunity to live with a warm, caring Spanish family and their two boys, an experience that further enabled me to improve my Spanish speaking and comprehension skills. It also provided the opportunity for a cultural exchange experience.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to travel to other parts of Spain including Valencia, Montserrat, and Madrid. Overall, this experience gave me personal growth and an independent experience that was unique and helpful to my future career.
Teaching the saxophone to a 9-year-old boy
What made Spain such a great place for a music internship abroad?
Spain has a vibrant music scene, which encompasses music from every genre. There is great classical music, flamenco music, as well as rock, pop, jazz, and electronic music. The major cities have lots of clubs with live music performed in an informal atmosphere. One can listen to artists who are new to the scene, as well as acclaimed music stars. Almost every Spanish city holds international music festivals at different times throughout the year.
Would you recommend Performing Arts Abroad music internship in Spain to others?
I would absolutely recommend my Performing Arts Abroad Program to others who want to pursue their artistic talent or interest in the arts in an international location. The PAA program went to great lengths to individualize a music internship for me at La Sala Escola de La Musica in Barcelona, Spain that met both my professional and academic interests.
Overall, the Performing Arts Abroad program was very well organized from my pre-departure to my return to the United States. There were always people available in Barcelona to answer any questions or troubleshoot any problems. Since this was such a valuable, enriching, and exciting experience, I am doing another PAA trip abroad this coming summer in Costa Rica.
Tell us more about your plans in Costa Rica with PAA.
I am going abroad again this summer with the Performing Arts Abroad program. This time I am going to Costa Rica because I wanted to spend time in another Spanish-speaking country, where I have heard the people are very friendly and speak at a slower pace. Last summer I was in Barcelona where they speak mainly Catalan Spanish, so this will perhaps be an even better opportunity to increase my Spanish proficiency, as it is more typical of Spanish spoken in the United States. I also know that Performing Arts Abroad has established music programs in this location. Lastly, I have always wanted to go to Costa Rica because of its Afro-Caribbean and Latin influence in the music world and because of the opportunity to explore its rich biodiversity.