2016 Summer Photo Contest: People

We’ve already seen the overall winners, and the You at Work category, and this week, we take a look at People!

This category is for pictures of you with friends, colleagues, even strangers. We want to see you and the people who made your trip memorable.

The people are what make a trip special, and here, based on staff voting, are some of our favorites:

Does this not just melt your heart?

Homestays are an amazing way to become fully immersed in the culture of your destination.

Malia Lam, Dance Internship in Spain

Malia Lam, Dance Internship in Spain

2016 Summer Photo Contest: You at Work

We’ve already announced the winner and runners up of the photo contest, but we’re also sharing some of our favorites in different categories.  This week’s category: You at Work!

Here’s the description we gave them:

You aren’t just a tourist!  Did you teach dance in Costa Rica?  We want to see that.  Did you tune pianos in Ecuador?  We want to see you hunched over the strings with a tuning fork.  Did you study dance in Ireland?  Show us.  Did you make photocopies for a theater company in Spain?  Did you sing in a choir in Kenya? We want to see it!

And here are a few of our favorite entries:

This is what makes PAA programs great.  The title of the program says it’s a Film internship, and boom, here’s a great shot of Mae with her hands on a camera, making a film.  Nicely done Mae!

This is a great one from Long Nguyen.  Yep, there’s definitely some Musical Theater foo going on up in here!

Anyone who’s ever taken a music class recognizes what’s going on in this picture.  The difference is that this is in Costa Rica and our intrepid volunteer is teaching in Spanish.  Way to go!


Costa Rica was obviously a popular destination this summer for music volunteers.  We love this one because there are three PAA participants, but you have to find them sort of like a Where’s Waldo.  Good luck!


Olivia Kapell, Music Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands

Olivia Kapell, Music Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands 

Olivia wasn’t in Costa Rica, she was teaching music in the Galapagos Islands.  As you can see, her students were appreciative.

So confession time.  We didn’t even know puppets were involved on our West End Musical Theatre Training program.  Thanks for tipping us off Morgan Casto!  See, this is why we love this category; even we get a glimpse we didn’t have before.

2016 Summer Photo Contest!

We hold a participant photo contest every summer, and 2016 was the most successful to date!  We had over 700 entries from 37 participants, so it was no easy task deciding on a single overall winner.  First we narrowed the field down to 45 “finalists” and then PAA staff filled out ballots ranking their favorite in each category as well as a couple of their choices for overall winner.  We defined “overall winner” as the picture that “best captures the essence of Performing Arts Abroad.”  The ballots were collected, points tallied, and now here we are!

We’re going to present the most voted for photos in each category, one category per week.  But rather than make you wait 4 weeks, let’s kick things off right now with the pictures that “best capture the essence of PAA” according to us!

Overall Winner:


Congratulations Shanice Stanislaus!  Shanice is a dancer from Singapore and she did the Dance Internship in Spain.  Check out this great blog post she wrote for us earlier this year about participating in “Dance to Death,” an interactive, entertaining and insightful dance theatre performance.

The joy and energy bursting through this picture is infectious and we hope we’re accomplishing the same thing with out work here at Performing Arts Abroad.  That’s why it received the most votes for “capturing the essence of PAA.”   Congratulations again Shanice!  Keep on flying!

Overall Runners Up:

The following photos all received at least one vote for “overall winner.”  (These aren’t all of them, as some will be featured in specific categories in the coming weeks.)  We hope they give you a sense of what we think is the essence of Performing Arts Abroad.  Enjoy!

We absolutely love this wonderful, candid shot from Sarah Pinto!  Volunteers make a real and meaningful impact when they bring music (or dance, or theater) to eager kids who wouldn’t get the chance otherwise.  It’s hard not to fall in love!


If there’s one thing we love it’s when PAA volunteers find each other abroad and bond over their love of sharing performing arts around the world, and then having all kinds of crazy fun!  Diana wrote an awesome, insightful blog post for us while she was in the middle of her program teaching music to children in Costa Rica.  Do yourself a favor and check it out here!

Holy craaaaAAAAPPP!!  It’s fitting that Nia was the very first participant in our brand new destination: New Zealand.  Clearly she’s comfortable taking leaps into the unknown.  Just like this photo, going on a PAA program is thrilling, can maybe be a little scary, but we’ve got you, so take the leap!

“If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. –Australian Aboriginal, Elder Lillia Watson”  Thus begins Mona’s incredibly insightful blog post she wrote for us about her experience, joys, and struggles teaching music in Costa Rica.  Read the rest here.

