Thimal - University of British Columbia

B Laws/Economics
Semester 2, 2018
Our time is short.

Academic experience

At UQ I study Law and Economics, but I managed to save my economic electives for exchange. This made my application process so much easier and straightforward and I thoroughly recommend trying to save as many electives as possible for your exchange, especially since with UBC priority is given to non-exchange students for subject selection and we are kind of just left with the scraps- I know many people that couldn’t enrol in the subjects they needed to receive credit, so try be as flexible as possible. It also allows you to choose subjects that you would actually want to study, which given the huge diversity in the subjects offered at UBC, is a great opportunity.


So, in terms of the actual workload at UBC, whilst a full time course load is 5 subjects rather than 4, I found the workload more or less equivalent to UQ. Each subject has less content and is a little bit easier in my opinion. One thing I really liked about UBC is that it is far more like a classroom environment, so you may have to be brave and answer a question or two every now and then. But I felt I got to know my professors and classmates at lot more at UBC than I ever have at UQ just because the class sizes are a lot smaller.
Also, this may be a little bit controversial, but the only tiny regret I have from exchange is that I studied a little too much- especially when it is simply pass/fail. Obviously make sure to attend class, study for exams and remain diligent- but honestly if you do those things you’ll easily pass with flying colours. So my advice weirdly is don’t study too hard and don’t get too stressed.

Personal experience

I used to always make a concerted effort to make fun of my friends who said “exchange was the best days of my life”, but after actually going on it- definitely realised where they are coming from. You are in truly unique environment, with people your own age from all around the world in a new country, all eager to explore and embrace new experiences. And one of the best things about UBC’s exchange is that it attracts a certain kind of people, adventurous, love to hike, love nature, definitely like to party and really friendly- after all the type of people that apply to come on exchange don’t move overseas to sit indoors by themselves, so I found making friends super easy + you are all stuck in the same boat at the start of not knowing anyone else.


In terms of travel I was fortunate enough to travel for roughly 4 months globally before I arrived in Canada, so I didn’t have the funding to travel much when I got to Vancouver. But I still managed to go to Victoria, Seattle, the Sunshine Coast (the Canadian one), the Rocky Mountains and the East Coast of America after exchange with some friends I had made.


For me, exchange really expanded my view of the world, since you meet fellow exchange students from pretty much every corner of the earth, and it is truly amazing how accelerated your friendships become when you're on exchange. People who I knew for really only 5 months, are now lifelong friends to me. My biggest advice, even though it is a bit cliche, is save as much money as you can, say yes to as many opportunities you can, do not be afraid to put yourself out there and make the most of every single day when you are on exchange. It goes by really quickly, and as I always told my friends when they said they were too tired to go to a party or go on a hike- you can sleep when you're dead.

Accommodation

Get on campus accommodation. At Fairview Crescent. Cannot stress that enough. UBC is one of the most beautiful campuses in the world and the atmosphere is amazing. Fairview is like a cute Nordic village where they place the majority of exchange students. The fact I was placed there made my exchange all the more amazing. The community is always buzzing, the residency groups host a lot of activities (like one nearly every night), there is always a party going on somewhere and you live so close to your friends. The accommodation itself is not that flash and is pretty basic, but if you are spending a lot of time in your room- you are doing exchange wrong.


The majority of exchange activities occur on campus as well and whilst I know a lot of people that lived off campus that had an amazing exchange nonetheless, I would still highly recommend trying to get on-campus accommodation. Vancouver’s rent prices are some of the worst in the world (comparable to Sydney’s!) and I found on campus accommodation to be pretty reasonable given the location and convenience. You can apply via UBC’s housing website and moving in was also really easy.

Costs

So I’m not going include my expenses on my pre-exchange travels (my only advice there is don’t be like me), but in terms of actual exchange, including accommodation I would budget at minimum $8000. But it you want to have a good time, travel a bit and go out, I would bump that potentially up to $10,000.  It really helped that the Canadian dollar is near 1 to 1 to the Australian. Whilst tipping and the fact that they don’t include tax in the price is super annoying, I think you will find most things equivalently priced to Australia. But my honest motto the entire time I was there was "Who wants to be the richest guy in the graveyard!", so try save as much as you can.

Challenge

Look I'll be honest. Coming into a super tolerant. friendly country, where everyone speaks English, with an really robust exchange program that looks after its exchange students and tries to connect people with eachother, surrounded by a lot of natural beauty and some really cool people; my only honest challenge was the constant rain in November (which can get annoying) and Canada's terrible coffee and cheese. But other than that, there really wasn't many challenges for me.

Professional Development

Despite all the partying and nature, its still important to acknowledge that UBC is one the best universities in the world and the staff and students there are really bright. I took it as a great opportunity to do a bit of networking, especially with some of the professors since a lot of them are highly touted in their field and are often really friendly.
Outside of this, exchange really helps build your independence, proactiveness, pushes your social skills and times even your resilience. Whilst a lot of these things may not show up on a resume, they definitely do show in your professional personality and you will notice some changes.

Highlight

Now this is a tough one too many to count. From the sunsets and bonfires with my friends at Wreck Beach (the amazing beach on campus), to kayaking in the Canadian wilderness next to seals, all the breathtaking hikes within driving distance around Vancouver- it really is hard to choose. But as corny and lame as it sounds, the highlight for me was the people. Don’t know if I got lucky or something, but I just met some incredible and really like-minded people who pushed me to cool/crazy things and try make the most out of every day.

Top tips

1)    Join and get involved in UBC’s Student Exchange Club! The events and parties organised by these guys is how I met a lot of my friends and they organise the best trips. They were a big factor in making exchange great.
2)    If you can drive, register and get a Zipcard- this allows you to easily rent out a car. You’ll be a hero amongst your friends since you can take them to all the hiking spots/getaways. Its quite affordable with a student discount as well.
3)    Get an ESTA approval (the United States Visa Waiver), Vancouver is right near the US border and you are bound to go over at least once. US border guards are not nice, so make sure to come prepared with documents.
4)    Buy a really good set of waterproof hiking shoes, just trust me on this it rains a lot
5)    Explore campus as much as possible, there are so many cool spots- my favourite was Pacific Spirit National Park.
6)    Make sure to join and keep active on the Incoming Exchange Student Facebook page- this page is a hotbed of people organising trips and proposing trip ideas. Don’t be afraid to go on a hike or an experience with strangers- that’s how I met some really great friends of mine.
7)    I repeat save as much money as possible
8)    I repeat make the absolute most of everyday you have there, it goes quickly
9) My last and most important piece of advice, is despite all the testimonials and things people tell you- try have no expectations coming in. This is what really allowed me to enjoy exchange to the fullest. Just keep as open a mind as possible and see where things go. You may just surprise yourself.