By: Ava Mychel Rodriguez ’24 and Hannah Singer ’23
Oct 1, 2022 marked an important day in Ursuline Academy of Dallas history: the official return to global delegation travel.
The 16 delegates and four teacher chaperones left Dallas on Saturday Oct. 1, and flew to GRU Airport in Guarulhos, Brazil. After an 8 a.m. bus to Ribeirão Preto took them to their long-awaited destination, Colegio Santa Ursula.
Before any of the travel could begin, the delegates went through a selective application process saying why they wanted to come on the trip.
“One of the initial reasons I chose to attend Ursuline was for the extensive global program, so when this trip was announced I knew I had to apply. The opportunity to experience a new culture and environment surrounded by my peers is one I will always be grateful for,” said Shelby Lovejoy ’24.
Ursuline Junior Jamie Duda expressed similar feelings about choosing to apply.
“I actually applied to the Brazil trip because I always wanted to participate in international travel. That’s one of the reasons why I really wanted to come to Ursuline. I especially wanted to go to Brazil because my mom actually did a foreign exchange program in Brazil when she was about my age, so I really wanted to do it too,” she said.
The trip began with the delegates meeting their host families.
“I love my host family. I couldn’t really speak to my host parents pretty much at all but I loved my host sister and then she had a younger sister, and I am still texting with them today,” said Jamie Duda.
Ella Robinson, an Ursuline junior as well, loved her host family.
“I loved everything about my host family. I grew really close to my host sister. Although her parents did not speak English, we found other ways to communicate,” she said.
With classes beginning at 7:20 a.m., the delegates had a packed first day of taking a tour of Colegio Santa Ursula, talking with Serviam ambassadors, and going to class with their host sisters.
“I was surprised by how informal the culture was. Students address teachers by their first name and classes are very relaxed,” said Ella Robinson.
The next few days were filled with a mixture of classes and fun activities, such as Portuguese lessons, sports at the school, tastings and a cooking class.
On Oct. 6, the delegates traveled to a retreat center named Sítio Santa Ângela.
“We went to a retreat center about an hour away with views literally pulled out of a postcard. We were surrounded by rolling hills and even got to experience true Brazilian weather with a downpour at night!” said Shelby.
Activities there included a Holiday Party, a Brazilian Day Party and a bonfire.
“We learned some Brazilian party dances, like how we would do the cupid shuffle, they had a couple like that, where they tell you the instructions. That was really fun! We stayed in a tent that night. We had a Brazilian themed party day, and we taught them Footloose!” said Jamie.
Ella Robinson enjoyed the camping experience of retreat.
“Camping was fun and interesting! When we arrived, we had a color powder dance party, and then we went swimming in a pond. Later we ate dinner and had a bonfire. It did start to rain at night and the rain went through tent my host sister and I shared. Other than that, it was such a great experience, and we learned a lot about our identity,” she said.
Upon their return from the retreat, the delegates joined together with the students of Colegio Santa Ursula for Serviam Day, on Oct. 8. According to the Ursuline Academy Global Advisory Council Instagram, Serviam Day marked the 110th anniversary of Colegio Santa Ursula and the 10th year of their sister-school partnership with Ursuline.
Serviam Day featured a school-wide food drive for three local organizations in Ribeirão Preto.
“The best part of the trip was Serviam Day. Serviam day is the school’s service day and students and parents come out to support the school. They have lots of games and activities. We performed Texas songs, and it was great to spend time with our host sisters!” said Ella.
After Serviam day, the delegates said a tear-filled goodbye to their host families and traveled to Rio de Janeiro, departing on Monday, Oct. 10 at 12:30 p.m.
Staying in Arena Copacabana hotel, the delegates toured the city, visited the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio, the Selaron Steps, Christ the Redeemer, the Monastery of Saint Benedict, and Museum of Tomorrow. Their trip finished with a Feijoada Taste, which is a typical Brazilian lunch.
“I learned how important it is to always have an open mind and be willing to try new things. There were a lot of foods in Brazil, such as guava and cheese, that I had never tried before, and I ended up really liking them,” said Ella.
The delegates departed from Rio and returned home to Dallas on Oct. 13. With memories to last a lifetime, they are grateful for this experience, and recommend it to those who are interested.
“I would say you should absolutely apply for any of the delegation trips, they’re all going to be really fun. I wouldn’t worry about the language barrier. Schoolwork coming back in is going to be a little tricky, but all my teachers are going to work with me on that one, so I would definitely recommend doing delegations because they are really fun,” said Jamie.
The delegates were able to be fully immersed in Brazilian culture, which was such an important part of the trip.
“I think the most impactful part of the trip was just being fully immersed in another culture. It helped me to realize that even though we speak different languages we are all very much the same. Going on this trip was the best experience of my life!” Robinson said.