The hardest part about Sophie’s pictures was deciding which ones to pick as finalists!  One of the reasons she has so many amazing pictures is because of a remarkable project she did while she was in Italy called Dancing in 100 places.  As she put it: “Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!” Read the blog series about that project here!

Yes, it’s another one from Diana McLaughlin.  We’ve already introduced her, so we’re just going to let the absolute beauty of this picture speak for itself.

Tune in next week when we’ll show some of the best entries in the category: “You at work.”

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 6

Sophie Marshall - 1“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fifth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

This week has probably been my most memorable week so far. With our time in Florence quickly coming to an end, we’ve been trying to pack as much into each day as physically possible. On Tuesday night we headed up to the Piazza de Michelangelo to watch the sunset (again). Last time we did this, hiking up all those stairs was a huge struggle that involved lots of breaks and some serious panting. But this time I made it all the way to the top without a single break and was only slightly out of breath once we reached the top. All this walking is clearly paying off – I don’t think I’ve ever been this fit in my entire life!

Ponte Vecchio

Super fit!

We (somewhat stupidly) decided that we wanted to come back the following morning, so on Wednesday we woke up at 4am(it was a struggle) to hike back up to watch the sunrise over the city. Despite the ungodly hour and the lack of sleep it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t think the world has ever been as quiet or as beautiful as it was at 5:56am that morning.sunrise
Before we knew it, it was the weekend again and we headed off on our respective adventures. On Saturday I headed to Venice with one of my housemates, and not surprisingly, it was incredible. The city is like a maze, with so many dead ends and bridges and tiny streets – if I didn’t have my GPS we probably wouldn’t have made it back to the train station in time. I smashed out a solid 10 videos with ease, and we even managed to fit in a gondola ride (which was gorgeous)!Gondola in Venice Despite the sweltering heat (we both got sunburnt even with the copious amounts of sunscreen we applied), it was such a fun day – I slept so well that night after all the walking.

Canal splits

My secret: always remember to stretch.

On Sunday I took the train to Verona to do some exploring (and to make up for the missed trip last week). I can only assume that there is going to be some sort of Egyptian exhibit in the arena in the near future, because there were huge props and sphynx statues EVERYWHERE. After having some fun with those I walked around the city, checking out the various sites. The House of Juliet was ridiculously packed, so I wasn’t able to film in the courtyard, but I did manage to quickly do one in front of a wall of love locks. I also got the stereotypical photo with her statue – apparently it’s good luck, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward to grope a statue in front of hundreds of people.

When in Rome–er–Verona, I guess.

After a quick stop for lunch I took another train to the nearby Lake Garda. Desenzano was easy to reach by train (only 30 minutes!) and by 2pm I was walking along the shore of the lake and enjoying the spectacular views. The light breeze was wonderful after the ridiculous heat in Verona, and I was eager to go for a swim. I went for a quick walk along the jetty to do some filming (there were some great views), then set off to find a rock to claim as my own.

Jetty in Desenzano

On the Jetty in Desenzano

After a brief walk along the lake I found a perfect spot and spent a solid hour floating in the water and cooling down. I’m so so glad that I decided to do both places in one day – Lake Garda was beautiful and if I’m ever in Italy again I will definitely be back to explore the other towns.

5 weeks down, 83 down, 17 to go. Bring it on.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 4

post 4.5 “Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the fourth in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool

I am pleased to announce that after 3 solid weeks of frustration, I am now capable of unlocking our apartment door all by myself! My housemates are incredibly proud of me – they were getting pretty sick of having to let me in/provide assistance every time I felt like going out. The novelty of being chief door opener whenever we all go out together will probably wear off soon, but for now I’m finding much joy in showing off my newfound door opening skills.

in the gardens 1


This week marks the halfway point of my time here in Italy. After classes on Tuesday we went and explored the beautiful Boboli Gardens and the Belvedere Fort.

The view from the gardens

The view from the gardens

I may or may not have gotten in a little bit of trouble for dancing at the fort (ok I did get in trouble). I say trouble, but the guard basically just laughed at me a lot for the first 2 videos, then told me I had to stop after I’d attracted a small crowd, so no major drama.

Disturbing the Peace in the gardens

Disturbing the Peace

On Thursday we all had our final exams for our respective classes (I totally nailed my Italian exam in case anyone was wondering), then everyone headed off for the amazing weekend trips they had planned.

Getting some post-exam gelato with my Italian classmates.

Getting some post-exam gelato with my Italian classmates.

