Student Experience – Luiz Abdenur
What’s it really like to move to Vancouver for a graduate degree? We spoke with Luiz Abdenur about moving from Brazil with his wife, son, dog and cat.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m from Brazil and I graduated in 1997 with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. I then did an MSc in Management of Transportation in Sweden, and I’ve spent the past 12 years working for the mining company Vale on capital-intensive greenfield and brownfield projects at ports.
Why did you decide to pursue an MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering?
A lot of my work in recent years has focused on land-based infrastructure projects. However, as a naval architect working for so long away from the marine industry, I felt that the MEL would allow me to get up to date on the latest technical developments as well as the managerial style of working in North America.
You moved here with your family. Can you tell us about them?
I’ve been married for 23 years and I have two sons, two dogs and a cat.
How did you navigate the move to Vancouver?
Because of my profession, we were used to moving quite frequently. But moving to another country is a larger challenge, and I’d never been to Vancouver. I hired a firm to help me with the visa application process. I applied in late July and we received our visas in late September.
What was your experience of finding a place to live?
Although I had initially planned to arrive sometime in December, I decided to come earlier because I heard it was difficult to find a place that would accept pets. My wife and I flew here in late November (along with one of our dogs) and spent 10 days in an Airbnb to search for somewhere to live. We found an apartment in East Vancouver, 50 minutes by bus from UBC. That’s not too close to campus, but not too far away either.
My wife then went back to Brazil to wrap things up and she and our younger son (and cat) came in January. It’s not hard to bring your pets – you just need to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated on schedule, complete some forms and pay a fee.
How’s the transition to Vancouver been for your family?
It’s been great. My son integrated very quickly and completed Grade 7 in June. My wife has been taking some language courses, but the classes weren’t that good and they were very expensive.
I underestimated the effort required in the initial months when you move to a new country with your family. In some ways, it would have been wise for me to wait for six months before they joined me, but had I done so, my son wouldn’t have been able to enrol in school if he was here for less than a year. Having my family with me has required additional effort, but it is also wonderful that they are here.
Graduate school and family life must keep you busy. Have you been able to pursue any extra-curriculars?
During my first term, I seldom missed an opportunity to interact with people – staying late at university or going downtown to meet others. You need to interact with people to discover opportunities. I would advise other students that it’s worthwhile to go to conferences, seminars and presentations. The number of opportunities you end up having during social events is amazing.
I’m also involved on campus as the Chair of the UBC Student Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and as the Vice President of the MEL in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering program.
After graduation, I’ll see what opportunities arise, but for sure staying and working in Canada is one of my alternatives.
Vancouver is known for its grey and rainy winters. How was your experience coming from Brazil?
Well, we do have rain in Brazil. But it’s true that Vancouver’s weather did affect our mood. And we only figured out that when the sun came back sometime around May. Next winter we’ll try and do more winter sports, like skiing. We’re used to so much sun living in Brazil – it was actually nice to see the snow when it did come for a few days here and there.
Anything you miss most about Brazil?
Yes – family, friends, food and the weather.
What’s been your most typically Canadian/Vancouver experience?
We have recently done quite a few small trips by car to the surrounding cities. It is such a wonderful landscape with so many things to do that you end up at some point feeling anxious to get to know everything! Budgeting to explore different locations is worth the investment.
What do you like most about living here?
In two words: peace and respect.
What’s your favourite place to study or hang out on campus?
The places I like the most on campus are actually the MEL Studio and the Starbucks coffee shop right on the corner. The swimming centre is also an amazing facility that I recommend to anyone who likes to swim.
Any advice for quickly developing a sense of community?
Try to get involved as a volunteer in your kid’s school, in a community centre or in any organization that is open to volunteers. It’s a very good way to practise your English, get to know people and the local culture, and to have fun.