Planes, Trains and Automobiles to Cathedral

Cathedral is hosting Guatemalan exchange students for the first time


The six exchange students standing in front of the Guatemalan Flag.

Cathedral hosted exchange students through the Faces in Our Culture program.  The Faces in Our Culture program gives families the opportunity to host an exchange student from Guatemala. Spanish teacher and student council moderator Kim Jamell said, “The program actually found us because a teacher at Brownsburg High School told them to check out Cathedral.”

Junior Fatima Muralles was one of six exchange students chosen to attend Cathedral through this program. Muralles said, “We had to take an eight month course. We do a lot of workshops, learn the rules and how to adapt here (before we arrive).” 

The students were in America for two months during their “summer vacation.” In Guatemala, their long break lasts from October to January because they only have two seasons, the wet season and the dry season, as opposed to the four that America has. Jamell said, “Even though they are attending school during their break, they are not earning credits towards their high school diploma so they are just taking elective courses. Usually I recommend that they take English since that is what they are here to learn but as of now, there are no required courses.”

Despite having been to America a few times before and the program’s attempts to prepare her for what to expect, Muralles said, “Everything has changed. The school is a really big change because it is huge compared to my school and (in Guatemala) we only have to take basic classes like English, Spanish and math because we don’t have electives so there are a lot of (classes) here that are really different.” Muralles also stressed the different atmospheres of the two places. She said, “The state is really big and my city isn’t that big so that’s like a big change because (it takes) like 30 minutes to get to school here and we like 5 minutes to get to school (in Guatemala).”

Muralles said the hardest thing about coming to America for her was not being able to see family. “For the first month, I didn’t really have a need to talk to my parents much because I didn’t miss them a lot but (at the beginning of the second month) I thought ‘wow it’s been a month’ so I’m kinda missing home a lot more this past week,” she continued, “The program has pretty crazy rules that we don’t really like that much like we can only use our phones for one hour a day to talk to our families.” 

Exchange student Fatima Muralles with her host family, the Wrights.

Muralles said that the biggest help has been her host family, the Wrights, as well as the teachers she has met along the way. “Obviously (junior) Aubrie and (senior) Austin (Wright) have been a huge help. All the teachers have been really nice and offered their help with anything, especially Jamell who runs the program and (Business Teacher) Mrs. (Lisa) Finn has helped me not get lost in the school,” she said.

She said she plans to keep in contact with her host family and the friends she has made here. Her hope is that her host family will come visit her in Guatemala and that she will come back to visit them as well. Muralles said, “My parents wanted me to (do the program) and it has been a great experience because I have really liked it here. (I plan to) enjoy my summer vacation (when I go back to Guatemala) because I haven’t been able to do that since I’ve been coming to school everyday.” 

As for the exchange program’s future at Cathedral, Jamell said, “The hope is to send Cathedral students to Guatemala but Cathedral wants a teacher to go down there with them and we just haven’t found somebody who wants to do it.” Jamell concluded, “In order to keep the program going, we need host families for next year so if you are interested then, sign up to host an exchange student.”