International Student Spotlight: Mack Di Nella

Mackenzie Di Nella

Scottish-Italian citizen attending Edinburgh Law School in fall 2024 after completing 3,700-mile summer bikepacking tour across U.S.

Born in Italy and raised in both Italy and Scotland, Mackenzie Di Nella, 18, studied abroad at Inver Hills Community College for two semesters, fall 2023 and spring 2024. Mack took a variety of classes at Inver Hills and worked as a student ambassador, helping out at campus events. She participated in student life activities, attending BSOL Criminal Justice Club, Student Senate, and Phi Theta Kappa meetings.

Edinburgh Law School

Mack took a gap year after graduating with the class of 2023 from Firrhill High School in Edinburg, Scotland, with the idea of going on an adventure in a foreign country before starting classes this fall at Edinburgh Law School at the University of Edinburgh. She chose Minnesota because she has family living in Eagan in the Twin Cities South Metro.

“I have enjoyed exploring the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” Mack said, “seeing the State Capitol, skyscrapers, going to museums, theaters, and enjoying the many lakes. I have had a lot of fun getting to know and spending time with my American family.”

Mack reported that she will be completing an LLB Law at Edinburgh Law School. The LLB is a four-year undergraduate degree designed to prepare her for a career as a lawyer in Scotland.

“After graduating from law school, I will need to continue my education by completing a one-year diploma in professional legal practice,” she said, “and then carry out a two-year traineeship with a law firm. At the end of these seven years, I will qualify as a solicitor—that’s the  Scottish term for lawyer.”

Mackenzie plans to practice as a solicitor at a law firm for five to 10 years, expanding her experience by working on cases and managing clients. She is looking forward to leveling up to the role of advocate, giving her higher status and the ability to represent her clients in the highest courts in the United Kingdom.

“Once I feel I have experienced enough of the legal system, I aspire to work for the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, or SIS—also known as MI6,” Mack said. “After a time in MI6, I would like to explore a career in diplomacy or politics.”

Choosing the legal field…

Mackenzie Di Nella

Inver Hills News: What inspired you to pursue a career as a solicitor and then an advocate? 

Mackenzie Di Nella: I think there are a few different reasons I am drawn to a career in law. Firstly, I feel (and have been told) that I have a strong sense of what is/isn’t fair. Becoming a lawyer means I can implement this to achieve positive outcomes.

Secondly, I have always been interested in learning about how, throughout history, society has dealt with upholding the law. Back in Italy, when I was learning about ancient civilizations in elementary school, we were taught about the Law Code of Ur-Nammu (the first written law code). It fascinated me how the law was discussed, recorded, and yet has evolved over the years, to stay relevant with society.

Thirdly, I would like to work in a stimulating, prestigious, rewarding and fulfilling job. Since there are so many issues and injustices in the world today, I want to concentrate my efforts and my work on helping improve people’s situations and lives. I would quite like to work as a human rights lawyer, protecting the rights of refugees—while living in Italy, I witnessed a lot of Syrian refugees who had fled from war zones, but were not being treated humanely in Italy.

Alternatively, I would like to work as a climate change lawyer, implementing legislation that protects the future of our planet. I am also interested by space law: it deals with issues such as when a meteor falls on a piece of land and damages property. Who is responsible for that meteor? Who pays the damages?

Bikepacking across the United States…

3,700-mile bikepacking tour from Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C.

Starting in June 2024, Mack will going on a 3,700-mile bikepacking tour from Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C. She’ll be cycling 75 miles a day to complete the trip in under three months.

“I feel strongly compelled to always live my life to the fullest because ‘you only live once,'” Mack said. “So, when I discovered bikepacking a couple of months ago, I decided almost instantly that I wanted to complete a long journey. Cycling from coast to coast will allow me to see numerous different states, landscapes and meet a variety of new people. Also, it is a challenge with myself.”

Mack will be riding a Salsa Journeyer Claris 700c gravel bike—that’s a road bike with drop down handlebars, but thicker tires, almost like a mountain bike. She plans on having panniers on the rear wheels along with a bag attached to the handle bars and a slim bag in the frame of the bike.

“I am not going alone,” she noted. “A group of passionate cyclists is departing Seattle on June 9, so I will be joining them. Additionally, I have some people I met here in Minnesota coming to join me for various legs of the journey. If anyone wants to join, I would love the extra company!”

Salsa Journeyer Claris 700c gravel bike

Cycling 75 miles can take anywhere from four to six hours. However, with the extra weight she will be carrying along with difficulties presented by higher elevations, Mack estimates that distance will take her closer to seven or eight hours.

