My Canadian Experience- 2012/2020
–It all started in 2012 when my dad and me had the idea of me going abroad to study for at least one year in a high school. Of course my first thought was: “I want to go to Canada”, because I am a huge Justin Bieber fan and he was born there. I really wanted to go abroad and have that amazing experience and my parents were okay with it. My dad really wanted me to have an experience like that, since he never got to. So we went to Porto Alegre to a fair where there were a lot of agencies offering those experiences and we found CI, an amazing agency that had many cities to choose from. So my dad and me were talking and we decided that a smaller city would be the best fit for me, and we also chose the warmer side of Canada, British Columbia! The city? Abbotsford! And from that day on I could not be more excited to travel abroad!
–I have travelled abroad with my dad before but never alone! I was only 14, and I was scared but also very excited for the experience I was about to embark on. So, January 27, 2013 arrived and my whole family and some of my friends were there with me when I went to the airport. I was still trying to understand what was going on and what was going to happen with me when I boarded that plane. I wasn’t desperate at all because that situation wasn’t in my head yet. So I said goodbye to my family and I went through check in. In that moment where I couldn’t see my family anymore was the moment I realized I was all alone and I had to be able to survive. This might all sound scary but it was an unforgettable experience. I will tell you more about it.
–So I arrived in Vancouver, BC and there was a van waiting for me to take me to my host family in Abbotsford. The actual host family I was going to live with still had a student with them, so I stayed one week with another family. Everything was completely different than what I was used to. First, the streets, the houses, the trees, literally everything was like I was in another planet. I was scared, very scared, but then I met my host family and they welcomed me with arms wide open and I felt okay. My host family was a mom and her 6-year-old son. They were so nice to me and made me feel at home from the moment I walked in their home.
–The weather was cold, very cold, but I liked it. So the first day of classes came and I was very nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. The high school that I was about to go to was completely different from what I was used to. It was like in the movies where we see the lockers and all those teenagers in the hallways and the lunchroom, everything was like in those Hollywood movies. I was not the only international student there. There were other Brazilian students and students from other countries as well. So I started to get more comfortable, but before I even left Brazil I told myself that I was going to make Canadian friends or friends from other countries because I didn’t want to speak Portuguese and I wanted to improve my English. So I didn’t really became friends with the other Brazilian students. After some days I moved in with my actual host family that I was going to spend the year with and they were the best host family I could have ever asked for. I was very lucky! Gary (father), Helen (mother), Petra (older sister) and Lexa (younger sister) were an amazing and fun family to be with and they made me feel so welcome and like I was part of the family already.
–The school was about 10 minutes walk from the house and I used to walk to and from school everyday. The first days of school I was very lonely because I was very shy and I didn’t really talked to anyone. But then I met this girl, Marie, from Germany, and she became my best friend! I am so glad we connected; we used to hang out everyday and do everything together. We were both lonely when we arrived there because we didn’t know anyone until we found each other. Classes weren’t hard for me; I had a pretty good English background. I studied English in Brazil since I was 6 so I could understand almost everything but when it came to talking to people it was a little challenging. But in class I understood what the teachers were saying and with time I was getting better at listening and speaking. After about six months Marie had to go back home and I felt like I was alone again. But then I met Joanna and Paige, my two Canadian friends and they welcomed me with open arms. I used to think that Canadian teenagers didn’t want to be my friend because I didn’t speak their language but I was wrong. Paige is today my best friend and I am so glad we met each other in high school. I also met David, who became my best friend for life.
–There were days where I would miss my family and friends so much that it hurt a lot. But I would constantly tell myself that this experience was going to change my life forever and that I would see them again soon. By the end of that one-year I was already used to the Canadian way of living and my English was way better than when I got there. But then my dad and me had the idea of me finishing high school in Canada (whaaaaat?). It never actually crossed my mind, but I was excited about it because none of my friends have done that and I would be the first one. I know that two years abroad is a long time, but during summer vacation I went back to Brazil for some months and then came back to finish high school. I finished grade 12 in January and then went back to Brazil. But, before going back I have decided that I wanted to start university in Canada. I know that it might sound crazy because in the beginning the plan was to stay one year abroad and then come back to Brazil, but this experience brought me to a place I never imagined possible.
–So, before going to back to Brazil I started looking for universities around Abbotsford and I found UVic, University of Victoria in Victoria. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and it is located in Vancouver Island, so we have to take the ferry from Vancouver to arrive there. I have decided that I wanted to go to UVic, so my host sister Lexa and me went to Victoria one day just to check the University out and talk to an advisor about me studying at UVic. I went back to Brazil in January 2015 and stayed there until the end of August (classes at UVic start in September).
–What I can say so far from these 2 years in Abbotsford is that my life did change completely. It changed because I had to start being more responsible, more independent, and more aware of my actions. I didn’t have my parents there to rescue me or help me to do things. I had to start learning how to survive on my own and how to deal with the feeling of missing them. It was very hard in the beginning. I felt alone so many times and some days I thought that I couldn’t stay there any longer but at the same time I wanted to experience life in Canada and meet new people and get to know the culture. One thing that I can say is that this experience had made me stronger, way more independent, and a person that goes after what she wants. Before coming to Canada I didn’t really get out of my comfort zone, I was always with the same group of people, always in the same routine, and then Canada made me a different person. I learned how to get out there and talk to people, use the English that I had learned and experience new things like living without my parents, having to do my own laundry, having to cook for myself, having to clean my own room and small things that you have to do when you start living on your own. Of course I had my host family, but it is different when you don’t live with your parents anymore. Your routine changes; you points of view change; you become more mature.
