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As we settle in to the picturesque countryside of Vietnam, it is hard not to gawk at the beauty of our surroundings. With the river as a doormat and the highland mountains keeping watch, my gaze often drifts to the vast, open space in astonishment.

It has now been a week since we first arrived, and already the bombardment of new experiences is evoking fascinating questions and observations. One of my first realizations here was the need to foster relationships with limited oral communication. My roommate, Nhan, and I continue to grow through our relationship and find ways to understand and appreciate each other’s life experiences; however, neither of us being fluent in the other’s language often makes it difficult to express our ideas beyond simple statements. Rather than sinking into a frustrated silence, I continually remind myself of the importance of finding alternative means to bond with him.

Since meeting, we have discovered a mutual passion for music and often trade artists and playlists that help express our upbringings and culture. Through this exchange, I have found the beauty of music is in its ability to express universal feelings without language. Lyrics or not, any song worth listening to can convey its central meaning simply by the way it makes one feel. The instruments, sounds, intensity, and rhythm can cause an almost visceral reaction from within. Neither our differences in location nor culture prevent our embrace of music and the joy it brings us.

Exchanging culture through song has not only exposed me to Nhan’s life but furthered a personal understanding of my own. I find myself listening even more intently to each song, striving to understand it as a product of American livelihood and a representation of who I am. It is almost as if I am listening to the song for the first time. Presenting the human experience through sound really opens a new avenue to explain oneself. I hope to take full advantage of this journey as I expand my world view one song at a time.