Memories of my exchange year in Canada

Winnipeg, Canada. By Packing my Suitcase.

Exactly 10 years ago I was arriving in Winnipeg. I was only a teenage girl leaving my family and friends behind, on the search for new adventures. I was leaving a different life in Brazil, and I was open-minded to begin a new one in Canada, where I would live for almost 1 year, studying high school and learning English.

After almost 20 hours traveling, I arrived at the airport of Winnipeg, on September 4th, 2004. I will never forget the exact moment when I saw my homestay family waiting for me, smiling and giving me hugs, nor our drive from the airport to my new home. How could I? It was time of changes, so much that at first I didn’t realize the mark it would leave in my life.

Everything was new, my house, my room, my family, the food, the school, the friends, the teachers, the language, the country. In the beginning it all felt too much, too different, until it became normal, especial; my new life. Some days it hurt to be away from home, but with time, it felt right, and I often thought how amazing it is to live in other countries, how essential is for a human being to learn about other people’s society, the way they live, and to respect it.

I struggled, but I learned English, and look what I am doing now, writing this story in a language I never thought I would learn back when I was only 16 years old. I failed Math, and got great marks in Canadian History, Arts and Hairstyling. I learned the Canadian Anthem – in English and in French for that matter – I gained some pounds, I went to parties, I felt cold – really really cold – I fell on the ice, I cried, I laughed, I learned, I made friends for the rest of my life, I fell in love, and I lived every single day as if it was the last one.

The thing of an exchange program is that it makes you grow up, to become mature, maybe in a pace so fast that you can’t notice it by yourself. It gives you freedom to be who you really want to be, to discover yourself, to see the World and not only YOUR World, it also teaches you that goodbye is a real painful thing, and that no one can take away from you the moments you lived and the memories you’ve made.

My exchange year in Canada left a mark on my heart, it taught me that I should always cherish each day, even when it’s bad, it made me who I am today, a traveler, a citizen of the World. When it was over, I knew I would never be the same young girl I was when I left home, what I didn’t know was that I would remember it everyday for the rest of my life.

Canada is a part of my life since then, today the memories are as vivid as they were 10 years ago. I regret though, I regret complaining about the language, the cold, the city… but I am happy I regret that, it just means it was especial, it was worth it. And if you ask me if I would do it again, I say yes, I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t done it.

There is one thing I didn’t learn with my exchange year in Canada: to say goodbye. And that I knew the moment I had to say goodbye to my friends, and when I saw tears in the eyes of my homestay family. I guess we aren’t supposed to learn that, this way we appreciate moments and people, and that’s what makes them become part of our hearts.

It is with great love that I thank here my homestay family for accepting me into their home between September 2004 and June 2005: you made my year complete and gained a very especial place in my heart and in my memory. You became my family, and it makes me happy to keep in touch with you and to see the progress of each one of you. I will always miss you.

To my dear friends who made part of my journey when we were all in the same situation, facing the same difficulties and changes, growing up and learning together: each one of you made this year even more especial and unforgettable, I couldn’t have done it without you, and I will never forget what I’ve learned with you and the moments we shared together.

For those of you embarking into this experience remember:

You will never be the same, enjoy intensely and be prepared for when it’s over, but be sure of one thing: you will miss these days everyday of your life.


Have you ever been an exchange student? Where did you go? How was it? If you are going to be one soon, where are you going? What are your expectations? Your experiences are very welcome and I would love to hear from you…


About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • What a beautiful post Allane! It’s true how living in different countries changes you as a person! I can almost relate to your story as I left my sunny Singapore at 16 to live in Aberdeen, Scotland! I arrived in the summer of 1992 (yes you now know my age!

    • Awwwwn dear Farianti how nice is to learn a bit more about you!! I would never guess left your country so young and neither your age 😀 I’m bad at Math so font worry, I won’t sum up the years haahaha 😀 I guess we both understand each other in these crazy and amazing experiences of our lives… Im very happy you felt like sharing your story, it sounds really interesting to me!! I am very happy that you enjoyed the post and felt related to that too 😀

      • Lol! Don’t worry, I used to fail Math at school too but then went on to do an Accounting Qualification in my early 20’s and worked in Finance & Accounting for almost all my working life!! Crazy me!!