I was supposed to work on Friday, but at 10pm on Thursday night, my internship boss emailed me to inform me that the following day was a public holiday and that I didn’t need to come in again until Monday! Score! I’d somehow gained an unexpected long weekend! So with no time to plan anything more exciting, I headed to Viareggio on Friday (about an hour and a half west of Florence by train) to go to the beach.
 Viareggio 2
On Saturday morning I caught the 6am train to Cinque Terre, a series of five coastal towns on Italy’s west coast. If you ever get to visit anywhere in Italy, go to the Cinque Terre. I had the most incredible weekend hiking between the towns, swimming, sunbathing, dancing and relaxing.

Starting the weekend right #viareggio #italy #paabroad #paaitaly #beach #sun #summer #imsunburnt #swim

A video posted by Sophie (@lipbalmiscool) on

It’s beautiful. I stayed overnight at a hostel in Biassa, a 10 minute bus ride from the first Cinque Terre town, Riomaggiore.


Riomaggiore (cinque Terre)

Riomaggiore. Did I mention it’s beautiful?

This was perfect because it was 10x cheaper than actually staying in the Cinque Terre, but still close enough to be convenient. After hiking 3kms between the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza on Saturday, I fell asleep almost instantly.

Sunday involved much of the same – swimming, eating, relaxing and enjoying the incredible views. I visited the middle town of Corniglia, which involved climbing a thousand stairs (I may be exaggerating slightly, but there were A LOT of stairs) to get from the train station into the actual town. If you want to swim, you then have to climb down another thousand stairs on the opposite side of town to get to the marina (which I did with only a few mental complaints). And then the process is reversed to get back to the train. Your legs will be in fantastic shape by the end of it, I promise you – mine definitely are. The other 4 towns are much easier to get to and involve a lot less walking (thank goodness).

Me in Corniglia (cinque Terre)

Obviously, the stairs are worth it.

Of course, I smashed out as many videos as I could, managing to get around 10 over the 2 days. Such a beautiful place, I could’ve stayed there for so much longer. It was with great reluctance that I boarded my train back to Florence that night.
3 weeks in, 52 down, 48 to go. Bring it on.

Dancing in 100 Places Pt. 2

Blog 2 - 1

“Before I left for my Performing Arts Abroad experience in Italy, I was dared to film myself dancing in 100 different places over the course of my travels. A challenge? Most definitely!”

Sophie Marshall is a dancer from Armadale Australia and she is currently an Arts Administration (Dance) Intern in Florence, Italy. This is the second in a series of updates on her Dancing in 100 Places project.  See the rest of the series here. You can also follow her on Instagram @lipbalmiscool


As much as I don’t want to be one of those clichéd travelers who ‘had an amazing first week in insert destination here’, my first week in Italy was absolutely incredible. Florence is such a vibrant and fun city with so much to do, so much to see and so many places to go! Add some awesome new friends into the mix and boom – you have the perfect equation for an amazing first week!



I’ll admit upfront that the week didn’t get off to the greatest start – there was a slight issue with my apartment’s front door. Specifically the lock and my inability to use said lock. I wish I was exaggerating, but I spent a solid hour trying to unlock the door. I was very unsuccessful. Admitting defeat, I hauled my suitcase back through the streets of Florence to the university to ask for help (not an easy task with all the cobblestones). “Did you try turning the key the other way??” This must be the key version of “did you try turning it off and on again?” Yes. Amazingly, I did think of that. Sigh.

I did eventually make it into the apartment. And (thankfully) it was not just me that had had difficulties with the lock. I have still not actually managed to unlock the door by myself (even though the landlord changed the keys and no one else is having problems now), but I’m determined to master the skill by the end of the 6 weeks.

So not the greatest of starts, but I’m optimistic that the next 6 weeks will run smoothly. My new housemates are a great bunch – fun, friendly, and great at making light-hearted jokes about my accent (which they do at least 3 times a day). Over the weekend we took day trips to Livorno (a coastal town about an hour from Florence) and Siena. On Saturday we followed a local couple in Livorno who looked like they were dressed for the beach, and ended up at a small, quiet cove. It was beautiful. We swam, we sunbathed, we explored – it was such a great day.

Livorno Cove

Livorno Cove

Post 2a

It was the perfect location for filming, so I wasted no time in setting up my camera and tripod. Of course, I then had to awkwardly explain to my housemates what I was doing, and thankfully, they only laughed at me a little bit. Actually they laughed at me a lot, and seemed to find great joy in filming me film myself. Thanks guys. I managed to knock out 4 more videos, bringing my total up to 8! I am on a roll!

