The great exchange: Brazilian teaching candidate finds cold weather, warm hearts in Winnipeg

December 9, 2022

Adão Lopes da Fonseca feels he was always destined to become a teacher. As a young child growing up in rural Brazil, he remembers constantly suggesting that family members of all ages play school with him, as long as he was the one leading the classes.

His passion for education never waned and he continued his studies with a goal of one day teaching English to the Portuguese-speaking middle and high school students of his homeland — but he never dreamed he’d end up perfecting his second language in Winnipeg.

That is, until he discovered that his excellent grades and achievements made him a prime candidate for an exchange program between post-secondary partners RRC Polytech and Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia do Ceará (IFCE).

It was an opportunity he couldn’t resist.

“It’s no longer something to dream of because I am living proof it can happen!” says Lopes da Fonseca. “I knew very little about the city, but my research warned me it would be frightfully cold, so my family was a bit worried. I was just excited about living a whole new life and making connections with so many new people.”

Adão Lopes da Fonseca, in snow-covered forestLopes da Fonseca’s four-month stint as a visiting student at the College’s Exchange District Campus is about to end, and while he had to wait until his final few weeks for winter to arrive, a recent cold snap has given him a new appreciation of the term “freezing.” As such, he’s grateful for those new people in his life who taught him how to dress to stay warm.

He will soon return home and present a report to his class on all the things he’s learned through the program, before collecting his English-Portuguese teaching certificate and license to teach middle and high school. He received a scholarship to come to Canada from his prospective employer, the Brazilian government, which will benefit from his experience observing classes, participating in lectures and seminars, and studying English for Academic Purposes teaching methodologies at RRC Polytech’s Language Training Centre (LTC).

“The main challenge to learning English is pronunciation, because in Latin America they have good comprehension, they can read, they can understand really well, but they lack conversation, which is needed to speak confidently,” he says.

“Most of the activities at the LTC are in groups, so when the instructors give out a task, everyone really helps each other and when you see that someone really wants to learn, it gives you the inspiration to give your best as a teacher.”

Lopes da Fonseca says the College provided him with exceptional support, both in his studies and through personal relationships he’ll never forget. He met friendly folks who invited him for homecooked meals, took him on road trips to Winnipeg Beach, and immersed him in the community.

He loved every minute, but says attending an abundance of multicultural celebrations, including the Chinatown Night Market and National Inuit Day, will make him a more effective educator by exposing him to different ways of learning.

Adão Lopes da Fonseca, in front of "Winnipeg" sign at The Forks“The city is really full of people from all around the world, and being able to meet people from all the communities that you have here — and see how they share their cultures — was so amazing,” he says.

“Partnerships like the exchange program with IFCE facilitate valuable interactions between international students at various stages of the learning process, and bring diverse and innovative perspectives and techniques from around the world to RRC Polytech,” says Eddy Lau, Director of International Education and Global Partnerships.

“The LTC’s dynamic learning environment is enhanced by bringing people of different cultural backgrounds together and teaching everyone the value of diversity and inclusion, in addition to communication.”

Lopes da Fonseca says he would love to return to study, work and live in Winnipeg again, and will encourage his students to study abroad. He says taking part in the exchange taught him that education is like a colouring book: the black and white pictures are important to provide structure and direction, but experience adds the vibrant splashes of colour that bring those outlines to life.

“Being an exchange student is an experience that you cannot lose if you have the chance. There’s some stuff that you cannot go back and live, so be open to conversations, to go to new places, and use your education to live everything you can.”

Thanks to his academic adventure at RRC Polytech, Lopes da Fonseca’s future students will undoubtedly learn many ways to describe cold in English — but recounting his experiences as an exchange student will always warm their teacher’s heart.

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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