Wade - University of British Columbia

B. Business Management / Commerce
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

For my semester at UBC I decided to use my general electives offered by the Bachelor of Business Management/Commerce program. I took subjects that interested me and differed from the courses I usually undertake, this allowed me to gain a good overview of many of the university's faculties. Taking courses in Earth Sciences, Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology and Cognitive Science also meant that I had a reduced workload in comparison to usual, I would say this was a big factor. UBC has a 5-course full-time system, but I found individual courses were less taxing than UQ. However, class attendance is essential as there are no lecture recordings and most content is discussed rather than written on slides. Overall, I was impressed with the quality of the professors and the academic standard of UBC.

Personal experience

Going on exchange is an excellent experience for absolutely anyone. One of the best things about it is the fact that on day one you have 300 other people who have arrived by themselves and are desperate to make friends. This, coupled with a highly switched-on exchange student club, means that it is easy to meet people. The other exchange students are in the same boat as you, everyone wants to explore, go on adventures and party: this makes for a truly unique atmosphere. The group was akin to a big family by the end of the four months, and I was sad to say goodbye to the many people I had become close to. I feel as though the exchange experience also gave me perspective on life. Seeing so many places and meeting so many different people allows you to form a better view of the world and yourself.

Accommodation

I lived on campus at Fairview Crescent. This is definitely the best accommodation option for exchange students at UBC; request it specifically and as early as you get your offer. If you're considering Gage, the main consensus among the exchange students was the Fairview was better as it was more social, although if you're lucky you can get a prime view of the campus/Vancity. Fairview was great as it was primarily made up of exchange students and secondarily student athletes. Furnishing your apartment can be expensive and time-consuming. Ikea is ideal for bedding, cutlery, and appliances. If you go speak to the head of the cleaning staff at the Housing Commons Block they will show you to a sneaky little room under Fairview of goods left behind by previous exchange students (mostly used once), this is a good option. Cooking for yourself is interesting, get a loyalty card if you decide to shop at Save-On, otherwise, No Frills is an Aldi-like discount supermarket.

Budget

Whistler Ski Resort
Whistler ski resort

Rent was modest for the close proximity to the university. I paid roughly AU$3500 for the semester, which is the going rate. I budgeted $150/week for food, this is easy to stick to if you eat modestly. My 'entertainment expense' was quite large, I justified this with the notion that you're only here once. You will have to spend money to experience everything and it is so worth it. Transport is an easy one; you pay a mandatory CA$150 to UBC and get what is essentially an unlimited Go Card. I travelled through Canada, the US and Hawaii for three months after my exchange. I did the majority of this cheaply (we bought an old Van and backpacked), but definitely over-budget for travel during/after the semester because nothing is worse than coming home because you ran out of money. Take the OS Help Loan. If you ski/snowboard like most others, you'll need to set aside roughly $650 for a Whistler Season Pass and $400 for skiing equipment. I'd strongly recommend buying your own gear second hand, go to Sportsjunkies for decent second-hand equipment. 
Open an OZForex account before you leave and a fee-free Scotiabank Canadian bank account when you get there, you will pay a 1% fee on currency exchange, the rest is free.

Professional development and employability

I believe exchange honed my interpersonal and organisational skills. The increased social calendar and not knowing anyone upon arrival means you are constantly meeting people and attending events. Not much gets done for you, so you have to do a lot of planning and organising for yourself. I believe the streamlining of these skills makes me a more attractive prospect to employers and has added to my employability.

Highlight

UBC has a lot of special little gems, you have to go out and find them though. It has its own beach, Wreck Beach, which is an awesome place to have fires and watch the sunset. Many afternoons spent here with friends makes it a special place for me. Meeting and becoming close to people from all over the world was another highlight, exchange is unique in this factor. Also amazing is the visible progression from winter to summer. It was raining, cold and the days were short when I arrived, but every week from February you can feel it getting warmer, the days get longer, it rains less, the campus comes alive with spring vegetation and the vibrancy of the social atmosphere at the university matches the seasonal change. Skiing at Whistler was a massive factor in my exchange too, it's 2 hours bus from UBC and the season only finishes at the end of May.

Top tips

  • Attend everything the Exchange Student Club (ESC) puts on, I cannot stress how important it is to go to the things they hold in the first few weeks especially: this is where you will meet your friends. Make friends with the ESC Exec, they are assets.
  • I threw a house party in Week 2 and brought everyone I'd met together. This was pivotal. Not sure if I'm allowed to mention this. 
  • Buy a bike.
  • Go to a Canucks Game.
  • UBC Pool and Gym are $30 for the semester and you can skate at the rink for very little.
  • Go to Bimini's on Wednesdays.
  • If you want something extra, make friends with people in the Frats/Sororities, they have some unreal 'study nights'.
  • Go to Whistler, Banff and Tofino. 
  • Travel post-exchange. 
Wade - University of British Columbia