AIFS Study Abroad Blog

When Talent Provides a Universal Language in Russia

Sometimes, all it takes is a hobby or talent to overcome language barriers and open up your world as a student abroad. This was the case for Zack W. from Youngstown State University. He had an amazing experience as a violinist and music major while studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the following, Zack talks about the incredible opportunity to study abroad, learn the Russian language, and witness the power of his talent to provide a universal language to connect with his host community.

When AIFS told me that for my homestay I would live with professional violinist Natalia Stetskaya, who plays in the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, I was absolutely thrilled! It has been so cool living with Natalia and her two daughters, who are also violinists.

Having the chance to perform in Russia was a dream come true. As a music major, I came to St. Petersburg hoping to take lessons with fantastic professional violinists and to study the very difficult but beautiful language spoken by my favorite Russian composers. I only hoped to have a small recital with friends to perform everything that I learned during my short time here.

When Natalia asked if I would like to perform the first movement of the Schumann Violin Sonata at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra Monastery, I was so surprised and excited that I could hardly contain myself. I remember sitting on the metro going to the concert and thinking about how so many people back home might never have the chance to perform in such a large and acoustical hall like I was about to.

Rehearsing with Russian pianist and local touring soloist Natalia Gavrilova as my accompanist was truly an exceptional experience as well. I had a great time rehearsing and performing with her, and the rehearsal showed me how music really is the universal language of the world. Even though there may be language barriers from living on opposite sides of the world, two people can still come together and make great music, while having a really fun time!

I was able to record my performance and share it with my friends and family in America, who were absolutely thrilled for me. This concert is something I will never forget, and I am so glad that I decided to broaden my horizons by studying with AIFS in St. Petersburg, Russia!


If you are inspired by Zack’s experience and would like to explore your own talents as a student abroad, learn more about AIFS programs to
study abroad in Russia and around the world!

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