Leonardo Miotte, a new exchange student from Brazil, is not letting his limited English knowledge limit his experience in northern B.C.
The 17-year-old moved to Burns Lake a little over a month ago as part of Rotary’s Youth Exchange program. Although he has already completed Grade 12 in Brazil, he is now attending Grade 12 again at Lakes District Secondary School – only this time in a completely different environment and speaking a foreign language.
“I got here saying, ‘Hi, how are you? I go to Canada; I need help,’” he described.
He even had some difficulties communicating with border services agents since he didn’t have enough vocabulary to explain where he was going.
However, during his short time in Burns Lake he has already noticed his own progress.
“Now I understand a lot more… about 45 per cent of what people say,” he explained in Portuguese. “I thought it would take a lot longer to start understanding people.”
Miotte said that luckily he’s had no problems making friends and interacting with his classmates in the meantime.
Being from a small town in southern Brazil called Três de Maio, Miotte said that in some ways Burns Lake feels a lot like home. And although the food here is quite different, he already has a favourite Canadian dish.
“I tried poutine and I loved it,” he said. “It’s the best.”
However, he said it’s been hard getting used to having supper so early since most Brazilians eat dinner between 8-9 p.m.
He shared that his parents weren’t very supportive of him going so far away from home to study. But his commitment to exploring the world and opening himself up to new opportunities spoke louder than his parents’ reservations.
The committed student worked multiple jobs before coming to Canada to pay for his exchange program, but said that his efforts have already paid off.
“I’m loving everything here, and everyone is so nice,” he said. “I love that people take so much care of everything, of schools, of the community.”
“And everywhere here is extremely beautiful,” he added.
Although he doesn’t consider himself to be outdoorsy – adding that he’s not a big fan of fishing or hunting – he’s already gone cycling twice at the Kager Lake Recreation Site and that he’s looking forward to trying out winter activities.
When it comes to the people, he mentioned that North Americans can sometimes seem less affectionate compared to Brazilians, who commonly hug or give three kisses on the cheek when meeting each other. However, he said he’s received nothing but support since he arrived in Burns Lake. Apart from his friends at school, he lives with a supportive host family and their three dogs.
Although he admitted that getting used to the low temperatures might take some effort, he said he’s well prepared for winter and that he’s already taking high doses of vitamin D.
The hard-working student has ambitions of becoming a doctor and said that he loves the idea of working in a small town such as Burns Lake.