        • Oh my God!!! Really??? hahaha I would never guess that! Way to go, you are brave 😀

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    Must have been such an educational experience – you must have felt like a new person after embarking on this exchange – I’ve never done an exchange but often wondered what it would be like so great to read your experiences.

    • Thank you Shikha!! Im happy you enjoyed reading about my experience! Yes, an exchange program is an amazing thing to do, I hope you can experience something like this one day… we learn so much!! 🙂

  • A wonderful post and I am so glad to hear your time here was so special. Winnipeg of course is notorious for its frigid winters so you had a true Canadian experience!

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Sue!! hahaha yes I had a real Canadian experience, and I loved it! 😀

  • What a lovely post and an amazing experience to have at such a young age! I’ve lived in several places abroad as an adult, but I think your experience as a teenager was really special.

    • It was really special, you you end up becoming an adult at a young age… it was the best experience of my life 🙂 but as you, I also lived in other countries as an adult, still do, and I have to say that the first one is the most unforgettable one and it prepares you to the next ones 😀

  • Sha

    Sounds like an awesome time Allane! But at such a young age, I’m pretty sure those must have been a frustrating period for you too so I’m happy that you can look back fondly on those days.

    I wish I could have gone on an exchange back when I was still schooling but it was just too expensive for my family back then so I only started to travel when I started working. But oh well! What matters is the now..:)

    • Hi Sha!! It was amazing…at the end I just didnt want to leave 😀 it was when I realized I was supposed to travel the world!

      As you said, what matters is now, and now you have the opportunity to go where you want, and thats awesome 😀

      • Sha

        Oh yes, however limited it may be, I’m grateful that I still get the opportunity to do so now…:D

        • Yes you should be 😀 and I hope you can include Germany on your itinerary soon! You have a place to stay already 😀

          • Sha

            Awww, thanks for the offer…you have just given me an incentive to make my way there soon…who knows…with a sale, I may be knocking on your doors sooner than you expect me…haha! 🙂

          • yaaaaay that sounds awesome!! I would be more than happy to have you here Sha 😀 come whenever you want!!

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself! 🙂 I spent a Semester in Spain during my Grade 10 year, and it was the most formative time of my life. I learned so much about myself, the person I was, and the person I wanted to become.

    • Hi Rebecca, thank you for sharing your experience 😀 I can imagine how different it was for you and how amazing at the same time… you were another lucky person to have had this opportunity at a young age 😀 I am glad you liked the post!!

  • What a great experience to have. Lovely story and your writing is beautiful!

    • Thank you Amanda, it means a lot to me to know that you enjoy my writing!! 😀 Thank you!

  • Lovely post! Congratulations on surviving a winter in Winnipeg! I’m Canadian I don’t think I could make it through a winter there- ha!

  • Beautiful post! It reminds me so much of my two years in Sweden! (and not only for the snow…). Can you believe that I also left my home 10 years ago? 18 August 2004, and I also published a dedicated post on that day 🙂
    My flatmates became my family, and got good friends for ever. In these last 10 years I’ve said a lot of good bye, cried a lot, I have managed to meet again some of them, keep the hope to meet the others… After living abroad I feel divided and will always miss things from my cities and my friends who are now all around the world.
    But it is worth 🙂

    • Ohhh really?!! Amazing!! Then I guess we perfectly understand each other… I know exactly this feeling of feeling divided, once you live abroad you will always feel like this. Its hard sometimes, but as you said it is for sure worth it! I wouldn’t have done anything differently. You are lucky to have make amazing friends along the way, I also had this chance and miss them very much, but once in a while I meet them around the world 😀 thank you so much for telling me a bit of your story 😀

  • I spent a semester in Chile during college, and I remember almost being driven to tears the first few days I was in Santiago because I couldn’t understand the Chilean accent. Good thing my host family was so amazing and welcoming! Studying abroad was easily the best thing I’ve ever done – I grew up so much more in one semester than in the several years before!

