Today I’m here to tell you my story.
When I was 14, my family and I went to Toronto to visit my brother. I fell in love with that city. It was the first time I left the country, and it was a great learning experience. I met people from China, from India, from Portugal, and from Ecuador. Plus, I had the chance to speak two different languages: English and Spanish.
But it wasn’t just that what made me fall in love with Toronto. It amazed me how so many different cultures were living together in the same place, peacefully.
In Brazil, there aren’t a lot of foreigners. We’re all the same. With a few differences, but there isn’t a cultural shock. Even with that, we don’t seem to live in peace.
There are thousands of different cultures residing in Toronto, several different religious, and they live peacefully.
That’s when I decided I wanted to live in Canada.
It took me a while until I finally moved here. I spent a year in the States as an exchange student, living with a great host family, learning English and meeting new people. I learned how different Americans are from Brazilians. I’ve always thought with globalization we were all the same.
I didn’t know Americans had a different way to show affection. Imagine me, a 17-year old girl from Brazil used to hug and kiss (on the cheek) everyone, living in a place where, as I heard a girl saying, people like to live in their bubble. All I knew about Americans was what I had seen in movies.
It was a “colder” culture, but I learned other values with them, like patriotism. It was beautiful to see how that nation loves their country. I had never experienced such patriotism in Brazil.
Then, three years after I was back home, I had the opportunity to come study in Winnipeg. I got here thinking I was prepared for anything. I’ve experienced the culture before, so what would be the shock?
But there was. And it started at school. I considered my English fairly good. I’ve studied it for six years, practiced it for a year, then back in Brazil I used English every day at work. So I thought it was pretty fresh. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know Canadian English was different than American English. Plus, writing for communications was different than writing an academic paper. I was working so hard and getting frustrated with my marks. That affected many other aspects of my experience. I was studying a lot and working part-time. I didn’t have time to make friends. I was living by myself for the first time. I didn’t have my family to support me closely. I had to cook, clean, study, and work, all by myself.
I was working so hard and getting frustrated with my marks. That affected many other aspects of my experience. I was studying a lot and working part-time. I didn’t have time to make friends. I was living by myself for the first time. I didn’t have my family to support me closely. I had to cook, clean, study, and work, all by myself.
Little things make all the difference. I didn’t have someone to go to the grocery store with me every time, or to go to a restaurant or the mall. I felt lonely.
I started to feel homesick. I wanted to go back home. I wanted my family and friends back. I even began to think Brazil wasn’t that bad. I forgot my goal here. I forgot why I was here, and I forgot who I was. And it’s normal. It happens when you’re not living in your culture. It’s ok, and it’s going to be ok.
I wasn’t able to connect with local people, and I didn’t feel comfortable with the culture. I felt like an outsider, and not welcomed. Where was that Canada, the welcoming country, from seven years ago? I didn’t know.
I went back home for two weeks. I saw my family and friend and that filled me with motivation again. I came back, started to work and was preparing myself for my second year in college.
I’m here because I want to live in a better place. Canada provides me with safety, with better life-quality, and with tranquility. I am stable here because I have better job opportunities.
It was my responsibility to grow up and make my experience good. I had to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people and be more opened to them. It was up to me if this would be a good or a bad experience.
And that’s what I did. I’ve been here for almost two years now, and I’ve been more opened. I asked for help. I reached out to people. I became more confident, and that confidence motivated me.
It has been a great year for me. All the challenges made me a stronger person, and the work is paying off now. I am so happy.
I think here in Winnipeg there’s still some skepticism with immigration and cultural differences. When people arrive in Canada, they don’t forget their culture and become Canadians. It takes time. It’s important that locals have patience and are willing to help.
We’re here to make this country better. It’s our goal too. We want to contribute.
Canada is such a vast and beautiful country. We want to work hard and make it better. We take this seriously. We’re looking for a better place and a better life.
International students, I want you to remember a few things today:
You are good. You’re brave. You’re doing something, not a lot of people can (not want. Can). Just look around you. Even though not a lot of people realize this, you’re in advantage. The ability to deal with another culture and a different environment is crucial for everything puts you in a better position, and people appreciate that.
Canada is a country full of opportunities. You’ll find your place here. It’s all up to you how you’re going to face your challenges. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. No one can make this experience easier for you. It takes time, patience and a lot of hard work. Canadians like to see that you’re interested and that you want to be here. It’s not just an adventure.
When I moved back to Brazil from the States, I just didn’t adapt to it. And I know I won’t anymore. If I go back, I’ll feel like an outsider.
Winnipeg is my home now.