Student Spotlight: Mabel Figueiredo | Assiniboine Community College
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Student Spotlight: Mabel Figueiredo

Student Spotlight: Mabel Figueiredo

Written On: 21 March, 2017
Category: Student Spotlight
Related programs:  Land & Water Management

“I always wanted to live abroad. Not only study, but live and learn about other cultures,” said Mabel Figueiredo, a first-year Land & Water Management student.

Since 2003, she has worked in a variety of places including Portugal, Texas, Trinidad and Tobago, and different locations across Brazil. “I think this is a dream that I’ve always wanted. Living for four months in Portugal was not enough so I wanted more. That’s why I’m here.”

Mabel, who just celebrated her fortieth birthday, is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She studied as a history teacher but never worked as one. After finishing college, she went to Portugal to work abroad, later returning home to complete a radio operator course to work offshore on an oil rig. After that, she became a safety officer on a vessel and then eventually a rig. 

Studying Land & Water Management at Assiniboine is a natural progression for Mabel because her safety officer job involved providing safe procedures and safe measures to avoid harming the environment. The preservation of the environment was something that Mabel was always interested in and has become a natural fit in her career progression. 

“What I like about Canada is the safety,” said Mel. She loves Rio de Janeiro; it is as pretty as Vancouver in her opinion with the mountains, ocean and lakes. But with any large city comes challenges, sometimes related to personal safety. “Here I can study at ACC until 9 p.m. at night and walk to my house holding my phone, and I will end my journey with my phone in hand and be alive. Safety is the most important thing,” said Mabel. 

In 1997, she met a Quebec family that shared their experiences about their country, its beauty and the near-cliché politeness of Canadians. Mabel was intrigued and wanted to see ‘heaven on this planet’ for herself. In 2014, she had the opportunity to come to Canada to study English in Vancouver for the oil and gas industry. With awe and gratitude in her voice, she said, “Canada is amazing, I want to go back! That’s why I’m here.”

But not everything is as easy to adapt to in a new country. “I miss our food the most. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough Brazilians here, so we don’t have a shelf in Superstore yet,” said Mabel with mirth. She misses farofa, a seasoning flour added to rice and beans. She also longs for the soothing sounds, sights and smells of the ocean.

And there’s one tradition from home she misses in particular. “In Rio, New Year’s is a big deal. You either go to the beaches; they have these big fireworks in Copacabana Beach, or you stay in your house with family and with a lot of people together,” said Mabel. She has been working offshore for the past ten years and has missed many family gatherings and New Year’s celebrations.  

The most academically challenging portion of her immersion at Assiniboine was comprehension of technical terms. In the Environmental Technologies program, there are lots of theories and terms that build on each other which makes it difficult for students if they cannot translate these terms to their base knowledge. “I was trying to understand what ground water means and sometimes I thought I was relating to something that I understood in Brazil but it wasn’t exactly the same,” said Mabel. 

Culture shock is something that most international students experience at one time or another. Mabel found that although most Canadians are reserved compared to Brazilians, they are a lot friendlier and helpful overall. “They are really friendly; real friends, not just acquaintances that just wave and smile at you,” said Mabel.

It was an easier language transition for her than most. “I was lucky enough to go to a very good Catholic school when I was a kid since age four. When I was eleven, my father put me in an English course,” she said. ACC offers great services that make your student life easier. “The learning curve is amazing. There is a very strong support system here,” she said.  

Mabel is happy to be studying at Assiniboine and looks forward to living and working in Canada after graduation.

Mabel Figueiredo stands inside the library at the college's Victoria Avenue East Campus.

Above: Mabel Figueiredo stands inside the library at the college's Victoria Avenue East Campus.