Hamilton, Ontario. First choice for many Brazilian students

By Fatima Mesquita

The number of Brazilians studying abroad has been increasing year by year. According to the most recent data gathered by the Brazilian Tourism and Exchange Agencies’ Association, BELTA, in 2017 more than 300 people packed their suitcases and left Brazil to live new experiences and learn new competencies. And for more than a decade, their preferred destination has been Canada.

Canada has a 23% share of this market and received an impressive volume of 70,000 Brazilian students in 2017. Their choice, as revealed by Belta’s research, is the result of many factors combined. A significant one is, of course, the better exchange rate when compared with other currencies, but the final decision also weights things like the country’s multiculturalism, the welcoming of foreigners, safety in general, and its high-quality schools. But, more than everything else, the quality of life.

Canada has, indeed, the good habit of scoring high in many comparative pieces of research amongst city and countries all over the globe. In the most recent study commissioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for instance, it was ranked in 5th. place – while Brazil appeared in the 34th.position.


Brazilian students’ top priority is still to learn English, with a decrease in their interest for high school exchange programs and a greater demand for professional certifications from colleges, and undergraduate programs, as well as masters and doctorates.

This new trend is easy to understand. At one end, we have people looking for ways to shine in the highly competitive Brazilian job market. At the other, Canada offers nine of the top 200 universities of the world, according to the prestigious ranking of Times Higher Education for 2019.

At the top of this, depending on the course, Canada lets their international students work up to 20 hours per week, with the possibility of getting a special permit to stay in the country — where we find the highest immigration per capita index in the world — after finishing their program.

Although Canada is a bilingual country, 80% of all Brazilian students come for English courses, staying either in Toronto or Vancouver. The other 20% whose interest is French, choose Montreal – the majority — or Quebec City. But there is a new and very interesting trend popping up – the city of Hamilton.


Only 68 km away from Toronto, Hamilton is a medium city a little short of 550,000 dwellers. But because it’s home to McMaster – the 4th best university in Canada and 77th best in the world – as well as to the reputable Mohawk College, the city has an international, smart and very lively vibe with a whole range of festivals, cultural and sporting events (the Pan Am soccer games were all played there!).

Moreover, Hamilton which has a strong industrial past, is quite green. It shares with Burlington the gigantic Royal Botanical Gardens and offers the incredible chance of seeing deer strolling freely during the winter around Paradise Cootes, an area near the main McMaster campus.

Right between Ontario Lake and the Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton has more than 100 waterfalls open for visitation, with beautiful trails suited for hikers of all levels of experience. All this and you are just a few kilometers away from Niagara Falls and its wine production belt.

Other highlights of Hamilton are its solid network of hospitals and doctors (a sweet collateral of McMaster’s medical program) and the city’s diverse population. After all, it’s not easy to find a place in Canada where you can simply step out and find the taste of home, buying kibbeh, coxinha, palm oil, manioc flour, chayote, okra and frozen cheese puffs… Well, not to mention that the city has a lower cost of living than any other metropolis in the country.