If the NESCAC snapchat story is in any way indicative of the Bowdoin experience, acapella and acoustic jam sessions are the heart of our experience here. We have the equivalent of musical celebrities in people like Leo Levine, a member of the Meddies and the band, Gotta Focus.

Leo’s love of music, though, comes from a long journey in finding himself in different places throughout his life. He was born and raised in Vienna, Austria and lived there for 13 years. In 2009 he moved to London and lived there for four years. Two years ago moved to the United States.

In Vienna, Leo was able to grow up and have his childhood in a place both beautiful and welcoming in its charm reminiscent of a small town. 

“Whenever I go back, I consider Vienna more homey and I feel more at home because I’ve been shaped by Vienna. The first 13 years of my life were just in this very comfortable environment. Everything is so well-organized and yet laid back,” he said. 

“I think it’s also shaped me as I am,” he continued. “Because it’s not like the typical urban lifestyle even though it’s a relatively big city. Whenever I go back, I’m just happy to be there because it’s just also so different from Bowdoin and London.”

But many people have preconceptions of his life and Austria that Leo doesn’t think are indicative of his childhood.

“Whenever you think of Austria, you think of, I don’t know, lederhosen and The Sound of Music and all that. But I don’t really associate with that. And, honestly, I don’t think I’ve adopted any one culture in particular. I’d say I’m just a hybrid of Europe and a little bit of America,” he said.

However, for Leo, location was not all that affected him. He explained that he was even more greatly shaped by the influence of his Russian parents.

“When I was in Vienna, it wasn’t Vienna who shaped who I am. It was my parents. Because I spent so much time with my parents,” he says. “My parents are both Russian, so the first language that I learned was Russian. I don’t really associate with the Russian culture, but I am still proud to say that my parents are Russian.”

Leo moved to London in March 2009.

“March and April are usually very rainy, so that was my first impression of living in London and that just basically imprinted on me,” he said. “I would say I’d just accepted my fate. I was like, ‘guess I have to get used to this now.’ It’s objectively depressing, but I’ve learned how to embrace it.” 

As he was starting in on his teenage years and living in a completely new place, London became the gray backdrop of a different person in Leo. 

“London is a good place to spend your teenage years because that’s when all the angst comes out. London is one of the best spots to let your angst out. My friend group in high school were all really angsty teenagers. The urban environment really accompanies that angst well because it’s always gray and everyone smokes cigarettes. Everything is charmingly depressing,” he said.
But an age of angst was not all that was born in Leo as he moved to London. He also discovered the music that shapes him to this day.

“When I moved to London, I was a very naive boy who was just so sweet and innocent. I was still missing Vienna very much and I stopped talking to my friends in Vienna very gradually and I had trouble making friends in London. And I had built up all this angst and I had no idea who I was, why I was there. I was just going to classes every day. And the weather didn’t help either. London weather isn’t a myth. Then, at the end of ninth grade, I discover the Rolling Stones, I discover everyone who I just worship now. That turned this sadness to this slight angst,” he said.

A life ingrained in music began to shape his entire identity in London as he feels it still does today.

“I learned how to play the guitar, drums, bass and I found myself in the role of the school’s musician. And I had finally found my place. Really what changed was discovering music. It just very much transformed me.”

Two years ago, Leo moved again, in a way, when he came to school in the United States at Bowdoin. “But now I’m starting to adapt to the American kind of lifestyle. Before freshman year, I did not understand American humor at all. I don’t even really know how to define it, but like these little sarcastic jokes, I never got them.”

Leo feels that he himself is a mix of all of the places where he’s lived and the different cultures. 
“It’s just now two years after I’ve gotten here that I really start to understand American culture. Yet again, I’m mostly proud of being British. But, I would say that my Russian upbringing has shaped me the most,” he said.

He appreciates the mix of cultures in the U.S. 

 “There is no one culture. That’s what I really like about America. What I can relate to here, is that America is a very new country and it’s a mix of everything, every race, every culture who came here hundreds, dozens of years ago, whatever,” he said.

But for Leo, the places of his past are still his home and still what shape the person he is today. Though the future is still far on his horizon, he seems to know where home is for him. 
“I have no idea where I’ll end up, preferably Europe because I feel at home there. It’s so different in America. It took me a long time to get used to it. It just makes me very happy whenever we’re on breaks and I get to go home. Pretty much anywhere in Europe, I feel at home.”