UQ Program: Bachelor of Environmental Management

Going on exchange to UBC was easily the most incredible experience of my life. Academically, emotionally and physically, living and studying in another country is such a cool thing to do, and I would highly recommend it. It may sound strange now, but at the end of your semester you will truly call Vancouver your home away from home!

I lived on campus at UBC, and the student life there is something else. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of – Storm the Wall is an annual event which you are bound to learn about, involving hundreds of teams of students running, cycling, swimming and finally “storming”, or climbing over a wall together. The campus has an excellent gym which was only $28 (including tax) for a semester membership, and heaps of recreational programs. The exchange experience is a perfect way for you to discover a new hobby. I was shocked to discover my liking of yoga - it was most likely a mix of meeting new friends who were also keen to try it out, and the sense of fun and adventure that comes with being on your own in a whole new community. Because that’s what UBC is, a community!

The city of Vancouver is absolutely gorgeous. Behind every building and treetop, you see rugged, scraggly snowcapped mountaintops peeking out. It is consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world, and it is obvious why: the excellent public transit system, for example, means that it is extremely simple and fast to get downtown from UBC by bus. Canadians are among the friendliest people in the world, and I guarantee that you will make friends within a couple of hours of your first day on campus. The IPP (International Peer Program) is great to get involved in, as you will meet some Canadian mentors as well as other exchange students, who will arrange some of the best Vancouverian experiences. And there is no way you will escape the crazy, exciting madness that is the National Hockey League!

Academically, I found that the workload and what was expected of me as a student was of a slightly higher standard than that experienced at UQ. I took geography electives within the arts department, and the reading load was quite intense. Depending on your degree this could be quite different – however, the “profs” (professors/lecturers) were all intriguing people with fascinating stories to tell. Learning from them and in the Canadian context was great for a whole new perspective on what I’d learnt at UQ.

Top 5 tips:

1.    Visit Whistler. As much as you possibly can! UBC has its own great student lodge in the village, with a hot tub out in the snow! Even if skiing or snowboarding isn’t quite your thing, the village is so pretty (kind of like a Christmas card!)

2.    Keep active and healthy. I suffered the flu for a week just before midsemester exams, as many Australians do on their travels to the northern hemisphere. Getting the sniffles is inevitable, and it is so difficult in the cold, but keeping healthy and managing some exercise as often as you can prevent the worst. Vancouver is also infamous for its rain (almost 1 out of 2 days), so getting sunshine, when you can, is a must for your general sanity.

3.    Granville Island Markets. Granville Island is just below the downtown/CBD area, not far from UBC and very accessible by bus. It is quintessentially Vancouverite and Canadian, and the public market with local produce sells the most delicious fruit, veggies, savoury and sweet foods. There are heaps of local artists with photography on display, gift shops and lots of indigenous artwork as well.

4.    See an ice hockey game. If you think Australians are in any way crazy about our sport, think again – hockey in Canada is an entire mindset that grips the nation – it has the power to generate riots of epic proportions and bring people to tears. I was lucky enough to attend a Vancouver Canucks v. Dallas Stars game, and the atmosphere was absolutely incredible.

5.    Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. The adorable otters are the main attraction, as well as dolphins and Beluga whales. It is an awesome day to spend out, and can be followed by a bikeride around the Park, a relaxing way to see the harbour and beaches.

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