Hannah: When (Abroad) Life Imitates Art

Here it is — my Abroad Com Blog. I always knew I would end up writing one, but I wasn’t sure when or from where. Now, it’s spring of my junior year and I’m blogging in (drum roll, please) London!

It’s day one of my internship, and I’m surrounded by movie posters. At Umedia, where I work as a legal intern, framed posters decorate an exposed brick wall, opposite the large arched windows that let sunlight flood the bright white workspace.  I’m the newest addition to a team of five here in the London branch of Umedia. Based in Brussels and with offices in London, Paris and LA, Umedia finances and produces films through its own fund.  Film production comes with a number of legal and business transactions, so as an assistant to the head of legal affairs, I’ll get my feet wet in media law and the entertainment industry here. (I’m so excited about it!!)

Although it’s the first day at Umedia, I’m at the start of week six in London, and I’m in no way ready to leave. Living in London has been everything I imagined: tuning my ears to charming accents, learning about British history while at historical sites, crossing streets with extra caution (they drive on the left?), being aware of my Americanness everywhere I go. Also, socializing in pubs almost every night, honing my professional skills daily, and friending BU students I never would have met.

It’s been a whirlwind in the best way.  It’s also been lots of quick flights on the weekend to parts of the world I never thought I’d see. Convinced I’d study abroad in Ecuador for the Latin American studies program, I figured I’d have to stick to watching movies to learn about European countries. For me, watching foreign films or movies featuring Americans abroad has been the closest thing to actually travelling overseas.  Great way to visit a place on a budget — until now.  Once I chose to study British culture and law in London, I placed myself in prime real estate for accessing other cities. So far, I’ve seen Copenhagen, Paris, Florence and Rome.

As Princess Anne in Roman Holiday says: each city, in its own way, was unforgettable.  And as I spoke with locals, ate traditional food and soaked up as much culture as I could, I would compare everything to what I’d seen on the Big Screen. I couldn’t help it! My passion for entertainment has apparently travelled abroad with me.  But I think it’s something we all do. ‘It’s just like in the movies’ has crossed all our minds at some point in life. When your first encounter with a place is through a film, it’s impossible not to seek out that same experience once you’re really there.  And so life imitates art.

Before flying out to these cities, my only references to them were from cinema.  When I arrived in London, I immediately thought of Love Actually, in which intertwining storylines take the audience to landmark locations across the city.  In Copenhagen, I looked out onto the waterfront and thought of Ariel, from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, the childhood movie that first introduced me to the landscape of Denmark. At Versailles, I geeked out over the chateau, not only for the history of its royal residents, but also because it was just how I’d seen it in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.  My roommate and travel pal, Kelsey, quoted Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs as we sipped on Chianti, Hannibal’s drink of choice, at a vineyard in Tuscany.

The comparisons didn’t stop there.  Since I come from an Italian family, Italy was my number one destination.  But as the site of two movies crucial to my childhood, Rome in particular was about more than connecting with my ancestry.  Rome was about fulfilling my dream to be Lizzie McGuire and having a holiday like Princess Anne’s. I wish I could put into words what The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Roman Holiday mean to me. When I saw Lizzie McGuire at age 8, and then Roman Holiday shortly after, I became convinced Rome was the city where anything was possible.  An ordinary middle school graduate could try out life as a popstar, or an overscheduled princess could have a go at being a free spirit. Since Rome was never within reach, I hadn’t considered what would be possible for me there.  Visiting Rome was for me, in every cliche way, a metaphor that nothing is out of reach, and childhood dreams do come true.  

Now that I Veni Vidi Vici’ed in Rome, it’s time for some new dreams.  Right now, in my internship phase of study abroad, I’m dreaming of an interesting and influential career in media.  Whether we realize it or not, the media we consume has an undeniable impact on our lives, from our opinions of today’s social issues to our knowledge of the rest of the world. To work on the legal side of a television network or a production company would be a dream come true, and Umedia is only the beginning.  

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