    • How amazing that you lived in Chile!!! I completely understand your situation…my English was very bad when I went to Canada haha. And you are right, in such a short time we grow up way more than in many years, its amazing! For me it was also the best thing I ever did in my life! Thank you so much for sharing your experience…I believe your Spanish is perfect now 😀

  • Awwww….what a special post and clearly a special time in your life! What an experience…these are the kind that change you forever! Have a good weekend!

    • Thank you for your lovely words Diana 🙂 It was really a special time in my life, which I will never forget! It really does change us!! Thank you for reading, I also wish you an amazing weekend!

  • What an amazing experience you had. I’m sure that it must have been challenging but honestly what a life-changing opportunity! I’ve never actually studied in another country but it’s always something I regret not doing. And I think it would have been a spectacular opportunity as a high school student!! Great post 🙂

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Justine 😀 It was indeed amazing, I will never forget that time, it taught me so many things… I wish I was that young again to do it one more time 😀

  • A beautiful post indeed. I hope your adopted family gets to read this!

  • A very touching read Allane 🙂

  • What a wonderful story as always. I can imagine what an amazing experience that must have been and one I wish I’d had done. Don’t think I would have been brave enough!

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Ting! Im very happy you enjoyed the read. Of course you would have been brave too… you never know how much brave you are until you have to face challenging situations 😀

  • Allane, this was beautiful! It looks like you had a wonderful experience and I’m hoping there will be more posts about it! 😀

    • Thank you Vlad! It makes me happy to know that you liked it 😀 It was an amazing experience and I miss this time of my life very very much! And yes, there will be more posts about my life in Canada 😀

  • What a nice story and inspiring! And it must be tough at the beginning to adjust on the living in a different country.
    Exchange student experience I had was on a research fellowship program sponsored through a cooperation of Dutch and Indonesian universities. I spent couple months in NL, worked together with a Dutch student then the Dutch student joined me to Indonesia for a field research together. It was my first living overseas experience. I had good impression about the Netherlands and Europe that led me to return to Europe for my master study a couple years later..long story he-eh..But indeed such experience would not be easy to forget.. 🙂

    • How amazing Indah!! I didnt know the exact story of you moving to NL!! That sounds like a great exchange program… and these experiences change our lives dont they? See, you ended up moving to NL, how amazing is that!!
      And yes, the very beginning was hard, it was the first time I spent so much time away from my mom… but it really taught me a lot of things. After a few weeks I didnt want to move back to Brazil hahaha 😀

      • 😀 I felt the same as well – that I didn’t want to return back home 😉 how funny!

        • hahahaha I can imagine, and maybe thats why you ended up leaving your country too 😀 I guess that happens with a lot of people after they live abroad once!

  • That’s a big step to take as a teenager. I bet you left feeling really proud of yourself :3

    • Yes you are right!! It was a big step, but as a teenager I didnt realize that back then. Today I know it was a big step and think that I was very brave… I had no idea what was waiting for me 😀

  • Such a sweet post. It’s amazing how a travel experience that happened so long ago can still have such an impact. Love it!

    • Hi Taylor, thank you for the comment and for stopping by 😀 Yes, it is amazing right? But its true, my exchange year was a very important time in my life, and it really does have an impact in my life until today! 😀 Did you also have an experience like this?

      • Oh yes, lots of travel experiences have shaped who I am today – even some of those that happened years and years ago. I guess that’s one of the things I really love about travelling. 🙂

        • I totally agree with you… that’s what makes traveling so addictive 😀

  • Beautiful photos of Canada!! It looks like you had an amazing exchange year there. I am so glad to hear my home country had such a profound impact on your life!!

    • Thank you 😀 happy that you liked it!!
      Ohh yes, your home country does have a profound impact on my life… I have great memories, and I must go back sometime soon, I would love to see some parts I didnt see and of course, visit my homestay family 😀 thank you for your nice comment and for stopping by 😉

  • That is so cool. We have hosted exchange students for the last 5 years! It’s always neat to read another student’s perspective.

    • Thank you!! Wow, how nice of you to host students!! My family in Canada were so nice to me, I really miss that time… such a unique experience!! 😀 glad you liked the post!

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