Music While Abroad and How It Ties to Moments

Sam Laughlin Swansea University, Wales


May 10, 2018

Just like music is used to set the mood in a film or at a social event, I think music just as equally ties itself to a person’s memory.

For me, anytime I hear the album Arabia Mountain it reminds me of going into my senior year of high school and I can’t listen to any song by Summer Salt unless it’s between the months of May and August. It’s becoming apparent to me that all of this new music being released by some of my favorite artists are going to forever remind me of my time here.

From listening to The Vaccines’ Combat Sports on the way to class or seeing Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds live in Amsterdam, music has been so essential to my experience abroad. I’ve found that music is an even more essential part of life than I had originally thought- especially when it comes to communicating.

Beyond just sharing the same taste in guitar bands or lyricists, music has been at the center of so many conversations I’ve had. In a hostel in Belfast I became temporary best friends with a guy from London who knew someone in the punk band Shame. In the local pharmacy on an average Tuesday I was pleased to see someone playing air-guitar to Dan Auerbach’s “Shine on Me” as it played over the speakers. Open Mic Night at the student pub has even shown me that you only need to know three chords to be able to play a good show. 

Nothing was quite like the conversation I had with Simon at the local guitar shop, however. Two weeks after moving to Swansea I was itching for some sort of creative outlet and I found it at Crane’s. Intending just to go in and play on some strings that I could never afford, I ended up talking to an employee for almost an hour about the best young bands to be coming out of the U.S. at the moment.

Naturally the conversation drifted off into the realm of sports, politics, and cultural differences but like the good salesman he is, Simon had me walking out of the store with the cheapest acoustic guitar I could afford. 3 months later, I don’t regret the choice one bit.

In truth, music was something that first bridged the gap for my interest in British culture. Whether it was listening to the Beatles or trying to play drums to the whole Definitely Maybe album I’m not so sure, but both made me want to see what country produced so many great acts.

In Manchester one can see the lasting impacts of the 1990’s music explosion in the art across the city and the sounds along the boardwalk. Dublin maintains that distinct Irish sound in the dimly lit pubs of Temple Bar and Hamburg upholds its title as the city that found the Beatles though its street art.

In a world with so much chaos and disagreement, music has always seemed to make sense and maybe that’s why it’s so integral. It may not solve world peace but I would imagine it’s pretty hard to fight with “Three Little Birds” playing in the background.

Time is starting to run out on my study abroad clock and I will eventually have to resell this guitar, but I will always have my thick set list of songs if I ever want to revisit the residual emotions.


Semester Wales