Jessica - University of British Columbia

Bachelor of Science
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

At UBC, I studied 4 courses, equivalent to 3 courses at UQ. These subjects were:
- Forensic Anthropology
- Global Climate Change
- Fundamentals of Evolutionary Biology
- Fundamentals of Ecology
The first one having nothing to do with my degree or major (Zoology), yet it was the most interesting course! 
The main thing I was worried about at UBC was not having lectures recorded. Not that I rely on them at UQ, it was nice knowing if you got sick or went away you'd have access to the lecture. Turns out, not having recordings wasn't a huge deal. It made me make close friends in each of my courses so I had someone who could help me catch up, or I made sure the lecturer knew me and would send me the slides. 
I really enjoyed the same dedication to learning of a world-class uni but in a more relaxed environment. The finals were still worth the same (40-50%) but were conducted in a less stressful manner (i.e. you could bring small snacks into the exam and any drink). Also, they deliberately gave you enough time to finish the exam so you were never rushed.
I found the teaching style very similar, with lecture slides posted, usually after the lecture, and sometimes even practice questions or lecture objectives.

Personal experience

I made some really special life-long friends from my exchange. Some I was in contact with before I even left Australia. I was lucky enough to find a few girls (two from Poland, two from NZ) on the exchange facebook page who wanted to do a trip around the Rockies before uni started. We pre-organised everything and met once I landed in Vancouver. A three-week road trip is certainly the best way to see the Rockies/Vancouver Island and make amazing friends. 

We hiked in nearly every place we visited, including Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper (no hiking but we saw wild black bears!!!), Tofino (saw a wolf and bears!!) and Victoria (no hiking, just relaxed). We continued our hiking love during the semester, completing the ominous Grouse Grind (before the mountain became a ski field), Garibaldi Lake and Deep Cove to Lynn Canyon (we got lost as it started snowing so we had to turn around...). Having such amazing nature surrounding the city, or even in the city, made me more determined to explore the world, including Brisbane!

Being so close to the US border made it impossible not to visit Seattle and Portland on separate weekends. It was really obvious the different cultures in the cities. Being able to escape uni for a weekend and be surrounded by a completely different lifestyle was incredible.

Accommodation

I lived on campus, at a first-year residence, despite the fact that I was finishing my 2nd year. This was not my intentions but at UBC on-campus accommodation is very competitive. I would highly recommend applying on the first day of applications to Walter Gage or Fairview - both shared, self-contained apartment living. 

My living arrangements were different being a first-year residence. I got a private room (large enough for a single bed, a large desk, draws and storage) with a shared bathroom. The girl next door and I were the only ones able to use the 'jack and jill' style bathroom. You were also forced to buy a meal plan, which I really loved! Despite wanting to cook for myself, I had money loaded onto my student ID which I could spend at any of the first year residences and many food shops on campus. This meant that you could eat as much of what you wanted, when you wanted, where you wanted. This was a huge bonus when you wanted to maximise your free time.

Costs

The on-campus accommodation was much cheaper than the UQ colleges, but that was still one of the more expensive options. It did save you time buying and cooking food, as well as transiting to uni. Renting off-campus, depending on the house and its location, was about $850/month. Every UBC exchange student pays a fee at the start of the semester (about CAD$150 =~ AUD$150) that allows you to use any public transport in the Vancouver area for free - this program is called U-Pass. It is the best idea EVER!! You are never hindered by your budget if you want to catch a bus into Stanely Park for a walk or Deep Cove for a Honey's Doughnut.

Professional Development

I have learnt to take every opportunity that presents itself. You couldn't simply sit around waiting for people to invite you out, you had to make the effort to organise yourself if you wanted to make the most of your exchange. Being a shy person this made me build my confidence when making friends and simply interacting with strangers. I also used this new-found confidence to talk with my lecturers and find a volunteering position in a Zoology lab once a week. I plan to use this confidence to continue volunteering back at UQ.

Highlight

I loved having less pressure on my studies and more time to experience the surrounds of Vancouver. I got to explore somewhere new at least once a week, whether it would be a hike in the local mountains or one of the many city parks or even into the US. It was a nice change to be able to dedicate more time to exploring and making new friends.

Top tips

Make sure you do not rely upon getting the credits you want. You may have subjects lined up before you leave, only to find out once you get there that they are not what you were expecting at all. You should have at least double the number of subjects you are taking ready, pre-approved, as back-ups because it takes a long time to get subjects approved by UQ.