My Study Abroad Soundtrack

By Kaitlyn Nolan, API Grenoble Peer Mentor from Stonehill College.

I’m obsessed with the internet radio station Pandora. I tend to get sick of my iPod pretty quickly and use it to find new music as well as listen to some of my favorite artists. However, Pandora doesn’t have an international license and therefore, I couldn’t use it during my time abroad (I also ran into this problem with Hulu. Talk about overwhelming devastation).

I had to get creative. I used friends, both in Grenoble and at home, as well as blogs to find new music. As a person who tends to listens to the same song on repeat for days, I ended up compiling my favorites into a playlist titled, “Obsessions in France”. At the time, I didn’t realize that this playlist would become one of my favorite ways that I would remember my time in Grenoble.

When I got home, I popped on this playlist and realized that each song transported me back to a specific time during my time abroad. Below, I decided to share some of my favorite songs with you and what they mean to me (I also have really awesome taste in music so now you can have some awesome taste too).

1. “Lions in Cages”— Wolf Gang

I downloaded this song right at the beginning of the semester after I had emailed one of my best friends requesting a bunch of new music for the plane ride to France. It quickly became one of my favorites and I listened to it on repeat continuously for a very, very long time.

When I hear it now, I’m transported to my desk in my French bedroom. It’s fairly dark because it’s nighttime and it’s COLD. The heating system in France isn’t the same as it is in the States. Therefore, I also picture myself wearing my white zip-up and with my down blanket on my lap.

The song also reminds me of Brussels, Belgium. I took a weekend trip there my second weekend in Grenoble so the song was probably playing the entire time I was planning the trip. It also reminds me of the moment I first walked up to my hostel (even though I wasn’t actually listening to it at that moment). I can also taste incredibly delicious Belgian waffles, eaten right by Manneken Pis.

2. “Elvis Ain’t Dead” – Scouting for Girls

Fast forward to the beginning of March and you have my new obsession with British band Scouting for Girls. I had just returned home from my first semester break in which I traveled to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. A British friend recommended the band to me and I was immediately hooked on their upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics.

Out of all of the songs I downloaded by Scouting for Girls, this is my favorite even though I can’t exactly pinpoint why. When I hear this song, I think of my amazing trip and how happy I was just to be abroad. I tend to just happily bounce along with the song which is how I generally went through my days in Grenoble. I also happen to think of the British friends that recommended the band as I may or may not have had a crush on him at the time (but as the boys sing, “You, me, maybe we were never meant to be”. Obviously a bit of foreshadowing going on there).

3. “Kids”—MGMT (Orchestra version)

Sometimes, I had a bad day. I could have been overtired, missing home, or just feeling frustrated with trying to communicate in a foreign language and not expressing myself properly. So then, I would turn to music for comfort.

“Kids” by MGMT is one of my favorite songs of all time. Something about it seems so essentially perfect to me and I love every version and spin-off and version of it (check out “Sleepykids” and “Opposite of Adults” for further music awesomeness). But there’s something so beautiful and soothing about the instrumental version. First of all, the composition is just phenomenal. Second, this version has a very meditative quality about it. When I had a bad day, I would listen to this song.

Specifically, I remember coming out of one of the C.U.E.F. buildings after a particularly long day and putting on my iPod as I headed for the tram to go home. By the end of my fifteen minute commute, I was relaxed and ready to experience the rest of my day.

4. “Hospital Beds” – Cold War Kids

This is one of my absolutely favorite songs I discovered while abroad. It reminds me of early April, when the weather was starting to warm up and the green was coming back to Grenoble. I was so obsessed with this song that I started listening to my iPod every time I went somewhere just so I could listen to it one more time.

Therefore, I picture myself walking through the pedestrian streets on my way to meet friends. Or, I’m walking through the streets near my apartment to get to the tram stop on my way to class. Better yet, I’m on a bus with the rest of the API students on our way to the south of France for the weekend.

Something about this song made me feel like I had “swag”; that I could walk through the city streets as if I belonged, like I was a local. Every time I hear this song, I find myself walking along those familiar streets, in a city I got to know so well.

5. “Unfinished Business” – Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons is one of my favorite groups and I stumbled upon this gem towards the end of the semester. I immediately loved it (as I tend to with all Mumford songs), but I found the same emotion behind the song tended to resonate with me more than I expected.

When this song begins to play, I’m back in my bedroom at my host family’s. The window is open and I can hear the Isère River as well as all the cars that are passing along Quai Stephane Jay. May in Grenoble is absolutely beautiful and I can feel the warm breeze coming through the window. But I’m also so incredibly sad. I listened to this song the entire time I studied for finals and packed to leave.

I was horribly devastated when the semester was coming to a close. The line “I just need more time” resonated with me and I just wanted to avoid the sadness that was plaguing me. But leaving was a reality that I had to face and was one of the hardest things I had to do.

In all honesty, I can’t really listen to this song anymore. The familiar ache comes back and now when I hear it, I desperately wish I was back in Grenoble.

So, there you have it, the five month musical journey of my semester through Grenoble. Photos and mementos provide a visual connection to the past. But there’s something about the soundtrack that can really transport you back to that time and place.


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  1. Thanks Good one, it shows an experience of studding abroad.

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