Bachelor of Social Science/Arts
Bachelor of Social Science/Arts

You’ve heard it all before; “exchange one of the best experiences you’ll ever have”, “it’ll change your life”, “you won’t want to leave”, “you’ll make lifelong friends”, “one term isn’t long enough”. Having just returned from a semester at the University of British Columbia, the truth in each and every one of the clichés could not be more obvious!

I’m a Bachelor of Social Science (Development)/Arts (Anthropology) student and studied at UBC in semester two of my third year. The classes I took there were a combination of electives and Anthropology courses that I used as credit towards my major. Whilst it’s always easier to take keep your electives for exchange, I enjoyed the opportunity that studying at a different institution gave me to take classes on topics in my field of study that aren’t offered at UQ. In terms of the workload, 5 subjects can seem daunting, especially if you have a few reading-intensive courses. The structure of the courses, however, can really help to keep you on track. They meet 2 or 3 times a week and are generally smaller classes that take on more of a tutorial or seminar feel, with far more student-driven discussion and weekly tasks as well as the usual papers, mid-terms and finals. With all this in mind, I found that it really wasn’t too difficult to keep on top of my academic requirements during the week so that I had time free for the fun stuff during evenings and on weekends.

I lived on campus at Fairview Crescent and loved the community feel that developed there over the semester. I had three housemates (2 from Canada and a third who was also on exchange from Germany and became one of my closest friends there) and it wasn’t uncommon to find all four of us in the communal kitchen/living area cooking, studying or watching TV together. The majority of exchange students stay in either Fairview or Gage, which means your friends live minutes away and there’s always someone free to hang out.

Budget wise, take more than you think you’ll need. Daily living expenses in Vancouver are similar to Brisbane, but you don’t want to have to pass on any of the activities or travel opportunities that really make the exchange experience what it is. During the semester, I went to Garibaldi Lake, visited Banff and hiked in the Canadian Rockies, camped at Keystone Hot Springs, explored Victoria and Vancouver Island, went dog-sledding in the Yukon and learned skiing and snowboarding at Whistler. I tacked on another 3 months to my time away and made the most of being over in that part of the world by travelling through the US and the east coast of Canada either side of my exchange. It was a great opportunity to go to some places I hadn’t had time for during the semester and to travel with new friends!

Top tips:

  • Say ‘yes!’ to all of the invitations and opportunities that you’ll come across. You’re guaranteed to come away with new friends, awesome experiences and maybe a crazy story or two.
  • Travel. Explore the city, the greater Vancouver area, BC, neighbouring states or even across the border. Make the most of the weekends early on when the weather is still warm and consistently sunny!
  • Get off campus. It would be easy to live weeks without stepping foot outside UBC with its shops, bars, forests and beach. But Vancouver has a plethora of quirky neighbourhoods, cool bars and cafes, live music venues, nightclubs and beautiful natural scenery just waiting to be discovered.
  • Go Canucks! Go to a hockey game. The atmosphere even in a regular season game has to be experienced to be believed. Once you’ve had your fix with the pros, buy a Blue Crew pass to watch UBC take on their rivals in hockey, basketball, football (soccer) and Canadian football.
  • Buy a season pass for Whistler. As a student, you’ll save a small fortune and even if you only get up there for 10 or so days, it’s worth it.
  • Join the UBC Exchange Student Club and UBC Incoming Exchange Students Facebook groups – there’s always someone wanting to do something somewhere if you haven’t already made plans for your evening, free afternoon or weekend.

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