Graduating Columbia from Home in Barcelona

Even though his adventure was unexpectedly shortened, a master's student feels fortunate for his time at Columbia and in New York.

Victor DeCalf
December 14, 2020

This is part of a Columbia News series, titled Postcards, which invites members of the Columbia community who are living and teaching or studying abroad to send us updates on where they are, what they miss about not being on campus, and how they are making the most of their situation during this global pandemic.

Hello Columbia University from Barcelona, where I have spent the last semester finishing up my master’s in the Sustainability Management Program. If everything goes according to plan, I will be graduating at the end of this semester.

I love my home, but there are so many things I miss about Columbia and New York City—interacting with friends and professors, cycling from downtown to campus along the Hudson River, Butler Library, and the carrot cake I’d buy each Thursday at the Broadway Greenmarket. But what I miss most of all is the vibrant environment that is Columbia, and the sense of inclusion I felt every day walking around campus.

Young man with brown hair wearing a striped shirt and head phones with book case in background

Being back in Barcelona has had a few pluses. I’ve been able to pursue some personal goals, like starting a marine conservation project to repopulate red coral and the seagrass species, which both play a major role in the ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea.

I also had the opportunity to design, install, and connect a residential PV [photovoltaic or solar-powered] roof of almost 30 KW from scratch. I hope this makes my professors proud, as I was able to put into practice and apply most of the skills acquired in class.

I am determined that I will return to New York someday, and when I do, the first order of business will be to visit my alma mater and catch up with old friends. I also can’t wait to take up some of the sports that I loved in the city, like bouldering in Central Park and surfing off Long Island.

Even though my U.S. adventure was unexpectedly shortened, I feel fortunate that I had my time at Columbia. I am still a student at one of the best academic institutions in the world.

Victor DeCalf is scheduled to graduate with a master's in science from the Sustainability Management Program at Columbia's School of Professional Studies this month.