I went on exchange to the University of British Columbia, and it was without a doubt the most rewarding experience of my life.

I study a bachelor of Science/Arts at UQ, and went on exchange in semester two of my second year (of a four-year program). However, I had some spare electives went I went on exchange and used these while studying at UBC, giving me a nice mix of science, IT and humanities courses. One of the first things I realised while at UBC is that the workload is much heavier than at UQ. A full-time course load at UQ is equivalent to 5 courses at UBC, so instantly the amount of study is increased. On top of that, the amount of weekly assessment and homework (yes, they do call it homework) is about twice as much as given at UQ. The upside to this however, is that it forced me to stay on top of the material we were learning, and hence studying for exams was made much easier.

A big part of my experience was living away from home for the first time. I lived in a UBC residence called Fairview Crescent. The residence is comprised of self-contained townhouses, each one housing 4-6 students. A lot of my good memories at the University stem from the residence life – having dinners with friends, hanging out with roommates, having snowball fights when it snowed – and really added to the whole experience away.

With regards to finances, Vancouver is an expensive place to live. The biggest shock was that the tax on everything wasn’t included in the price, meaning that everything costs 12% more than you think it will. Include the fact that tipping is customary in Canada, and the costs jump up a fair bit more than you’d expect. Also, trips to whistler are quite frequent, and as you can expect, everything is even more expensive there, so it’s a good idea to be quite well-prepared financially before going to Vancouver.

5 top tips for exchange at UBC:

  • Vancouver Island is a must-see destination. The place is a plethora of the most beautiful mountains, forests, beaches and lakes you can imagine, and it is definitely worth spending a weekend there
  • Once it starts raining (early October) it doesn’t stop. At all. Therefore investing in a raincoat is a good idea. And nice waterproof shoes (wet socks are really annoying)
  • Experience the sport. Ice Hockey is the obvious one (I’ve been told that going to a Canucks game is amazing), but there are also the more American sports (Football, Basketball, etc.) which you can visit with a trip down into America. The atmosphere is unbelievable (it puts a state of origin match to shame)
  • Go to Whistler. Even if you have never skied/snowboarded before, it is amazing. The amount and quality of the snow here is unbelievable, especially when compared to snow in Australia or New Zealand (Note: If you are going to be heading up a fair bit, it’s worth getting a season pass. As a student, you can get one insanely cheaply, and you only need to go up 6 days or so before it pays for itself)
  • Just go traveling either before or after the semester. You have 2 months off on either side of your exchange, and if you have the money, you can see and do some of the most amazing things in North America much more easily than if you try and plan a separate trip


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