Reflecting on a Unique Semester in Barcelona

Jun 22, 2021 10:02:00 AM / by Andrew McKenzie

In his last post as a CAPA blogger, Andy wraps up his time in Barcelona with some reflection about this once-in-a-lifetime experience. He talks about fully appreciating his host city, learning something new every day, balancing academics, and building lifelong friendships. He also shares what he's most appreciative and proud of after studying and interning abroad.

I blinked and the sun set on my time here in Barcelona. Seriously, these past three months have FLOWN by. It’s been a wild ride full of some of the highest highs and lowest lows I’ve ever felt. Whether it be the little things like navigating the grocery store and the public transportation system, or the big things like planning trips and excursions; every day was an adventure and every day I learned something new.

Before leaving, I wrote that I expected to be “faced with new challenges and adversities, but also new adventures and experiences.” I predicted that I would “meet so many interesting people, try a variety of new cuisines, be exposed to an entirely different culture, and return from this experience a different person than I am today.” While I don’t feel like I’m a different person per se, I feel like this study abroad experience has given me a wealth of knowledge and a perspective that I did not have before. I feel like everything I predicted was accurate and that I have genuinely increased my cultural intelligence while gaining a better understanding of the world.

Outside a rose-adorned Parc Guell in Barcelona.Outside a rose-adorned Parc Guell in Barcelona.

In January, before I left for Barcelona, I was skeptical about studying abroad. I was worried that Covid-19 would dampen my study abroad experience. Upon reflection, Covid-19 was a blessing and a curse throughout the course of my program. Yes, the 10:00pm curfew, mandatory masks outside, and dining limitations were annoying. It was also extremely difficult to plan excursions due to the limitations and closures. However, I truly believe the benefits outweighed the costs.

One of the benefits of studying abroad during the pandemic was that I was able to fully appreciate Barcelona and live like a local. In normal times, Barcelona is packed with tourists. The streets of Passeig de Gracia are overcrowded and Barceloneta beach is nearly inaccessible. This past semester, I cruised around town with ease and often spent my evenings enjoying the sunset on the sand with my roommates.

The colorful evening skies in SpainThe colorful evening skies in Spain.

Another benefit was that I was able to get an amazing experience traveling around Catalonia, the Iberian Peninsula, and Spain as a whole. Many study abroad students leave their host country almost every weekend with hopes of getting a little taste of everything during their limited time abroad. This baffles me as I had a hard enough time seeing everything I wanted to see in the city of Barcelona alone. Looking back, a few of my favorite destinations over the past three months were Costa Brava, Madrid, Valencia, Mallorca, and Montserrat Monastery in Barcelona.

A final benefit of studying abroad this spring was that I was able to make strong, lasting friendships with both Barcelona locals and my fellow American classmates. In the end, this entire journey was moving and invaluable. I feel like I can look back and rest assured knowing that I did everything I wanted to the best of my ability. I rock climbed Montserrat, I kayaked Costa Brava, I traveled across the Iberian Peninsula—all while doing well in school and my internship. Looking back, I’m extremely proud of myself. I’m proud of how I acclimated to this new environment, I’m proud of my resiliency and adaptability throughout, and I’m proud of the way I represented my country abroad.

Andy and his friends at Parc Guell in BarcelonaAndy and his friends at Parc Guell in Barcelona.

However, above all I would say that I’m grateful and appreciative. I feel so lucky to have made the friendships and relationships that I did. I arrived in Barcelona completely alone and am walking away with friends for life from all over the world…that’s pretty incredible to me. I also feel extremely grateful to have been able to study abroad in the first place, and I could not have done so without the help and encouragement of my mom and dad. Thank you both so much for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’ll run it back together someday!

Andy with Barcelona's cityscape in the backA lasting memory with Barcelona's cityscape.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the city of Barcelona itself. My experience only got better as the weeks went by. On my last day, I hit the beach, and within minutes of arriving, I found myself showing some Armenians how to throw a REAL football. That’s the beauty of Barcelona—you meet amazing people from all over the world. By the time I had to return home I had found a nice groove and was having the time of my life, but isn’t that how it always goes? Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to pick up right where I left off someday.

Until next time, Barcelona!

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.

See more of Andy's journey in Barcelona.

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Topics: Barcelona, Spain, Local Culture