“I will be sleeping in my tent every night,” she said. “The goal is to cycle seventy-five miles and finish each day in a town. This way you can ask the local police station for information on where to camp. They often recommend public parks and churches. Alternatively, there is an app called Warm Showers designed for people who are bike touring. This app allows people to host cyclists in their homes for a night or two, providing the cyclists with access to showers and warm meals.”

Mack will be eating basic food on her journey, food that is easy to pack such as dehydrated meals, rice, and sandwiches. Resupply areas are located along  along the cycling route—the longest stretch without a resupply should be no more than three days. She will stop at grocery stores to stock up on food whenever  her supplies run low.

Because DSLR and mirrorless cameras take up too much space, Mack will only be taking her Go Pro Hero 12 Camera. She is eager to document her adventure and the Go Pro is both durable and small.

Mack will traverse 12 states before reaching the nation’s capitol:

  1. Washington
  2. Idaho
  3. Montana
  4. Wyoming
  5. Nebraska
  6. Iowa
  7. Illinois
  8. Indiana
  9. Ohio
  10. Pennsylvania
  11. West Virginia
  12. Maryland

“I am looking forward to the mental challenge,” she said. “I know there will be tough days, and I am hoping that overcoming these will make me a stronger, more resilient person. The thing I am most looking forward to is reaching Washington, D.C., knowing I accomplished the 3,700 mile ride. There is a tradition of dipping your back wheel in the Pacific Ocean at the start of the journey, and dipping your front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean once you reach the end point.”

More about Mack…

Mack reported that she lived in Italy until she was three years old in a rural village called Piane D’Archi, which has a population of roughly 700 people. Piane D’Archi is located in the Abruzzo region on the Adriatic coast of Italy and is three hours by car and directly opposite from Rome.

“I lived in Scotland between 2008 and 2011 in a house overlooking Portobello Beach in the capital city of Edinburgh,” Mack said. “I returned to Italy in 2011 and stayed there until 2017. We returned to Scotland permanently in 2017 and are still living in Edinburgh. My house is three miles from the city center.”

Mack was selected as head girl, a key leadership role, during her final year at Firrhill High School.

“One head girl and one head boy oversee the Senior Student Council comprised of a deputy head boy and girl along with house captains who represent the school’s four different houses—think Harry Potter-style. The head boy and I represented the school at events, made speeches, led assemblies such as Holocaust and Remembrance, and interacted with the Senior Leadership Team that included the school principal. We served as a bridge between pupils and staff with the aim to improve the school.”

Mackenzie Di Nella life gallery

Mack was elected captain of her high school field hockey team two years in a row. She was voted Player of the Year in 2019. The following year she was voted Player of the Year for her Edinburgh Hockey Club team. In 2019, at the age of 14, Mack raised money for homelessness for the charity Fresh Start by running five kilometers every day during the month of December.

Mackenzie is fluent in English and Italian. When asked which language she prefers, she said, “The language I think in really varies depending on where I am. Growing up in Italy, I would think in Italian. However, I currently think in English and have done so for the past six years or so—ever since moving back to Scotland. Whenever I spend prolonged periods of time immersed in either country, my mind switches to that language. For example, this past summer, I spent a few weeks in Italy and then noticed that when carrying out simple tasks like counting, I would be doing it in Italian, rather than my usual English.”

Fresh Start 5K charity runs December 2019

Mack is conversational in French, having studied the language for five years, one year in her Italian middle school and four years in her Scottish high school. She intends to continue learning French more in depth in the coming years.

Holding dual citizenship in both Italy and Scotland, Mack has two passports, which is fun for her because when she travels around the European Union, she can use her Italian passport, which is much smoother and quicker than using her British passport due to Brexit legislation.

Mack very much enjoyed life in Italy. She misses her friends and family, the cuisine, the warm climate, skiing in the winter and going to the beach in summer, and the rich, historic culture.

“My favorite part about life in Scotland are my friends,” she added. “Since coming to America, though, I have found a new appreciation for certain aspects of Scottish life. For example, I realized how much I love the mountains and hills, the beaches, and the historic old towns that date back as far as the 12th century. Also, everything is so close! You can get from one side of Scotland to the other in ninety minutes.”

High school graduation June 2023

Mack started teaching herself British Sign Language, or BSL, as part of a self-development project.

“In high school, I took part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a program organized and endorsed by the British Royal Family,” she said. “As part of this program, I carried out a physical section, skill section, and volunteering section over the course of a year. You are supposed to commit to activities that will enrich you. To this end, I chose to learn sign language for my skill section because I think it would be valuable to be able to communicate with deaf people in society.”

Mack began playing piano at the age of six. She has multiple ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) grades. She practices theory and application and is working on her listening skills to develop absolute pitch.

