Ashleigh - University of British Columbia

B Psychological Sciences
Semester 1, 2019

Academic experience

I took three 3rd year psych electives: health Psychology, cultural psychology and neuroscience of motivation; and a 2nd year childhood and adolescence developmental psych elective. I also had to take a 5th course, because the full time enrolment equivalent at UBC is 5 courses. The 5th course was not counted towards anything, so I had the flexibility to choose any course in any school. However, I fluffed around too long communicating with UQ to try and get them to let me drop the 5th course. This resulted in my missing out on most of the 1st year fun, bludge courses in high demand. I ended up doing a history course which was interesting but on reflection not the best decision as there were lots of readings to do each week, making it very easy to get caught behind. And, I can promise you this, getting caught behind is almost inevitable as an exchange student. Try and select courses that have exams rather than lots of small assignments. The additional course gives you the opportunity to try something completely different, or something that you've particular passionate about that you haven't been able to do at home. UBC has an impressive array of interesting, and alternative courses, you just have to find it. Their course sight is a bit confusing so you'll have to do some combing through to find what you're looking for. Also, UBC timetables essentially have two streams: there’s (1) Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and (2) Tuesday and Thursday. The Tuesday and Thursday timetable was in high demand. They are a long two days but well worth it because if you keep up to date you essentially have a 4 day weekend. This makes a huge difference as you're able to ski more, hike more, and just do more really. It makes it far easier to spend your weekends away from Vancouver. The campus is about 45mins from the city centre, and 2.5hrs away from Whistler.

Personal experience

Exchange truly is the place to find long term friends and learn a bit more about yourself whether it be academically or personally. The courses I took were incredible. The professors had more autonomy when it came to the structure of course and teaching. This made for a more personal, and engaging experience. Perhaps it was a combo of both the teachers and the content but my semester in Canada gave me the confidence that Psychology was where I wanted to be. I learned so much. This experience has illuminated the possibilities that psychology has to offer as a degree. There are so many different and interesting areas to go into. I couldn't recommend the university and it's teaching faculty more. 

I was fortunate enough to find an incredible bunch of friends straight off the bat. I didn't come on exchange with anyone I would have called  friend but I did know about four other UQ students prior to coming abroad. One who was even from my course at UQ. For that reason it made my life a-lot easier settling in and finding friends as we tended to gravitate towards each other. The first couple of days and weeks are essential in finding the people you will be spending the rest of your exchange together. Don't say no to any organised activities. Make an effort to leace campus every weekend. If that means a 5:30am bus to whistler to ski with people you only just met, seriously just do it. You learn to be very efficient with your time. A skill I hope to bring home. Get your uni work done as soon as you hear wind of an assignment or homework task. 

Reading week. Reading week is their mid semester break. There will be a lot of talk about who's going where and doing what. If you can, try and get a group together to get further out of Vancouver. This is the biggest chunk of time you have during the semester, and it's not easy to travel far out of Vancouver on your days of during the week. We booked an air bnb for the week in whistler. This was an incredible week, however, some people went and explored other ski resorts like Banff or rocking horse, whilst others went as far as Cuba, Hawaii or even New York.


I lived on campus in a residence called Fairview crescent. It's where they put all the exchange students. I loved it, as you called walk to your friend’s house in minutes, or all meet up at the coffee house in the middle. It was like a little village, with a real community air about it. I knew a few people who were unhappy with their residence and asked to change into Fairview instead. The only thing is that it was one of the furthest residence from my classes, taking about 15mins to get to class each morning. However, one thing that was a bit of a shock that they didn't make it abundantly clear was how bare the residence would be. They provide you a bed, desk, oven, fridge and microwave. The first couple days were quite stressful. We were only given one day to move in, get all the stuff we needed and orient ourselves before classes started the following day.


Save up way more than you’ve budgeted for. There are a lot of unexpected costs i.e. daily ski passes, Coachella and after exchange travel through America. You’ll be pretty comfortable with $15k but I had friends spend upward of $20k. Accomodation wasn’t cheap. At about $450, Fairview was the cheapest on campus residence. I didn’t know anyone who opted to stay off campus so I’m not sure how it compares but I’ve heard housing in Vancouver is quite competitive.


Going for the winter season is a bit more challenging but well worth it for the skiing. There is far less support from the uni and from the clubs and societies. Apparently, Term 1 they have a week of activities and opportunities to get involved in uni life. This was not the case for us. From most the people i talked to, there was a general consensus that the first week was tough emotionally. You arrive on move in day and the campus is dead. There's nothing really happening until the following couple of days. this was a hard adjustment period. The residence is bare and you left feeling pretty lonely. I was lucky to have known some people from UQ so I made sure to meet up with them as soon as I arrived in Vancouver. There was little to no information about clubs or societies to join. All we had was word of mouth. The exchange society was a huge help. They organised a few trips away during the semester and weekly activities to help stay connected. 

I also had a hard time with my timetable and ridiculous amount of assessment given 5 courses. All 4 of my psych courses had two midterm exams and a final exam, with one of the courses splitting each midterm into two separate exams. This resulted in me having 5 exams within 1 week twice throughout the semester. This was in particular incredible stressful as I’d never faced anything like that before, with UQ usually balancing out assignment and exams across the semester. However, this did provide me with more flexibility during the semester as long as I kept up to date with the content we were learning each week so I didn’t have to spend too much time studying or writing assignments outside of class.

Professional Development

As much as exchange is considered a study experience, you are doing a lot of socialising. I truly believe that the social aspect is invaluable to a students personal and professional development. Having gone to UQ with friends from school I forgot what it was like to be put in a position that can be both exciting and daunting. At times it can be alienating. This experience taught to be adaptable in an environment where I had no real safety net to fall back on. I feel more capable now in transitioning from university life into the workforce. I have confidence in my ability to make connections with people and do things that I would have otherwise never thought possible. It is a transformative experience that you'd have trouble finding elsewhere.


Whistler in itself was a weekly weekend highlight. We were fortunate enough to know a few people who lived there so we were able to stay the night for free and ski the whole weekend, heading back down Sunday evening. However, our month-long RV road trip down the west coast of America would have to top it. Six exchange students in a motorhome for 36 days after exams was not a small feat. I can’t possibly emphasise what a once in a lifetime opportunity an experience like that is. We couldn’t have chosen a better a better send off.

Top tips

- Buy a Whistler season pass in advance. Don’t do what I did and arrive in January only to find out they don’t sell them anymore, resulting in you buying $170 day passes. After my third purchase I did however learn that you can get 25% off day passes by using your friends season pass. 
- Go to sports junkies in Vancouver to hire skis or snowboards for $200 for the entire season 
- Sign up to Evo, car share.
- Don't hesitate to buy appliances or extra little furnishings for your room. It's worth it and makes your place feel that little but more comfortable. You'll thank yourself and wish you hadn't done it sooner. On that note, to make like a bit cheaper and easier bring over your own bed sheets and whatever else because that first month of getting established was a serious unexpected shock to the bank account.