Anyone who knows me knows that I love sound almost more than anything. My undergraduate studies focused on how sound is made, interpreted, communicated, miscommunicated and used by people the world over. Therefore, I think that it is important to tell you, the faithful followers, what my world sounds like.

I have already established that I live in a corner dorm room which means peace and quiet from noisy neighbors (and which also means I must be quiet because my neighbors are also used to quiet!).

The tram stop is about 50 yards from my front door and the trams run continually. When they start up, the bell rings twice and the electricity causes the tram to whine up musically by harmonic intervals. When you scan your tram pass, the machine beeps with success.

Outside my window, the thud-thud-thud-cheer of the Africans playing soccer can be heard at almost any time along with the soft dull padding along of runners around the track. Seagulls cry mournfully above whispy clouds skirting across the blue sky.

The doors in my hallway creak creepily, as does my bedroom door. Anyone who wears any sort of high heel causes the entire acoustically reverberating hallway to echo with their steps. I can hear my friends coming from a mile away because Americans have gotten the reputation for being very loud while the Chinese are quiet as are the Middle-Eastern people studying here. The French have uttered just a handful of words to me in passing including “Bonsoir,” “Bonjour” and “Bon appetit.” The only glimpse I see of people around me is through the ultra-creepy tactic of peeking at them through the peep hole in my door.

Quite possibly the most intensely beautiful sound discovered thusfar is when you take the 400g baguette you just purchased at the bustling, gossipy boulangerie and, between your hands, squeeze it just tight enough for the whole thing to make a tinkling crunch and leave your clothes covered in tiny flecks of baguette. That’s when you know you have a winner. The crunch says it all.

During class, we listen to music, speech and complete (for lack of a better term) noise. My classmates scramble to get to the correct page in our book, flip noisily through papers and folders and click pencils and pens. When we are verbally quizzed on something, it has come to light that people the world over say the word, “umm” or the slight variation of “uhh.”

One lovely woman in particular says, “um um um um um um umm ugh, uhh–uh….. what’s it in English?” even though she’s Brazilian.

Another gets up in front of the class noiselessly and takes a big breath and then goes, “oooh…” and then laughs as though to say, “This is funny because I have no idea what to say.”

The other classmates have their funny verbal quirks and as class goes on, I personally interject with coughing fits, sneezing fits and the all-important glug of water. Others yawn, stretch, crack backs and necks and all those sorts of sounds and actions that you see the world over in any lecture bowl in any university in any state in the United States. Until someone opens their mouth, you’d never guess you were in another country.

I have realized the extreme beauty of learning through listening and not just studying. Listen to the way people sigh, the way they laugh uncomfortably, the way they shuffle their feet in excitement or anger or anxiety.

You’ll learn a lot too. : )

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