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Preparing to Study Abroad During a Pandemic

Feb 17, 2021 10:02:00 AM / by Andrew McKenzie

Our spring 2021 CAPA blogger Andy McKenzie believes that his study abroad semester in Barcelona will be an experience of a lifetime! Check out how this University of Minnesota student will be preparing for this once-in-a-lifetime journey with a positive attitude, open mind, and realistic expectations.

Hello everybody! I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin my first official blog with an official greeting. I know my bio has some info on me, but I would just like to say that I am thrilled to be keeping you up to date on my life and experiences in Barcelona. My goal for these blogs is to be as transparent, entertaining, and informational as possible. With that said, let’s get started.

The days before departure are quickly dwindling, and the countdown has officially begun. I leave to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain in 4 days. I will be there for three months from January 30th to April 30th. I truly don’t think the magnitude of it all will hit me until I arrive at my apartment complex in Barcelona, but I will be sure to let you know. So far, I’ve only experienced the beginning of the emotional rollercoaster that is sure to accompany a student traveling abroad in a global pandemic. I’m both very nervous, and very excited; it all feels very surreal at the moment.

Speaking of studying abroad in a pandemic, I’ve received numerous questions (and dismay) from my friends about why I would choose to embark on such a journey. Studying abroad in itself is an impressive endeavor, but doing so in a global pandemic? Unheard of. Why would I risk the comfort of home and friends for something entirely foreign and uncertain? Well, ♫They may be right, I may be crazy♫, but pandemic or not, studying abroad is something that I have always wanted to do.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring2021_Barcelona_Andy McKenzie_The boys walking back from classThe boys walking back from class.

I go to the University of Minnesota (U of M), a 20-minute drive from my home in Plymouth, Minnesota. Over 150 kids from my high school graduating class also went to the U of M. I’ve been going to Golden Gopher football and hockey games since I was a kid.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring2021_Barcelona_Andy McKenzie_Watching a game at TCF Bank Stadium in MinneapolisWatching a game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on September 3rd, 2015.

Yes, going to college is a new and transformative experience, but the U of M has always been home for me. I’ve never experienced life in a new city, I’ve never been away from the comforts of home and friends, and I’ve never been forced to be truly self-sufficient.

I think that by studying abroad I will grow and mature in ways that I never could have if I were to spend this semester at the U of M. I’m going to be faced with new challenges and adversities, but also new adventures and experiences. I’m going to meet so many interesting people, try a variety of new cuisines, and be exposed to an entirely different culture. I expect to come out of this experience a different person than I am today.

While I strongly believe that it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime, there’s no doubt it’s going to be tough at times. I’m going to miss my friends and family more than anything.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Spring2021_Barcelona_Andy McKenzie_Family photo on Christmas Day in 2020Family photo on Christmas day 2020.

When I echoed my concerns to my dad he said, “In the grand scheme of your life, it’s only three months, but they will be three of the most memorable months of your life.” I think this is a good way to look at it. I’m approaching this journey with an open mind and positive attitude, as the boys like to say: clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

One of the aspects of the trip I’m most looking forward to is the internship. I was lucky enough to receive an offer to work as a marketing intern for the Barcelona Metropolitan Magazine, the number one English-speaking magazine in Barcelona! Expatriates and English-speaking visitors typically look forward to the magazine for information on dining, leisure, and recreation throughout Barcelona. I’m not entirely sure what my exact role will be yet, but I will be sure to provide more insight in coming blogs.

Thank you for reading my first blog! By the time you read the second one, I will be well underway in Barcelona.

Until next time, adios.

Thanks, Andy!

Andy McKenzie

Andy McKenzie is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2021, sharing his story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Marketing  major from University of Minnesota, he is studying abroad and interning in Barcelona this semester.

Andy's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations, Barcelona, Spain