By Ligia Braidotti
This article is a two-part conversation with an international student from the University of Winnipeg.
This first part will tell you the student’s background, his reasons to come to Winnipeg, and his challenges so far.
The second part shows you the positive impacts his time living here in Winnipeg has brought to him and his wife.
One decision, one place, a new beginning.
Lincoln Amemiya has been living with his wife, Talita Amemiya, in Winnipeg for over a year now. He started as an English student at the language school Heartland International, moved on to the pathway program from Red River College and is now a continuing education student at the University of Winnipeg.
Amemiya said he was both scared and surprised when he arrived in the city.
“When I look through the airplane’s window, all I saw was trees and green spaces. I was like ‘I can’t see anything. I don’t see the city.’ I was scared,” he said.
He felt the difference right after they got out of the airplane when they saw their luggage on a running machine that wasn’t in a place limited to passengers only.
“This is something you will never see in Brazil. At least not if you still want your luggage.”
However, Statistics Canada’s report released yesterday says Manitoba is still the most dangerous province in Canada.
But then why Winnipeg?
“We first thought about moving to Vancouver, starting a new life there. We didn’t want Toronto because we came from São Paulo, which is a big city. But then we heard about Winnipeg,” says Amemiya. “The cost of living was more attractive, and Winnipeg is a smaller city.”
Winnipeg has indeed received many foreign people recently. According to Manitoba’s Labour and Immigration Office, only last year, the province received 4,876 international students. Some of them come by themselves and some of them come accompanied by their spouses, and sometimes kids.
An economic indicator published by the website Economic Development Winnipeg says the city had 782,640 residents in 2014, and its population has increased 1.5 per cent over the last five years. According to the indicator, Winnipeg’s growth rate is the seventh among major cities in Canada.
“We chose Winnipeg over other cities because the cost of living is one of the lowest in Canada, it’s a small city and safer than where we came from,” Says Amemiya.
He and his wife came from São Paulo, one of the biggest cities in Brazil. The city’s population has been estimated to be almost 12 million people in 2015.
“Winnipeg is a calmer city. There are more job opportunities here. And also, at whatever position you are going to work, if you manage your money well, you live. In Brazil, you survive on a good salary, but here you live,” said Amemiya. “We were looking for this quality of life.”
According to Amemiya, violence in Brazil was out of control. The Brazilian Public Security Forum’s directory from last October says in 2014, Brazil had 28.8 violent deaths per 100,000 population.
Even though Statics Canada reported last Wednesday that Manitoba is still the province with the highest homicide rates in Canada – 3.43 per 100,000 inhabitants –, the student says he has never felt safer.
Amemiya says he never thought he’d experience something like Winnipeg’s harsh cold temperatures. He says he misses a lot the feeling of the sun burning on his skin.
According to Amemiya, Brazilians are warmer than Canadians. Hugs, kisses on the cheek, gatherings, etc., are part of their lives on a daily basis.
“We are curious about a person. We want to know her better, know her family, know her values and beliefs, all that personal stuff,” he says.
Amemiya says cultural differences are evident, and that he is putting in a lot of effort to adapt. He says the Canadian culture is not better or worse, is just different. According to him, this experience has been taught him a lot about cultural awareness.
“There are many jokes that you won’t understand. You know what they said, but you don’t get the context of the joke. This is the kind of things that will make you feel left out,” says Amemiya.
The student says these things make a person feel homesick, and consequently thinking more about his family.
“You’re not a part of your family’s days anymore. Even though there’s Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook, it’s not the same thing,” he says. “If you’re focused, you’ll feel tempted to give up and go back because you forget all the bad stuff, you forget why you left your home country.”