School Year in Spain: Margot Baumgartner Studies Abroad


Baumgartner enjoys a meal at a restaurant in Santiago de Compostela with her host sisters, Ana (center) and Gloria (far right). (PHOTO BY BAUMGARTNER)

Six hours ahead and 3,847 miles away, Margot Baumgartner has spent the past three months of her junior year as a foreign-exchange student to Spain.

Living in a town called Bertamirans right outside of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain and staying with a host family, Baumgartner is participating in an AFS global exchange that is sure to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

“In my host family I have a host mom, dad, 4 sisters, and 5 dogs,” says Baumgartner.  “Two of my sisters are older and live out of the house while the two younger ones are 11 and 13 years old.”

The idea of being an exchange student became an interest of Baumgartner’s three years ago when she first heard of AFS. Baumgartner’s parents were supportive of the idea, although slightly timid due to the distance and duration. 

“I think my brothers and friends were both shocked and never thought that it would become a reality,” says Baumgartner.

With 3 months down and 7 more to go, Baumgartner is pleased with her experience so far.

“I am very happy with my decision on studying abroad,” says Baumgartner.  “I think what really made me decide to go was wanting to learn a new language and my love for different cultures.”

Although traveling to a foreign country for an extended period of time may seem daunting, Baumgartner says that she has yet to be homesick.

Beyond different experiences and meeting new people, Baumgartner has been enjoying her new surroundings in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. (PHOTO BY BAUMGARTNER)

“Most people say that when you go on a foreign exchange trip you will get homesick and that it’s a roller coaster that goes up and down,” says Baumgartner.  “It has been a different experience for me. Yes, I miss family and friends, but whenever I get a little sad I remember how lucky I am to be here and what an amazing experience this is.”

Attending a Spanish school and taking classes such as physics and chemistry, Baumgartner has been enjoying the new, but different, academic and social lifestyle as well cultural immersion.

“My favorite part so far has been all of the new people I have met. Not only the ones from my school or town but other exchange students from the US and around the world,” says Baumgartner.  “I am looking most forward to experiencing the culture.”

Baumgartner, only a few years away from attending college, believes that this experience will help her in the future.

“Personally, it will help me discover who I am as a person,” says Baumgartner.  “It will also help with my study and career choices because I plan to major in Spanish and later become a Spanish teacher in the US as well as an English teacher in foreign countries.”

Although a beneficial opportunity for Baumgartner, she does not believe that studying abroad in high school is for everyone.

“Many people know whether or not traveling long-term is for them. However, every year there are people who get sent home because of immature actions,” says Baumgartner.  “That being said, studying abroad can be an amazing experience, if you are willing to put in the hard work to reach your goals.”