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College abroad for Science without Borders: Fernando’s story

“I lived a year in Montreal, Canada, studying at Concordia University. I went through Science Without Borders and needed a certain grade on the TOEFL English proficiency exam. As I had never gone outside of Brazil, I didn’t have much confidence in the result and, at the time, Canada was the country that required the lowest score. In the end, I did well in the test and the grade I got was enough to have gone to almost every country. But in no way do I regret going to Montreal.

I always wanted to go abroad. I was already looking at other forms of internship, study… but the money wasn’t enough. When the result of the program came out, it was just joy. The first person I showed was my sister, Beatriz, and she ran screaming through the house. Everyone was very proud, but a little afraid of what was to come, especially my mother). I think it was just my girlfriend at the time who didn’t like it very much, but I know she was proud too.

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I went alone. But I was not insecure. At first everything was new, that snowdrift, that cold, I was more enjoying myself than worrying about anything. I knew a guy there who was on the same show and I stayed at his place for a week. That week I met another Brazilian, Flávio, and we rented a house with another Brazilian, Luann, who was more or less known to him and who arrived a few days later.

Only in college subjects did I have some difficulties, mostly because of the language, but I was able to take it. I only spoke the basics and I took classes there, but the day to day is what certainly contributed to improving. And in addition to fluent English and having a great international university in my curriculum, what stands out are the moments I lived and the friends I made there. I think Canadians are usually colder, but they are extremely well educated and it’s a country that receives A LOT of immigrants, so I never suffered anything for being Brazilian.

But after going a whole year without seeing my family, friends, girlfriend… I already had a certain desire to go back. And at the end of the year the daily -20, -30, -40 °C bothered me more. But to this day it still gives me nostalgia and the desire to return to Montreal. I don’t have any plans to move again, but if a good opportunity arises, I’ll go without thinking too much, not just to Canada.

It was a great experience to see a country so big and so organized, where things work as they should. In order to become the way it is there, what we need is to be more solidary, more sensible and, above all, more polite. The main differences that I have noticed concern education and social equality. As for education, it is already a cliché to say anything. But there, the difference in salaries between an engineer and a professor is not so exorbitant. I knew a guy who “cleaned toilets”, in his own words, and raised his kids with his wife living well, in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, with a nice car. So, if we don’t stop looking only at our own belly button, forgetting who has bigger problems and difficulties (especially financial), we won’t get there anytime soon…”

Fernando Percília, Mechanical Engineering student, Minas Gerais
Photos: Personal Archive

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