On Sunday we headed to Siena. The day started well but then the weather decided it was bored with sunshine and it quickly clouded over. I had my camera set up in front of the Duomo at the time and I knew it was going to start bucketing down pretty soon. I filmed a quick video but wasn’t happy with how many tourists were blocking the cathedral. I decided I was going to wait until the storm hit and quickly film it again as soon as people ran for cover. There was a split second of calm between the initial shower and the downpour – I saw an opportunity and I took it. Did I get soaked? Yes. Was it worth it? YES! In the full video you can hear the ear-piercing screams of people running for cover as the downpour hits (we all laughed when we watched the video back on my computer at the apartment), but the view of the Duomo is practically perfect. Mission success.

Post 2cOverall, I’d say it was a pretty productive week!
12 videos down, 88 to go. Bring it on.

Language tip #4: Why Are You Learning?

Matt Kaplan is a recent Music Intern in Spain.  This is the fourth in a series of blog posts he’s written for us while there.  Be sure to check out Language Tips #1#2, and #3.  See the rest of his posts listed here.

IMG_5021My time in Barcelona has easily been one of the best experiences of my life. That’s not to say that everyday was perfect and nothing bad happened, but rather that I am a different person from when I arrived almost three months ago having gone through everything.  I’ve had to adjust to a new work environment, meet a ton of amazing people, and learn how to live independently in a way that has truly tested me.  Although I have been living away from home for about 8 years now supporting myself with work and music, trying to juggle all of that while adapting to a new culture was a bigger challenge than I had originally anticipated.  Aside from the amazing experiences I’ve had here, connections I’ve made, etc., my biggest accomplishment is being able to say that I am comfortably fluent in Spanish after starting to learnabout a year and a half ago.  Sure there are still times I make mistakes and might not understand someone the first time, but it’s safe to say I have enough confidence to speak freely.

One question I get asked often is, “well if you’re Peruvian, how is it that you don’t know any Spanish?”   I’ve heard this all my life.  When I was just a few months old I was adopted from Peru.  I’ve lived in Pennsylvania my whole life and grew up speaking English.  I had Spanish classes as a kid and in high school of course, but to me it was always just another class.  When I was growing up my parents always told me how important it would be for me to know Spanish but of course, as a young kid who thought he knew it all, I just wasn’t that interested.

It wasn’t until May of 2014 that I decided to devote a huge majority of my time to learning Spanish.  A single event was all I needed to push me to get started: I was at a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City seeing a guitar concert, and after the concert I went out to eat with friends who know both of the two artists (both from Italy).  We were a table of 12 or so and every single person at the table was speaking Spanish. Except for  me.  It was at that moment I had said to myself, “never again.”  Never again would I hide behind an excuse about why I don’t know Spanish or wait any longer to commit to learning it properly.  For me the combination of absolute shame with all of the years of knowing that I needed to do it was enough for me to decide that now is the time.

FullSizeRenderBack in 2007, I was fortunate enough to meet my birth family for the first time in my life.  At the time, we needed a translator to facilitate because I still didn’t know enough Spanish to communicate.  Since then we’ve kept in contact through e-mail, Facebook, etc.  A few weeks after my Carnegie Hall dinner my sister invited me to visit her in Spain.  She had moved from Peru a few years earlier and thought it would be great to catch up.  Even though I only had a few weeks of Spanish studies under my belt, I decided that I would go to visit in what would be my first experience of total immersion in Spanish for two weeks in Barcelona.

Taking all of that into consideration and now with this unforgettable experience with PAA, I am able to offer my final language tip (which is the most obvious but perhaps the most complicated as well):  As an adult learner, you absolutely have to have a concrete idea of why you are learning a new language.  Aside from the many obvious benefits of being bilingual or multilingual, I think it is important to have definite goals in mind that will help you throughout the process.  For me, learning Spanish was a way of getting back to my roots with a drive to redefine myself in a way I am proud of.  This motivation for me was enough of a reason to adhere to the required disciple in language learning;  with anything less it would have been very easy to come up short.

It’s so easy to say, “today I will start to learn a new language” or, “today I will learn a new skill.”  But the drive to practice everyday, and keep practicing to better yourself everyday requires continued motivation.  I consider myself lucky to be a musician because all the skills I learned over the years through playing the guitar could be directly applied to efficient learning.

IMG_5313I want to take a second here to thank each and everyone of you that has read my blog updates for Performing Arts Abroad.  It has been a sincere pleasure sharing my experiences with all of you.  I hope that my language learning tips were of some use to you and that you can apply some of it to your own experiences.  Here’s a quote I love to close everything out:

Un abrazo,