One of my favorite, albeit cliché, quotes is “Where words fail, music speaks.” Infamously found in every high school band room in America, this saying strikes a chord with me (ha… pun!) despite its banality because of the truth behind it. There is nothing that compares to just jamming over a couple random chords and making up a song as you go along with your friends. You’re constantly bouncing off of everyone’s ideas, coming up with new sounds together, and engaging each other as to stay in sync. There is never an awkward silence with musicians, someone is always making noise one way or another. Over the years, I have always made the best of friends through my music. When it was time to go to Oviedo, the decision on whether or not to bring my guitar was an easy one. I just wouldn’t survive five months without it!
Something really interesting that I didn’t really pay attention to before coming to Spain is that when meeting people for the first time, it’s more common to talk about what you like to do rather than what you do. It actually makes a lot of sense. Most people are students, so there’s not really much to go off that, and most students who work are only doing so to get by. What is usually discussed is what you like to do. For me, this has pushed me in the direction of other musicians. Whether it’s just talking to someone briefly at a bar, or bringing my guitar over to jam, music has been a very helpful tool for integrating myself into life in Oviedo.
Music is universal in that no matter where you go, a middle C still sounds like a middle C. However, what I didn’t know is that in Spain, they refer to everything using a different system! For example, in English, the notes of a scale are: C D E F G A B. However, in Spanish they use solfège: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si (think the Sound of Music). This led to a bit of confusion, especially since when I said “C” minor my friend thought I was referring to “Si” minor!
I love music for its universality and its ability to form instant connections between friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. However, music by far is not the only universal language. While many people think of things such as music, art, food, and sports to be culturally specific, there always exists a common thread connecting it all together. Using hobbies or activities as a way of exploring another culture will always show that before we are Americans, Spaniards, Indians, Africans, or whatever nationality we may define ourselves as, we are all humans. To anyone planning on studying abroad, I highly recommend you bring with you whatever it is that you love to do. Chances are that you’ll be able to make connections with others who love it just as much as you do.