In Lydia’s senior year, she felt like she had a choice of two paths, to return to the circus ring of auditions for graduate school, or to test her training and launch into the professional freelance life of a violinist. At the time, neither were that appealing, so as fate would have it, she happened to log onto the study abroad website and search for music programs abroad – there was one for the Academy of Music in Krakow, Poland. Lydia had no particular draw to Poland, but did like the opportunity to study at a European conservatory.
Going to Poland was a huge shock from the very beginning. The language itself was completely foreign, she was lucky at least that it used the Roman alphabet and not Cyrillic. But three years of French in high school were no help with a Slavic language, where the word for her own instrument, violin, was skrzypce. Lydia tried to prepare by listening to Polish-on-tape courses from the library, which taught (her) to count to ten and say rudimentary phrases. Besides that, listening to her classmates speak Polish was kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher – just noise, and trying to act a response based on the inflexion of their words. Her year abroad taught many lessons, not only about music, but as the only American at the Academy of Music, she had a unique immersion into Polish life, and as she traveled internationally on her own, she felt like she learned “smarts” and had a lot of time to examine her new life – views and actions.
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