You’ll probably need to leave your piano at home (sorry) but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring another instrument abroad.
As an ILP volunteer, when you’re not teaching English to a classroom of cuties, you’ve got lots and lots of free time. Time to wander city streets and temples and beaches, time to snack fresh fruit or dumplings from the corner stand and lots of time to play your ukulele if that’s your thing. Because you’ll spend about a half day volunteering (up to 4 hours of direct interaction with the kids, plus preparation time, transportation, and clean up), you have time to learn a few new favorites tunes.
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Here are few things to think about and consider before packing up your instrument for a semester abroad:
Will I Use My Instrument?
If you play it at home, you’ll most likely play it abroad, right? Volunteers in the past have played their instrument in church, played in class, played for fun, played for birthday parties, played for their group — it’s a fun way to pass time and add to your experience.
Obviously, this is a personal choice — you don’t have to bring your instrument and can fill your time doing loads of different things. Maybe like taking a grocery store challenge or trying all the chocolate you can while living in Europe (oh and if you don’t think chocolate can be a past time…think again).
How Should I Pack It?
That depends. ILP volunteer Lottie J. brought her violin and ukulele both semesters. She had her violin as a carry on and was able to put the uke in the top part of her suitcase. Clever. You may be able to put your instrument in your suitcase, or count it as a carry on (which we talk about below).
It's a good idea to pack your instruments in a hard case no matter what because sometimes airlines need carry on items to be checked due to space. (“Fragile” stickers are also a good idea). Oh, and loosening the strings on string instruments to help reduce breakage — changing air pressure and temperatures do happen that high up in the clouds.
Does It Count As A Carry On?
This also sort of depends. We suggest calling the airline you are flying with to see what their baggage policy is when it comes to traveling with a musical instrument. For the most part, airlines let passengers have a personal item (like backpack) and a carry on, so sometimes your musical instrument can count for one of these depending on the size. Once ILP has your flight booked, you’ll know what airlines you’ll be flying and can check with them directly.
Just so you know, while the ILP program fee includes the price of your roundtrip airfare, it doesn't cover any baggage fees. If your instrument counts as an extra bag, you'll need to pay the fee.
Do Your Research
Like you would do with any other baggage policies, you'll need to make sure there aren't any caveats with traveling with an instrument. Some countries have some pretty strict rules when bringing in an instrument that deals with declaring your musical instrument at customs. Please check any policies and check with ILP before packing up an instrument. There can be severe fees, penalties, fines, and even confiscation if certain rules aren't followed.
Can I Just Buy One Over There?
You may not want to replace an expensive saxophone or violin just to have one for 4 months, but you could find a pretty affordable guitar and ukulele (especially for our volunteers living in Mexico, or Central America). If you don’t want to worry about packing it, budget to buy one there…it would be one sweet souvenir.
Some volunteers have also had luck finding musical instruments to borrow while abroad. Your local coordinator may be able to track something down, or maybe you can rent a guitar from the school.
Need a few more travel tips to help you out before you live abroad?
If you have a few more questions this post didn’t answer, our representatives would love to help you out with that!