“I took piano lessons at Inver Hills during fall semester 2023,” Mack said. “I love the feeling of practicing for a long time and eventually mastering a piece—it is a great feeling of satisfaction. I try to play a variety of genres, from classical to pop. I enjoy playing sing-a-long songs that people know such as ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles, ‘Piano Man’ by Billy Joel, ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA, and ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey. My favorite song to play is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen, because of the way the song builds.”

Mack’s dad is Italian. He is an engineer who frequently works on oil rigs. Her mum is Scottish. She serves as a high school teacher and literary translator. They reside in Edinburgh.

Mackenzie Di Nella Q & A

Mackenzie Di Nella
What inspired you to study abroad in the U.S.?

I felt that before embarking on my law degree I needed to broaden my horizons and experience life abroad. Plus, it is harder to take a gap year as you get older, so it was “now or never.” I feel that returning to Edinburgh after a year abroad, I will have lived so many interesting experiences and will be more ready/motivated to settle down and begin my seven years of study.

Why did you choose Minnesota and Inver Hills Community College?

I have family here in Minnesota who are kindly letting me live with them. Inver Hills was the closest college, so I enrolled here.

What advice would you give an American student thinking about studying abroad in Scotland and/or Italy?

I would highly recommend it! You may have pre-conceived notions of what Europe is like—I know that I certainly did about America—however, I firmly believe that the only way to have an accurate understanding of a culture is by living there. Not only will you learn more about foreign environments, but you will also discover more about yourself as a person.

You may discover new hobbies, new ways of life, new people, and new viewpoints, which all serve to make you a better-rounded person. Plus, it will also make you appreciate elements from your own country, which perhaps you previously took for granted. As if that’s not enough—you will have something interesting to talk about! I think the benefits are endless.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What do you like best about attending Inver Hills?

I am thoroughly enjoying my classes and feel that I am learning a lot of valuable knowledge. In addition, I like the friendly, enthusiastic, and kind community atmosphere here at Inver.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

During my time in high school, I was mentored by the headteacher. He was harsh, in a “cruel to be kind” manner. He would challenge me and push me further. At the time, this hugely impacted my self-esteem, however, I am now so grateful for it. I don’t think I would be where I am today if it weren’t for him. I feel it made me a stronger, more self-assured, resilient, ambitious, and determined person. It helped me understand the type of person I aspired to be.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

Harmony. I would wish for everyone to interact with each other peacefully and respectfully, while also respecting the planet, the flora and fauna, etc. This would hopefully eradicate human flaws such as greed and egoism, which have been the drivers of a lot of our modern-day problems—such as global warming.

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Mackenzie Di Nella 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: I play tennis, field hockey and do athletics (track running). I also enjoy endurance running, hiking, cycling, swimming and rock climbing
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Antarctica
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Moving from Scotland to the United States to pursue my study year abroad
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Travel all over the world, visiting places like Australia, China, India, Jordan, Vietnam, Argentina, Botswana, Malaysia, Cambodia, New Zealand; take part in expeditions while traveling, for example, climb Mount Everest, hike in the Amazon Rainforest, take part in scuba diving, do desert safaris 2) Donate a lot of money to progress the future of science, education, medicine, the arts, and sport; I would try to support the less advantaged and make real positive influence 3) The more materialistic and superficial answer: I would buy all the cameras and photography equipment currently on my wish list, I would go to infinite concerts, I would buy homes (not necessarily mansions) in different parts of the world, and I would give money to my friends and family
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Best book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez; best film: Nyad
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: I would visit the past, probably around the 1500s B.C., to witness the Ancient Egyptian civilization
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: I hope to be an interesting, well-educated, intelligent, cultured, kind and happy person; I want to really live my life to the fullest, grasping every opportunity and embarking on new challenges and experiences; ultimately, I hope to feel accomplished, proud, fulfilled, and be surrounded by good friends/family
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Golden eagle
  9. Dream occupation: It comes in stages: I would like to start by being a lawyer, then become part of the Secret Intelligence Service, then pursue a career in government as a diplomat or ambassador or representative or politician
  10. Person you would most like to meet: I honestly do not have anyone that comes to mind; I don’t really idolize celebrities, so I do not have anyone I am desperate to meet. If I really had to choose someone, I would probably go for a political figure, maybe a dictator; in this day and age, perhaps Vladimir Putin?
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I don’t know if this qualifies exactly as a “skill,” but I would like to master the “art of words”; I hope to have a rich vocabulary that allows me to express myself freely and descriptively; furthermore, it would be nice to produce successful poetry, literature, and writing
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: The fact that as a collective, we are using more resources than our planet can sustain; we have become a wasteful, materialistic, capitalist society, and I believe this will lead to our downfall; we are ruining the planet and interfering with nature, which is proving to be extremely detrimental
Learn more about attending Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

Learn more about becoming a student ambassador at Inver Hills by contacting:

Kimberly Swinney
Director of Student Life
PTK Staff Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

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