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By Gisele Junqueira Kato

I had already glanced at my watch at least a hundred times. Weighed down by oversized bags and winter coats, I had been knocked off balance twice in 10 minutes. My heart was beating fast — in a few minutes I would be on the plane, headed to Canada. I spent the final moments in my country listening to dad’s last minute advice: Don’t accept drinks from strangers at bars, take care when you’re walking at night.

I could not respond. My mind was too occupied. Leaving Sao Paulo, Brazil for Canada during my summer vacation was not exactly my dream vacation. It started as a convenient adventure — my father’s friend lives here, and I could stay at his daughter’s downtown apartment. I didn’t think twice about passing the opportunity to improve my English. I just packed my clothes.

I arrived in Canada with feelings of excitement and fear, happiness and curiosity. My heart felt like it was ready to burst. I still feel like that now, but slowly, the expectations are being fulfilled.

Living with a Canadian student and having a very busy schedule is making me feel part of Canada. The multicultural environment excites me and also makes me comfortable, as if I was at home. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

Here, shivering in this white landscape, I’m learning how to be stronger, how to live without having anyone take care of me.

Instead of the green trees, I’m surrounded by snow; instead of calling on old friends, I have to ask strangers for help; instead of wearing a T-shirt, I wrap myself in a big coat; instead of knowing exactly what to do, sometimes I find myself lost.

These days are going to remain in my heart, allowing me to remember all the challenges I have endured and also encouraging me to engage new ones.

When I go home, I’ll spend a month telling and retelling my friends everything I’ve experienced here. All the pictures I’ve taken will remind me of my everyday experiences. I’ll miss you.

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