On top of a bookshelf in Ursuline Academy of Dallas sit four “little travelers,” dolls handmade by an Ursuline parent with their signature red-and-navy plaid uniforms. These dolls have traveled from Peru to England to Taiwan as the unofficial mascot of Ursuline’s cultural exchange program.
Since its inception 21 years ago, students have experienced life as a teenager in another country through the exchange program. But it’s not all shopping and sunbathing; the exchanges are designed to build friendships.
“That’s where the global piece certainly comes in, because once you have a person that you care about in another country, you suddenly care about that country,” says Cecilia Nipp, director of global relations and cultural exchange. “You suddenly care about people outside of your own realm.”
Ursuline recently hosted students from their sister school Colegio Santa Ursula in Lima, Peru. Betty Maruy, chair of the school’s English department, recalled one of the most memorable experiences for her exchange students — serving dinner at the Brady Senior Center.
“There was this man who said, ‘I want to say thank you, but I don’t know what to do.’ He began to sing and everybody was crying,” Maruy says.
Nipp equates each sister school to a marriage — some have been long-term commitments and others are in their honeymoon phase. So far Ursuline has 11 partners, and it is currently courting Thailand. The private school is celebrating a milestone with Peru by sending the school their own “little traveler.”
“Even though she’s not allowed to say anything, Betty knows a doll is coming to Peru for our 10th anniversary in March,” Nipp says.
If each sister school is a marriage, then their newest partnership with Stella Matutina in Taiwan is written in the stars. When Nipp visited the nation, she had no idea that Ursuline parent Lisa Peng graduated from Stella Matutina, much less that Peng had made her “little travelers.” Unbeknownst to Nipp, Peng sent dolls to her alma mater as well. When Nipp saw the Taiwanese dolls with the same face as her own doll, she decided it was a sign that the two schools were meant to be.
Ursuline Academy of Dallas
Year established: 1874
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