James - University of Bristish Columbia

B. Engineering (Honours) / Business Management
Semester 2, 2018
If you are into skiing, mountain biking, hiking or climbing, I challenge you to find a better located university than UBC Okanagan.

Academic experience

Whilst at UBC Okanagan, I studied a mixture of Mechanical Engineering and Economics Subjects. These included Project Management (ENGR303), Fluid Mechanics (ENGR310), Money and Banking (ECON345), Introduction to Strategic Thinking (ECON221) and Industrial Organization and Regulation (ECON386). Assessment for the courses was quite similar to that at UQ, however, I felt that overall the study load was easier, even when taking 5 courses. This was very welcome, as less time needed to be spend on university work, leaving more time for travel and other activities. For me, it was a nice change to have some smaller lecture classes, where the lecturer was able to personally connect with students.

Personal experience

There were around 50 exchange students at UBCO at the same time as me, meaning that I now have a large network of friends from all over the world. Going on exchange also pushes you out of your comfort zone, with different cultural and social norms. From my exchange, I learnt to be very flexible and able to adapt quickly. During the semester I was lucky enough to travel throughout BC and Alberta, including trips to the Rocky Mountains and Vancouver Island. I would definitely recommend these two destinations to anyone studying in Canada.

Accommodation

Rockies trip, Jasper National Park.

I lived on-campus in the Upper Cascades. Theses were 4 bedroom units with a kitchen and living room. Talking to other students both on and off campus, this was by far the best option. The meal plan is quite expensive and not good value for money. Also, most exchange students lived in Upper Cascades as well, so there were always people around if you wanted to do something. UBCO also gave priority to Exchange students which was great, as I know that those living off-campus had trouble finding places that would do a 4 or 5 month lease.

Budget

Living expenses in Canada are quite similar to Australia. My on-campus accommodation was around $3300 for the semester. Food costs depend on how you eat, but I would say it cost me around the same as what it costs back home. There is a mandatory student bus pas included in the fees, so once you get your student card, all bus transport is free. Travel expenses vary, but in most places you can get a decent hostel for around $30 per night. Domestic flights in Canada are very expensive compared to Australia, but realistically the best way to get around was to drive. I ended up buying a car with another exchange student, and did around 8000km throughout the semester with weekend trips. The Big White ski resort is also only a 50min drive from campus, so if you are into skiing budget that in. Season passes were fairly cheap with the Early Bird discount and we were able to get a lot of ski days in around exams and classes at the end of semester. Overall, I would recommend budgeting at least $10,000 for flights, travel insurance, weekend travel etc. You would be able to do it for less, but you are only there once so make the most of it, and have some spare money for the weekend trips away.

Challenge

The biggest challenge for me whilst on exchange was finding the right balance between study and extra-curricular activities. Obviously this program is a university exchange, so academics are really the first priority. I also wanted to get out and experience as much as possible, so I wanted to find a manageable balance between getting decent grades and traveling as much as possible. After a few weeks and assessment items, I determined that the work load was quite easy compared to what I was used to, meaning that I was able to allocate more time to biking and skiing for example. In my opinion, the point of an exchange is to get out and explore a different country. If you devote the whole time to study you may as well have stayed home. After finding the balance, the rest of my semester went very smoothly.

Professional development

Whistler Bike Park.

During my exchange, I learned to become independent and flexible at the same time. Sometimes, things would not work out the way you planned, but it was necessary to quickly adapt your thinking and actions to the new situations. There was no point getting hung-up on something when time was limited. During my exchange, I also volunteered at the student run bike shop. This allowed me to develop my skills in the areas of customer service, as well as mechanical skills.

Highlight

The highlight of my trip was spending 10 days after exams finished skiing with my friends (mostly Danish). This was a really nice time after uni had finished to ski all day and then relax in the evenings. I also celebrated Christmas Eve the Danish way, which was a great experience. Other highlights included the Rocky Mountains Trip and mountain biking at some world famous destinations. Making a load of friends from all over the globe is also something that anyone would be thankful for, providing heaps of contacts for travel in the future.

Top tips

The campus at UBC Okanagan is quite a different experience, with smaller classes and more personal contact from professors. If you are looking for a different university experience I could not recommend UBCO enough. Further, if you are into skiing, mountain biking, hiking or climbing, I challenge you to find a better located university. UBCO is perfect for everything outdoors, and make sure you join VOCO, the outdoors club, who do a whole heap of weekend events throughout the year. Kelowna itself is quite small (140,00), but still has something to offer for everyone. The weather in the Okanagan, in my opinion, is probably the nicest in Canada. Winter is still colder than Australia, but not cold for Canadian standards. Summer can be quite warm, but there are plenty of beautiful lakes to swim in.

James - University of Bristish Columbia