Profiles of StudentsAnother feature of this blog will be to profile the variety of international students who come to Vancouver to study at the language schools. Here is the first of such articles.
Purpose of this Blog is to provide information on:
(click on topics that interest you)
• Events homestay students participate in while being in the city
• Activities related to my novel about a group of international language students in the city
• English language tips for international students
• Profiles of Students
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Gabriel: A Self-declared Academic
Gabriel is a mid-twenties Brazilian from Porto Alegre, the southernmost capital city of Brazil, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Gabriel is in a PhD program in molecular biology at the federal university there. In October he took a month leave from his doctoral programme to study at Kaplen’s Pacific Language Institute (PLI) in Vancouver. He needs to be competent in reading, writing, and speaking English to author scientific papers for international journals and to make presentations at English-speaking conferences. His first scientific paper on which he is lead author has just been accepted for publication in a prestigious, English-language science publication. He is understandably happy about that.
The metropolitan area of his city, Porto Alegre, has a population of 4,405,760 inhabitants (almost double that of the Vancouver metropolitan area at 2.3 million residents). The majority of the inhabitants are of European descent with first immigrants having been Portuguese. They were joined, in the late 19th century by many immigrants from Germany, Italy, and Poland. Today the population of Porto Alegre also includes Arab, Jewish, and Afro-Brazilian people.
As one of the richest and most diverse cities in South America and the fourth largest metropolitan area of Brazil, Porto Alegre is one of the main cultural, political and economic centers of the country. The city is situated on a five-river junction (a fresh-water lagoon) making it an important port as well as a chief industrial and commercial centre of Brazil. Gabriel says the water is not suitable for swimming even though the islands in the lagoon feature many parks that are home to diverse forms of wildlife. Still Gabriel has been intrigued to see the many squirrels, skunks, and raccoons on the city streets near his homestay in Vancouver’s West End.
Like Canada, Brazil is large. It totals 8.5 million square kilometres (compared to Canada’s 9.9 million square kilometres), but Brazil is a long, rather than wide country. Being from the southern most state of Rio Grande do Sul, residents from Gabriel’s part of Brazil feel they are different from those in other parts of the country that extends north of the equator above the Amazon River. Gabriel says that people in his state talk about wanting independence from the rest of country. Sound familiar?
Gabriel was surprised to see the considerable number of Brazilians that are attending PLI. Brazil’s economy is strong now, and the proportion of students from various countries in the schools depends on the relative strength of their country’s dollar at any given time. Also once students have a good experience in Vancouver, they go home and tell their friends, who begin to think that they too would like to come here.
Gabriel says he feels safe in Vancouver, which is one of the reasons that he and many other Brazilians like being here. Aspects of Vancouver that Gabriel has noticed as being particularly different in his country relate to food, retail items, and weather. Their cuisine emphasizes beef, rice, and beans, and they have a variety of lush fruit that doesn’t exist in Vancouver. He notes, however, that Vancouver has a wider selection of good vegetables. He has found that clothes and electronics are cheaper here (especially in outlet stores) than they are in his country. While the summer weather at home (December to March) is hot and humid, the other seasons there are similar to those of Vancouver in terms of rain and moderate temperatures.
Even though Gabriel states he is an academic rather than an athlete, has enjoyed skating and bicycling around much of Stanley Park’s seawall. Also he loved his school trip to the Rocky Mountains, where he was most impressed by the majestic mountain scenery.
Gabriel has contributed photographs to this Blog for the article about the Rocky Mountains (see Places Students Visit while being language students in Vancouver). Thanks, Gabriel, and very best wishes with your studies.
This article and photograph are
by Wendy Bullen Stephenson
and are posted with Gabriel's permission