–So I stayed in Brazil for about 7 months before starting UVic. While I was in Brazil, my dad and me went for a trip to Europe where I met Marie again, in Stuttgart, Germany. It was so fun seeing her again after a long time since she left Canada. I was happy being in Brazil with my family and friends and I was just enjoying being there before I had to leave again.
–Then time came. August 2015. I was going to start University soon. I couldn’t even believe it. When I decided to study high school in Canada it never occurred to me that I was going to University in Canada. But here I was. Ready to leave everyone behind again to pursue my dream. This time it was harder. So much harder that I can’t even describe in words. Honestly it shouldn’t have been harder than when I went the first time, but it was. I think it was harder because I spent those 7 months with my family and I didn’t want to leave them again. Saying goodbye is one of the most difficult things for me. I remember, until today, that when I boarded that plane to São Paulo I felt the tears coming down my face. I was really sad and scared. And that was the first time I have ever felt like that. One of the reasons was because I was going to live alone, at the University campus. I had no one, no one at all.
–When I arrived in Canada, my friend Paige and her mom picked me up and I spent some time with them in Abbotsford and then we moved to Victoria (Paige also moved to Victoria to finish high school there, so at least I had her). When I moved into my new place in the campus it was all new to me. There were a lot of student moving in and I moved in with 3 other girls; one from India (Sneh, who is still my very good friend today), one from China and one Canadian. I was very shy at first because I never had to share an apartment with anyone or even lived in an apartment, but I got used to it. The hardest part was the classes. I chose Economics to be my major at UVic. In my first semester I had a math course which I thought was going to be okay since I loved math and it was a first year course so it shouldn’t be that hard (that was what I thought, but I was wrong). That class was a nightmare to me. It was the hardest class I have ever taken in my life. I started to feel like I didn’t belong there, like I shouldn’t be in University at all because I was failing that class. There were more than 200 students in my classroom and that blew my mind because I had no idea it would be like that. It was like we see in the movies, those big auditoriums filled with students and their computers. I felt like an alien.
–My first semester at Uvic was very hard specially because I failed my math class and I thought I didn’t belong there at all and all I wanted to do was go back to Brazil. I started to isolate myself from everything and everyone. Paige was living in Victoria but I didn’t even feel like going to see her or hang out with her because I was so frustrated with myself and I was homesick. But then on her birthday I went out with her and then we started hanging out again. She was the only friend I had there. I also forgot to mention that in September I started working at Tim Hortons, my first job ever! It was a very different experience but one that I will never forget. I have never experienced working in my life and that was a nice experience. I met other people at work and made new friends. I used to work during the weekends and study during the week.
–My second semester at Uvic was a little bit better. And then summer came and I decided not to take any classes so I was just working full time at Tim Hortons. Then came the winter semester, my second year at UVic. Classes started to get a little more challenging and I started to go back to being sad and doubt myself again because I wasn’t doing well in some of my classes. That semester was the hardest one. I remember that there were nights where I would cry myself to sleep because I missed my family so much and I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore and I just wanted to go back to them.
–Those situations that I found myself into were the ones that made me who I am today. That made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. At the time I thought that that pain I was feeling was going to last forever, because I couldn’t see a way out of it. But with time I learned that nothing lasts forever. Pain doesn’t last forever and one day I was going to look back at it and see how much I have grown from it.
–Coming to Victoria was another amazing experience. Victoria is completely different from Abbotsford, because it a touristic city. It is small but it has its charm. Victoria is so beautiful and peaceful. There are so many places to go to and just enjoy the view. On my second year here I had to move from the campus to another place. In Victoria it is very easy to find a place to rent because there are many students that come here to go to UVic. So I found a place to move in for the summer, and then after summer I had to move somewhere else. I lost count of how many places I have moved to. And that was another learning experience for me. I had to pack all of my stuff and find ways to move it to another place and I had to ask for help from friends.
–Living on my own in Victoria made me so strong and mature. I learned how to do everything. It made me who I am today and I know that if I had stayed in Brazil I would not be as strong, independent and mature as I am today. I couldn’t be more proud of the woman I have become. I know that I still have a lot to learn and grow, but I also know that this Canadian journey that I embarked on in 2013 transformed and shaped me into whom I am today. I have no regrets of coming to Canada.
–In May 2019 I was able to buy my first car (when I went back to Brazil in 2018 I got my driver’s license)!!! I never thought I would own a car. I was so happy when I got it. In June 2019 I started working at the Empress hotel, which is one of the fanciest hotel in Victoria. I work there as a turndown attendant and I really like it. I also made some friends there, which is the best part. And then 2020 came: the year that I was going to graduate UVic. My parents were going to come here in June for the ceremony, but the world entered an epidemic and everything got cancelled. But I still graduated! I graduated in May 13, 2020 as Bachelor of Science Majoring in Economics and Minoring in Business. And that was the happiest day of my life. I never thought I was going to graduate university. As I mentioned earlier, those first two years at UVic were the hardest of my life. But I made it and I am so proud of myself. All of these accomplishments happened because I became a very positive and hard working person that doesn’t give up so easily in something that I really want.
–As I am writing this (June 7, 2020), what I can say is: I have no regrets of coming to Canada and experience every single thing I did. It was very challenging and scary but all of those feelings that I felt, all of the pain I went through, all of the people I have met, all of the things I have seen, everything, made me the person I am today and I am very happy and proud of myself. This “Canadian Experience” changed my life for the best, and I have to thank my dad for this amazing opportunity that I am living today and thank my mom and Dilce for being there for me (virtually) in every single step of the way.
–I encourage you to embark in an experience like this if you can. You will not regret anything at all. If you are thinking of studying abroad, go for at least one year. One year will change your life completely and you will learn things that you would never learn if you just stayed in your comfort zone.
——Explore the world and live life intensively right now because later might be too late.
Bachelor of Science
UVIC University of Victoria B.C.