A surprise exchange for Georgian opera student Giorgi Paikidze

25 years old Georgian bass baritone Giorgi Paikidze studied with the Sibelius Academy opera class for the academic year 2015–2016 as an exchange student. He travelled home to Georgia and to the Tbilisi State Conservatoire in May 2016. We asked him about his experiences during the exchange. 

How did you end up as an exchange student to the Sibelius Academy?       

My exchange year was a really big surprise for me. Mr. Hannu Niemelä, teacher at the Sibelius Academy, was in Tbilisi, Georgia and listened to my final exam for the Bachelor's degree. Afterwards he asked me what I thought about the Sibelius Academy and studying abroad. I answered that it would be great studying in Finland, and after a month I was contacted by the Tbilisi State Consevatoire and told that I've got an invitation from the Sibelius Academy. This was the biggest surprise in my life and I was totally in shock! Everything went really quick and in August 2015 I already had the plane tickets in my hand and I arrived in Helsinki on September 2nd for my exchange year. 

What kind of expectations and ideas did you have about the studies at the Sibelius Academy and about Finland in general?

I didn’t have a lot of information about the Sibelius Academy before. I searched the internet and I was very happy with what I found. I’ve always loved the Scandinavian culture and nature. Finland is a beautiful place with beautiful people. I fell totally in love, cold never bothered me anyway – and I’ve got a lot of friends there now.

Can you compare the studies at the Sibelius Academy to the studies at your home university: are there similarities and what are the biggest differences?

There is a big difference between the Sibelius Academy and the Tbilisi State Conservatoire, for example in the atmosphere. At SibA, I was totally free, focused on studying and I felt I'm an artist. In Tbilisi, on Master’s level we don't have the option to choose one direction as in SibA, where in the opera class the focus was solely on opera. In Georgia you have to study everything on your Master: opera singing, solo singing, chamber music and other subjects.

What have you learned during your exchange here – as a musician but also as a person?

I learned a lot and I feel I'm 10 steps further than I was before. I've got new singing skills with voice teacher Kristjan Moisnik, who is an amazing person and teacher. He gave me freedom and right directions in singing. I worked with amazing directors, pianists and conductors and I also improved in my stage skills. We made the full staging of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and I participated in all the performances because I sang two roles, Bartolo and Antonio, and this was a huge experience for me. Sometimes I was really tired but I miss that time so much and I feel I've grown. We also had several masterclasses with great teachers and singers, I've got good feedback from them and I'm very happy that I had this opportunity.

What were the things you miss from home when being here?

When I was in Helsinki, what I missed from Georgia the most was food, because our food is really different from Finnish. But as a person I feel stronger now, because this was the first time I was studying abroad. I felt really lost in the beginning but I survived, so in future when I will go somewhere I know everything now. 

What would you like to say to those thinking about applying for exhange studies at the SIbelius Academy?

At first I have to say that everyone who is studying there is really lucky, because SibA gives you the opportunity to be a growing artist and to be a professional. So if anybody has a chance to study there, or be an exchange student, don't think twice – just go. But you have to be ready for a lot of work!