When Rotary exchange student Thales Gagliardi came from Brazil in August, he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
“You guys are way more friendly than I expected you to be,” Gagliardi joked. “Everyone always says that North Americans are more reserved.”
Gagliardi has and will be staying with a number of Rotarians here in Invermere until he leaves in July. He says that while everyone has been very friendly, the new culture and weather have been a challenge to adapt to.
One of his first experiences with Canadian culture came when he first arrived in Canada and he went for a walk with his host-brother into town to get a feel for the area.
Upon arriving at the local ice cream shop Gagliardi volunteered to stay outside and watch the bikes and the dog, only to be told to his amazement that it wasn’t really necessary.
“In Brazil, even the dog would be gone,” he remarked.
Gagliardi also finds people are less religiously inclined here in Canada. In Brazil, he says, there are many disputes over religious beliefs, and he’s seen friendships destroyed over differences of faith. He’s also noted that while Canadians have been quite friendly, there is a distinct lack of body contact.
In Brazil, upon meeting someone it is customary to give them a hug, or a kiss on the cheek, while in Canada Gagliardi says people barely even shake hands.
Gagliardi got the idea to do an exchange in Canada because most of his family had also done exchanges at one time or another, and he thought it would be a great opportunity for him.
Having now been here for several months, he highly recommends any kind of exchange program, saying that if you get a chance and don’t do it, “you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
“My father travelled the world when he was in the army, and he always said that we have to learn that the world is bigger than we think it is,” Gagliardi said. “We don’t have a chance to see that until we get out of our homes.”
Since arriving in Invermere Gagliardi has found one new love: snowboarding.
Having never snowboarded before in his life — the closest he’d come was sand-boarding — he says it’s his new favourite sport.
He also says he has learned a lot during his time here, not the least of which is to treat everyone with respect.
“I’ve learned to always pay mind to your family and friends, because these are the people that care for you, and will back you up for everything,” Gagliardi said.
“Also, always get other people’s point of view, because the way you think of something is not going to be the same way other people look at things. Most of all, listen when other people are talking, because some amazing stories will be heard.”
However, when asked what he’ll miss most when he does return to Brazil, the answer wasn’t quite what you’d expect.
“When I need to think about coming back to Brazil, and having the idea that all the people I’m meeting here, all the friends I’ve made—it’s just like a dream,” he explained.
“You picture some people who are awesome, and interesting and amazing, but you wake up and they’re not there anymore… except, it is almost worse, because you know those people will still be there, and you don’t know where, or if you’re going to have a chance to see them again. I’m trying to keep my mind off of it but it’s definitely the toughest part about being here.”