Three weeks of quality family time, reconnecting with childhood friends and taking a break from the winter winds.

2023 brought some big changes for me; I went from working in the fast-food industry to working in my field of study as a writer at IGNITE, went on my first-ever cottage trip, and successfully juggled three jobs plus school, I truly tried to do it all (thanks to coffee, energy drinks and more coffee).

While it was an amazing year – one where I met one of my best friends, experienced Canadian winter and stayed on top of my academic game – there was this lingering feeling that something was missing.

For some context, I’m an international student from Brazil, with my entire family and hometown friends living there. It had been a full year since I last saw them and homesickness had been a recurring theme at this point.

So, as soon as my last class on Dec. 15 wrapped up, I finished packing and hopped on an evening flight to a destination full of memories and comfort. The best part? It’s summertime in Brazil during this time of the year, so it was the perfect opportunity to escape from the winter chill for a little bit.

Over those three weeks, I got to see my family and friends and enjoy being back home after a whole year. Here are some of my favourite activities and experiences from my winter break in Brazil – my home.

Legs on top of a luggage in an airport.
Photo credits: Fernando Bossoes

The sunny beaches

A picture in a beach in Vila Velha, Espirito Santo, Brazil.
Photo credits: Fernando Bossoes

You might be wondering, “Hey, we’ve got beaches in Toronto!” And you’re absolutely correct, we do. But let me tell you, the ones down in Brazil just hit different!

I come from a coastal city in Brazil and beaches are one of our main attractions. Picture ocean beaches with waves for surfing and body surfing. And the weather? Oh, it’s on whole other level! While Torontonians were experiencing a warm winter with temperatures around seven degrees, my hometown was rocking a summer high of 35 degrees (it’s okay to be jealous!).

In hot weather like that, not only do you need your coconut water by your side, but you absolutely can’t forget to wear sunscreen! I forgot to wear it on the first day and I ended up peeling for the next week and a half – lesson learned, people, get your SPF on!

A picture of coconut water.
Photo credits: Fernando Bossoes

Local food

Traditional Brazilian food, a classic Brazilian self-service dish on the left and a classic Brazilian barbecue on the right.
Photo credits: Fernando Bossoes

For all my fellow international students out there, you know the feeling – nothing beats the taste of your home country’s food!

The moment my flight touched down, I headed straight to a classic Brazilian self-service restaurant at the airport. (Yes, I didn’t even wait to get home!). These places are like buffets, but you pay based on how much your plate weighs.

I had to get back to my roots and eat the classic rice and beans, deeply rooted in Brazil’s rich history and culture. Here, seafood is a big deal! I’ve been waiting an entire year to dig into Moqueca Capixaba, a local gem from my hometown made with shrimp or fish and a base with onions, garlic, tomatoes and more. And let’s not forget the traditional Brazilian barbecue – three weeks of pure culinary delight.

As for the traditional snacks and desserts? They’re on a whole other level compared to any McFlurry!

Traditional Brazilian snacks.
Photo credits: Fernando Bossoes

New Year’s Eve

In Brazil, New Year’s is a huge celebration. People come together to watch fireworks and celebrate the start of a new year.

Brazilians have a tradition of wearing white on New Year’s Eve. This originated from the Candomblé religion, where wearing white symbolized seeking peace. But today, everyone wears white simply because it’s tradition.

Fifteen minutes of fireworks and so much celebration! Spending New Year’s Eve with my friends was a really special moment for me.

A picture of fireworks on New Year's Eve in Brazil at the beach.
Photo credits: Fernando Bossoes

If I had to sum up those three weeks back at home, I’d say comfort, food and family.

More important than eating local food and enjoying the warm weather, I truly missed my family. Being an international student brings many challenges, and one of them is being away from your family and childhood friends, so getting to spend three weeks with them after a whole year was nothing less than special.

I acknowledge that being able to spend quality time with loved ones during the winter break is a privilege. I hope you, too, had the opportunity to enjoy the enjoy the holidays with family or friends who feel like family. Whether it was an exciting trip, trying out a new cuisine or just putting your stuff together after the fall semester, share with us on our Instagram!

Are you wondering how IGNITE can elevate your winter semester experience? Here’s how!

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and TikTok for all things student life.