Colombian exchange students leave tropics to call sub-zero Northland home

By KBJR News 1

January 8, 2014 Updated Jan 8, 2014 at 9:37 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - For the first time in its 90–year history, Holy Rosary School in Duluth is playing the role of Northland ambassador to 15 middle school exchange students and teachers from Bogotá, Colombia.

"It's really a neat opportunity to learn first–hand about their culture, what kind of foods they like to eat," said Holy Rosary's K-5 Global and Linguistics Studies teacher Deb Stephan, "and I even learned this morning when I was setting up dinner that they don't have crock pots in Bogotá!"

But part of being involved in a school exchange is, well, going to school, which is hard to do when sub–zero temperatures shut down schools in the Northland for two straight days.

For St. George's music teacher Maria Fernanda, who you can call "Mafi," adjusting from the tropics to the arctic isn't the struggle most Northlanders would assume.

"We are getting used to it. It's not that difficult," Fernanda said, laughing. "It's the first time we've seen houses with the snow... It's really an amazing city."

On Tuesday, "Plan B" for exchange students and Holy Rosary host families alike meant learning more about the Northland ecosystem at the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Since Sunday's arrival, the group has also been ice–skating and cross–country skiing.

"[It was] the coolest thing in my life," said middle schooler Juan Andres, smiling with a large group of peers describing how their first time on the slopes went.

"I fell down," laughed Sebastian, another St. George student.

"I fell down like a thousand times," said Carolina, backing up Sebastian's claim.

"I fell down and [rolled] down the hill," laughed Juan Pablo, making rolling motions with his hands.

"One of the guys that was teaching us is staying with me," added Carolina, "he had fun looking at me when I fell."

And even though this excursion will come to an end Sunday, both parties involved hope that it can happen again in the coming years.

"I hope Holy Rosary kids are going to Colombia and having this interview there," laughed Fernanda. "That's my [long–term] goal."

...not letting sub–zero temperatures freeze out the opportunity to make long–lasting friendships.

As part of their chance to share their culture with the Northland's students, the group from St. George's will perform songs and dances from Colombia during a Holy Rosary assembly Wednesday.

Billy Wagness