I went to Newcastle in the U.K. for six months as an exchange student. It was such an incredible time I am still thinking I wish I could have stayed there longer. I know I could have numerous new experiences I would have missed out whilst staying there. Of all the experiences, I would like to share the most distinctive one, which was joining the choir of ‘St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral’.
To tell the truth, I had never imagined being a member of the choir, and I had not even known about the existence of St. Mary’s cathedral until that day. I still clearly remember the time I got to know about it.
On a cold day, not knowing anyone from the city and feeling quite starving and lonely (since it was literally the next day after I got there), I ended up at a traditional marketplace called ‘Granger Market’. There, I came across an Italian pizza store. Having a slice at a stand, I was thinking “I wish I had company to talk with.” At the time, I saw an old man eating a pizza alone like me. I still do not know why, but my level of confidence suddenly increased, and came close to him. Then, I asked him if we could have a little chat until we finish the pizza. Thankfully, he let me join and we talked about random stories. In the middle of the conversation, I caught him mentioning about a choir. I kind of murmured, “I’m interested in the choir because I like singing.” He got surprised and showed me the way to the church. After that, I could meet the director of the choir on the following Sunday and became a part of the choir after an audition.
It was not complicated to follow my choir schedule there. All I had to remember was practicing on Fridays and mass every Sunday; however, it was not simple getting accustomed to singing the tenor part and procedures during the mass. I would not have managed it if it were not for the seniors of my part. They always did not mind being of help whenever I got in trouble. As a result, not only could I enjoy singing, I also felt so involved I that I did not feel bored at all. Moreover, things happened in a different way on a special occasion. Especially my favorite memory took place during Easter. The mass started outside and the bishop and choir marched around the church singing and then went inside through the main gate, with people following in line. So, I felt quite overwhelmed afterwards in a good way. Besides, there was even a drinking session after the practice during the last week of every month, in which you can join and communicate with other members.
Sadly, I could only be there for six months, and they even gave me some gifts on the last day with a small letter that had a lot of messages on by the choir members, which was so touching. I joined the choir in such an unexpected way; however, I would say it was both an incredible experience and an opportunity of a lifetime. This was probably one of the reasons why I did not even feel homesick away from home.
By Koh Myeong-soo, Senior, Dept. of History