Harrison - University of British Columbia

B Engineering(Hons)/Mathematics
Semester 1, 2019

Academic experience

I studied four electrical engineering courses at UBC that were each four credits. This meant that I did not need to add any 'filler' courses to cover my full-time study load. My lecturers were all knowledgable and their passion for their respective fields shone through. My lecturers for my Digital Systems Design and Electromagnetic Waves courses were particularly exemplary and were always happy to speak with students before and after class. 

The enrolment process took longer than I expected. I was not accepted into UBC until mid-November, even though my initial UQ Abroad application was submitted at the end of June. About a week after receiving my acceptance, UBC sent me a link to an online form to enter up to ten course preferences. I was enrolled into my courses based on the preferences I submitted. I had some enrolment issues with my courses as the class timetables at UBC are much more restrictive than at UQ. After being put on the waitlist for one of my courses, I visited the UBC Go Global student exchange office and they were able to enrol me in a course that worked with my timetable and was approved in my UQ study plan. 

The biggest challenge I faced in my studies at UBC was finding help for assignments. Unlike at UQ, my courses at UBC had very few tutorials or lab hours where I was able to speak to tutors. Two of my courses didn't even have any tutorials. Because of these limited teaching hours, it was often difficult to discuss assignments with tutors as there were other students who also needed help. Many of my lecturers had consultation hours during the week where students could ask about course content. While I couldn't always get assignment help during these hours, I was at least able to discuss the course content with my lecturers, which allowed me to make the most of the limited tutorial time I had.

Personal experience

Going on exchange was a truly life-changing experience, and it is something I would recommend to everyone. My time abroad allowed me to build my independence as it was the first time I had lived alone. I got to meet many new people, particularly fellow exchange students. On some weekends we went sightseeing together throughout Vancouver, including Gastown, Stanley Park and Lynn Canyon Park. It was great to meet people from around the world and learn about their cultures and life at home. 

During the reading break (mid-semester break) I went on a tour to Whitehorse in the territory of Yukon to see the Northern Lights. This was a fantastic experience as I was able to meet people from all around Canada on the tour, and I was able to see some of the wildlife that Canada is famous for. Even though I wasn’t able to see the Northern Lights due to the weather, I’d recommend that everyone take a trip north to see the lights and Canada’s wilderness.

After my exchange I also went travelling with one of my friends. We travelled throughout the United States to Los Angeles, Orlando and New York. This was one of the highlights of my time abroad and I’d encourage anyone who goes on exchange to make the most of their time by going travelling before or after the university semester.


I lived on-campus at the Walter Gage residence. I found that the best part of living on-campus was the location as I was able to get to my classes within about ten minutes from my residence. Living on-campus also made it very easy to use public transport as there were about fifteen different bus routes that I could take easily to various locations. UBC’s housing staff were very helpful in organising my accommodation. I completed a form online that allowed me to set my preferences for my residence and shortly after being accepted at UBC, I received my acceptance for my residence. I was able to email the housing staff to ask questions and they responded quickly. I heard that housing in Vancouver is generally expensive, so I would recommend that you at least apply to stay at an on-campus residence. If you eventually decide to stay off-campus, you can always cancel your on-campus accommodation application.


I found that generally the costs of living in Vancouver are a bit higher than in Brisbane. Most groceries seemed to be a bit more expensive than in Brisbane, but food at restaurants was about the same price. My on-campus housing cost about $3700 for the semester. Public transport in Vancouver is very convenient and as a UBC student I paid $41 per month as part of my student fees for unlimited public transport during the semester. There are lots of things to do in Vancouver at all price ranges, including visiting the many parks, going to sporting events, or going hiking. I would recommend budgeting at least $6500 for food, rent, and other living expenses.


One of the challenges I found was getting to know people at UBC. As I went in my third year, many people in my classes stayed within their group of friends. I found that the best way to meet people was to meet other exchange students as they would be more open to making new friends, and would be interested in going sightseeing around the city.

Professional Development

When I was at UBC I went to the UBC Technical Careers Fair where I was able to meet representatives from a variety of North American technology companies, including Apple and Google. This was a great experience as I was able to hear about different internship opportunities, and I was able to hear about the extracurricular activities these companies look for in candidates for internships and jobs.


There were many highlights of my time in Vancouver, but the one that stands out most was my trip to Whitehorse to see the Northern Lights. I really enjoyed looking around the city and seeing the local wildlife. I also enjoyed going to the hockey in Vancouver and getting to speak with other passionate Vancouver Canucks fans.

Top tips

- Look online for more information about the courses you pick. Particularly look at forums so that you can get more information about how each course is run and what the assessment is like. I found it very difficult to find information about my courses, and it was helpful to hear about how past students have found the courses. It is important that you find a good set of courses to take so that you don’t have to spend all of your time studying.

- Open a bank account at the Royal Bank of Canada On-Campus branch in the UBC Nest. Most other banks said that I was not staying in Canada long enough to qualify for a bank account, but I was able to open a bank account at the Royal Bank of Canada which was especially helpful for managing my Canadian dollars.

- Use TransferWise to transfer Australian dollars to your Canadian bank account easily and cheaply. 

- Go to some UBC sports events to meet other students and to get involved in events that show off the university spirit.