Tobeas - University of British Columbia

Bachelor of Science
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

I’m in my third year of a Bachelor of Science so had some freedom in using electives and wasn’t too concerned about matching subjects up. UBC doesn't have a central ECP system like UQ so it can be hard to find a copy of the syllabus, but the professors all outlined the course well in their first lectures so expectations were clear. The difficulty (at least for the subjects I did) was noticeably easier than UQ. One of the challenges is that they have lots of continuous assessment so expect multiple midsemester assessments and assignments for each subject. The professors were fantastic teachers and all my subjects were quite enjoyable which made balancing study with everything else a lot easier.

Personal experience

Arriving in a new country alone and not knowing anyone is quite an experience, but one I found to be very rewarding. I found it amazing that even after meeting just a few people you quickly start to run into mutual friends by chance. Canadian culture is in many ways quite similar to that of Australia, but you notice the small things – like how surprisingly difficult it is to remember to call thongs ‘flip-flops’. Having arrived knowing no-one, I met a lot of great people over the semester and made many long-lasting international friendships.
I would definitely recommend planning on having a lot of time after the semester to travel as it was a great opportunity to travel with friends and get to know people even better. Some of the best experiences I had are ones I never expected when I first came to Canada - like buying an old car with two mates and spending a month exploring the US - and the best advice I can give is to take all the opportunities that come up as you’ll be in the last few weeks of your exchange before you know it. All in all, my semester abroad has left me with an even greater desire to travel and I really look forward to eventually catching up with my new friends around the world.

Accommodation

	 Standing on Joffre Lake at the end of one of many amazing local winter hikes
Standing on Joffre Lake at the end of one of many amazing local winter hikes

I lived in an on-campus residence called Fairview Crescent – this was very conveniently positioned on campus and was made up of a good mix of exchange students and Canadians. I would definitely recommend living on campus even if it’s a little more expensive as it will save a lot of time each day getting to and from uni leaving you more time to go out and explore. Whilst travelling, most of the hostels I stayed at were reasonably clean and cost around $25-$35 a night - although we did a lot of camping to save on accommodation costs.

Budget

The exchange rate (for the first half of 2016) sat around CAD$0.95 to the dollar, so costs were easy to relate – although tax (12%) is not included in prices and for restaurants and services expect to tip around 15%. Food prices were similar to that in Australia, although eating out is generally cheaper than it is here – check out the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants!

Transport in Vancouver itself is a breeze as all UBC students pay ~$150 a semester which covers unlimited transit for the semester. For getting to and from Whistler there’s a company called Epic Rides that does $35 return tickets, although, I’d recommend catching lifts with some locals and splitting petrol – then you’ll meet some new friends to ski with for the day as well. The most significant cost of transport was definitely when we hired cars for trips due to the young-driver surcharges, but there’s a lot of hiking opportunities you can’t reach without a car.

Professional development and employability

The independence of living overseas far from home is something that I think does a lot for developing desirable professional skills and attributes, but perhaps the most important thing is developing an international network of friends and connections that are bound to present many future opportunities both personally and professionally.

Highlight

The highlight was definitely the people I met and the experiences we had together. Canadians live up to their friendly stereotype, from striking up conversations on the bus to offering lifts an hour’s drive out of their way. I found it really easy to make friends at UBC and there were a lot of student-run clubs organising cool events and social opportunities. A lot of my time was also spent with fellow exchange students from around the world who were all in the same mindset to explore and try new things. When many of your friends are also on pass-fail, taking a day off uni to go do something new becomes a regular event and this led to a lot of very memorable experiences, just a few of which include days of skiing untouched powder in Whistler, playing hockey on Lake Louise, hiking the Chief in Squamish, and a four-day kayaking expedition in the Gulf Islands.

Top tips

  • The UBCESC (Exchange student club) won club of the year in 2016, and it’s no surprise – they put on some really cool trips and also regular Thursday nights at Koerners (one of the on-campus bars) so make sure to check out their events which are a great way to meet other exchange students and explore Canada.
  • Another great club was the Parks Canada Club which was just a group of awesome people who like to adventure and explore some really cool places. 
  • If you’re a skier (if not give it a go!) be sure to look into the Whistler student season pass which is incredibly good value and makes skiing a lot more affordable.
Tobeas - University of British Columbia