Exchange Students in Anaheim


Mar Muñoz and Fiona Siegl in their host house.

Xitlalli Cordova-Guerrero

Coming back from the pandemic, Anaheim has had a handful of exchange students, from seniors to freshman. This year, Anaheim Exclusivo had the pleasure of getting to know and interview two of Anaheim’s very own exchange students from all around Europe. The Exchange student program is when a high school student travels to a part of the world to study abroad as a part of an exchange program. This program is called ISE, where, since 1982, students from around the world can come and stay a year or more to experience how the school system works here in the United States.

Mar Muñoz is a 15-year-old junior from Spain. Muñoz is one of the most caring, energetic, and curious girls you could ever meet. She’s full of energy, always waiting for the next adventure with the friends she started to make this year. Quite nervous as expected to be in a completely new environment, but Muñoz is thriving.

Muñoz’s life before coming here was very different. She talked about how it was an endless cycle of going through the same routine, nothing new or interesting. But even if it was an endless cycle she still missed home, she states; “I can’t think about Spain during the day I keep myself busy, but at night when I’m wide awake…you know because I’m still used to the time zone from back at home, not letting me sleep at night.”  Being away from home is terrifying, but in the end she talks about how it’s been one of the best experiences for her to be able to do.

Asking about how different the school is here compared to there, Muñoz talks about how the first thing she notices is how big Anaheim is compared to the schools back in Spain. She was surprised to see how we had many curricular activities going on during and after school. She tells me enthusiastically; “You know, back in Spain there’s no sports team. At all. Like if we wanted to be in a sport we would have to do it after school and join a team. I like how you guys have sports here, it’s very cool. I made friends because I wanted to join swimming and water polo, I mean I don’t know how to play water polo, but it’s very fun and interesting.” 

Mar Muñoz hugging Itzel Cordova after the football game

While conversing about Anaheim, she talked about the difference between the teachers. Muñoz mentions that there is a difference in Spain and here when it comes to the relationship between student and teacher. Explaining how the teachers in Spain are very distant, the teachers would give them assignments from the texts and expect them to memorize the whole thing for a big test, which she believes is more difficult. But here it’s easier because all the teachers she has are very kind and take the time to explain everything and don’t mind helping her out, even if they have to repeat themselves a few times for her to understand.

But everyone’s big question is how did she become an Exchange student? She explained how with a scholarship she was able to come here, but it wasn’t easy because you have to meet some standards. She had to get excellent marks from ninth-grade. As well as applying and taking a test which gave her a 50/50 chance, because how much her parents made was very important. Also, looking for a family was an important part of the plan. By sending out letters across the United States, specifically to California, hoping to get a great host family, she was lucky enough to be here at Anaheim High School.

Fiona Siegl was the second student, Miss. Siegl is a 16-year-old, junior from Germany.  She is very shy at first, but once she warms up to you, she is a sweetheart. Siegl’s life before California was boring when she went to school in Germany. They didn’t have sports as well, because the school hours were often shorter. She was homesick at times, but she got accustomed to Anaheim. The sleep schedule was hard for her to get used to at first, but she is slowly adjusting. She loves the palm trees, the weather is different, which she adores since in Germany it gets very cold around this time of year. 

Fiona Siegl and Mar Muñoz ready for the Homecoming dance!

Siegl’s stay at Anaheim High School is very different from her old school. The school system is way different, because in Germany, you stay with a group of kids and have different teachers for each subject, while here you have both different teachers and students in each class. In her opinion, some of the kids here are strange but funny. She loves the teachers and how they are very hands-on, and interact with the students if they need help with anything.

She found out about the Student Exchange Program on YouTube and watched videos on how to start applying and getting information about it. Furthermore, she explained how she had to start to apply early since it was very expensive, and it was all about how much her parents got paid and how her grades were. She said: “It’s very hard to find a family to bring you in. My friend tried to do this, and he couldn’t because he couldn’t find a compatible family and no one would take him in. I also got to choose which part of the country I wanted to go to, and I chose California and another one because of the weather.” 

It is a privilege for Anaheim to be able to welcome and teach exchange students here in America.  Anaheim wishes the best to Miss. Munoz and Miss. Siegl, and thanks them for letting Anaheim Exclusivo share their stories and their journey on how they got here and how they are currently experiencing this once in a lifetime experience.