One of the rite-of-passage films for all French majors and Francophiles, beyond “Amélie” and “A bout de souffle,” is “L’auberge espagnole.” Though the movie mostly takes place in Spain, it is one of the best examples I’ve seen on French bureaucracy and how studying abroad and living internationally changes you, especially how hard it is to go home after. No one at home remembers that one tear-inducing day where you forgot to make a photocopy or the stupid mistake you made at a boulangerie before you had really grasped the language. Just you, with your memories, your mistakes, and your dreams in French.
“When you first arrive in a new city, nothing makes sense. Everything’s unknown, virgin. After you’ve lived here, walked these streets, you’ll know them inside out. You’ll know these people. Once you’ve lived here, crossed this street 10, 20, 1000 times…it’ll belong to you because you’ve lived there. That was about to happen to me, but I didn’t know it yet.”
I re-watched “L’auberge espagnole” in preparation for my trip to Spain a few months ago and found myself resonating more and more with Romain Duris’ character than I had ever before. Like him, I had grown up and not even realized it.
Everyone who knows me knows that I have wanted to live in France my whole life, maybe due to a slightly unhealthy obsession with “Moulin Rouge!” when I was 11 or maybe because I have always held bread and cheese and chocolate and coffee and wine close to my heart. For some reason, it just makes sense. It makes me feel like I’m home despite any remaining language or cultural barriers.
At the end of the movie, Xavier (Duris) has an enlightenment. He realizes he doesn’t want to sell out for the high-paying job in finance and that deep down, he has always known his life’s passion. And he can’t let the kid inside of him, the kid who always dreamed of being a writer, down.
I am so excited to finally tell you all that I’m not letting the little Madeline inside of me down, either. In September, I’ll be moving back to Paris for an M.A. in Global Communication at the American University of Paris. I’ll post more details later on, because now I get to re-start the super fun process of Photomaton pictures and visa appointments and health care registration, but it’s always worth it. Always. France can’t get rid of me just yet. ♦