El coro universitario de Salamanca (By Jacob Bueno de Mesquita)

I became involved in the university choir (el coro universitario) at the Universidad de Salamanca almost completely by chance. I was chatting with a professor from Geografía one day after class and she told me that they were in need of male singers in the choir. I had never sung before in the US, however the prospect of getting involved in such a student organization intrigued me. I found the sala de ensayos en el Palacio de Fonseca, met the director and before I knew it, I was fichado in the choir. I have to say that throughout the semester my time in the choir was one of the most meaningful parts of my abroad experience. Besides discovering a newfound love for music, the choir enabled me to meet lots of Spaniards and to make some close Spanish friends.

One of the interesting things about the choir was its inclusive mission. Out of the roughly 50 to 60 choir members, I would say that about half of them were students and the other half were alumni or employees of the university. Everyone was welcome to sing, granted that they could pass the quick prueba de entrada. Joining the choir, I was joining in a long time musical tradition of Salamanca. The choir was founded in 1950 by a distinguished professor from the prestigious musical conservatory in Salamanca. The founder’s son, Bernardo, is the current director. The group is called upon to sing in many important and official university events such as graduation ceremonies for the different facultades. My participation helped me to engage deeper with the University and its rich history and traditions.

Definitely the most meaningful part of my involvement in the choir were the friendships that were formed. The friends that I made with some of the other students in choir were some of my closest friends from Salamanca. We would typically go out for tapas after the rehearsals several times a week, however we would often get together to go out for fiestas at night or meet at someone’s apartment to make dinner or hang out. Other times we met up to play basketball or to take a walk by the river. It was a great little community to be a part of. We celebrated everyone’s birthdays. It was a great cultural exchange as my friends were just as much interested to get to know me and my American culture as I was to get to know them. We had a fantastic semester together and it culminated in a trip to Poland, where the choir sang several concerts, all sponsored by the USAL.

The choir helped me truly get involved at the University and to create real friendships. It was a great example of learning outside of the typical classroom setting, and more than anything the friendships I made will last me a lifetime. I would recommend taking advantage of any opportunities that come around. For me it was keeping my eyes open and talking with people, and letting them get to know me, that eventually led to an invitation sing in the choir. While you don’t need an invitation to sing in the choir, just go and talk to the director, learning about the variety of opportunities that exist will help you decided how you want to get involved in Salamanca with will most certainly enhance your abroad experience. I can’t wait to return to Salamanca to reunite with my choir friends and sing in the choir’s 65th anniversary concert in a few years!

Jacob Bueno de Mesquita, NHS 2012