Manny Elivo was one of many students who set foot on planes at the beginning of the spring 2020 semester, excited to participate in his first study abroad experience. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Manny graduated from Missouri State with his bachelor’s degree in international business in December 2020.
However, he couldn’t have imagined that his senior semester in Barcelona would’ve turned out the way that it did.
Stay or leave?
The semester started like any other while studying abroad.
“When you’re studying abroad you’re living the dream, living your best life.”
However, news started to break about how the coronavirus had made its way into Spain.
“At that point everybody was going home but we were a little bit optimistic,” he said.
While his other classmates opted to return home, Manny and a select few other students decided to stay and complete their studies in the country. This process was not easy.
Manny was required to petition to Missouri State University on why he should be allowed to stay. His request, as well as four other student petitions, were approved.
Life in lockdown
Shortly after, Barcelona went into a strict lockdown. Residents could only leave their homes for groceries or to go to the pharmacy.
“I was stopped three times by the police even when I was following the rules. Had I not, I could’ve been fined up to $6,000,” he said.
The first month of the lockdown wasn’t too bad as this was a new experience for everyone involved. Manny and his roommate, Oscar, took advantage of their new free time.
Because they had to make all of their meals, they developed excellent cooking skills. Homework was no longer a burden since it was one of the few things they could actually do.
The highlight of the lockdown was their access to the roof where they were joined by residents to cheer in support of the healthcare workers who worked tirelessly on behalf of COVID patients.
Making the best of things
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, morale was impacted.
Manny and his roommate shared a very small apartment with only one television. However, Manny chose not to dwell on the negative. Instead, he decided to look at the bright side of the situation. “Life can still be enjoyed, even in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. He went on to explain how it was nice to have his friend Oscar with him throughout the entire experience.
One of his favorite memories was celebrating Oscar’s birthday in which they dressed in their most elegant clothes and popped a bottle of champagne together on the roof.
During the lockdown, he grew very close to his family. He was able to video chat with them most days about the things they were doing and how the situation was.
But at the end of the day, his faith is what got him through and where he grew the most.
“We’re made to enjoy this life, not let it tear us down. What do you rely on?” he said.
Manny ended up finishing his spring 2020 semester in Barcelona. By the time he came back in May, a lot of the initial craziness had died down.
Manny’s study abroad experience will definitely be something that he nor the world will soon forget.