McKenna Fairbairn: Madrid, Spain

Study Abroad Photo: McKenna Fairbairn
Study Abroad Photo: McKenna Fairbairn

McKenna Fairbairn


Madrid, Spain

What’s your major?

I am an International Studies major with a Business Administration minor.

Where are you studying?

Madrid, Spain

How long will you be abroad?

3 and a half months

What type of courses are you taking?

I took a marketing course, and a few Spanish courses (both language and culture).

What is your favorite memory from your study abroad experience?

There were only 12 other people in my program which ended up being the best thing that could have happened! We all got so close and they will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life. We took a lot of our weekend trips together and experiencing Europe with them was amazing. It's hard to pick just one memory, but I think my favorite is from my trip to Lisbon. We took few hours out of one of our days in Lisbon to travel to Sintra, an incredible town about an hour away that has palaces and castles and is so pretty. It was pouring rain the entire time and the buses weren't running by the time we got there so we had to walk a few miles in the rain, and for some reason it was one of the most fun times I had abroad.

What would you say to someone considering studying abroad?

Absolutely do it! It has been the best thing I've done so far, and I wouldn't trade my experience for anything else.

What is/was your favorite local landmark?

Parque del Retiro! It's like the Central Park of Europe...there is so much to see from the crystal palace, to the ponds with row boats, to the peacock's the perfect place to spend a nice day.

What are your living accommodations?

I stayed with a host family, which ended up being a single woman (and her new puppy!!!), and I loved it. It helped me improve my Spanish and learn more about the Spanish culture and everyday lifestyle.

What is your greatest challenge while being abroad?

The greatest challenge for me was the language barrier. I have been taking Spanish classes for years, and I know quite a bit, but speaking it was so much harder than I imagined. I could understand most things, but locals had a hard time understanding me because of pronunciation and accent differences. Besides Spanish, I don't speak any other languages at all so when traveling to places like France and Germany, it was even more difficult to communicate.

What skills have you acquired abroad?

My Spanish has improved greatly (I think), and I've learned so much about myself overall. The biggest thing I've gained is learning how to adapt to different situations and be open to new things.

Has study abroad influenced your academic/career path?

I've always wanted to work abroad in the future, but after studying abroad and experiencing so many amazing places I am 100% certain that that is what I want to do!

What were questions you were asked by local residents?

After telling people I live near Chicago...."Like the Bulls?" Every time. It was so interesting to see what things Spaniards knew about the States and what they didn't!