From Brazil to Halifax

Dal welcomes students through Science Without Borders

- October 12, 2012

Juliano Franz and Hugo Yamamura, new Dal students from Brazil. (Nick Pearce photo)
Juliano Franz and Hugo Yamamura, new Dal students from Brazil. (Nick Pearce photo)

When asked to talk about the differences between Canada and his home country of Brazil, Juliano Franz doesn’t go the obvious route. He doesn’t mention climate. He doesn’t identify cultural differences. He doesn’t compare Canada’s hockey obsession with Brazil’s soccer passion.

To Franz, it’s all about the chairs.

“Very comfortable chairs, especially in the Mona Campbell Building,” says Franz, a student at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil who’s spending the next two semesters in Dal’s Computer Science program.

Franz came to Dal through the Science Without Borders program, a Brazilian government initiative that began in 2011 and aims to give out 100,000 scholarships over a four-year period to students wishing to study abroad.

Canadian universities will welcome about 12,000 of those students. This year, Dalhousie alone has 28 international students from Brazil.

Country comparisons

As one might expect, these visiting students have noticed things about their temporary home that locals take for granted. Franz’s comment about Dal’s classroom chairs, for example, aren’t a joke – or at least not entirely. In Brazil, he says, students don’t pay for post-secondary education, but that means some schools struggle with upkeep.

“You don’t have much money for infrastructure. Here, even the old buildings have been remodeled,” he says.

Franz’s countryman Hugo Yamamura came to Dal through CALDO, a consortium of four Canadian universities (University of Alberta, Universite Laval, Dalhousie and the University of Ottawa) that was one of the first groups to partner with Science Without Borders.

Yamamura, also a Computer Science student, is one of 24 Brazilian students who made their way to Dal via CALDO, which helps match international students with schools and programs appropriate to their interests and supports them through the application process.

Like Franz, Yamamura has picked up on some distinctly Canadian, or at least Haligonian, customs. For one thing, there’s the practice of cars stopping to allow people to cross in the middle of the street.

“You can go without any worries,” says Yamamura. “In Brazil, even at traffic lights you have to be careful.”

Embracing life at Dal

Yamamura and Franz have both embraced the full student experience at Dal, with Yamamura joining the chess club and Franz becoming a member of the squash club. They’ve found their fellow students and professors to be friendly and helpful, and they’ve adjusted to certain cultural nuances (“You have dinner too early here,” says Franz).

Yamamura says living in residence has helped them acclimatize to their new surroundings.

“Living on campus you have the opportunity to meet lots of people from all over Canada and even international students,” says Yamamura, who lives in Howe Hall.

Yamamura says Dal has also afforded him the opportunity to live near an ocean coastline. He’d never before visited a coast, even though Brazil has 7,367 kilometres of it.

“This was the first time I’d seen water in that proportion, not just a lake or rivers,” says Yamamura.

He and Franz have also enjoyed Halifax sights such at Pier 21, the Seaport market and Point Pleasant Park.

Of course, Yamamura and Franz are here to learn, not just to explore a new country. Although both are in Computer Science, they’re taking different classes and have different goals for the future.

Yamamura is studying subjects like software development, interface design and microeconomics, while Franz is taking electronics, informatics and game design and development. Yamamura looks forward to a career in the private sector, while Franz sees himself as an academic.

A shared experience

Yamamura and Franz are different people, united by the shared experience of leaving Brazil for an adventure at Dal. They’ve only been here for a few weeks, but they’ve already made the adjustment to a new school and to life in Halifax, and they’re convinced they made the right decision.

That’s the message they have for all the future students who will make the trek from Brazil to Dal thanks to programs like CALDO and Science Without Borders.

Meanwhile, they have a couple of other messages for friends and family back home:

“Stop asking me if I’m okay,” says Franz.

“And stop asking, ‘Is it snowing?’” Yamamura laughs, revealing that certain stereotypes about Canada are still lurking in the world’s fifth-largest nation.

“No, it’s not snowing. It’s still fall.”


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