Academic Experiences

I had an unusual academic experience here; only having three courses to complete in my economics degree, I had to take any other course to make myself “full time.” I would recommend this option to anyone in similiar circumstances, as I was allowed to choose a course that was not only interesting to me, but also helped break up the intensity of the 400 level courses I chose. Any economics students should definitely consider UBC: the 400 level courses were structured different to UQ’s style but I found it very easy to fit my study style to suit the new three-lectures/week framework.

I found UBC lecturers to be very much like everyone else in Vancouver: extremely laid back and flexible as long as you are honest and respectful. I had a flight to visit a friend in the US Midwest booked 5 months in advance and two lecturers were extremely accommodating in this regard, allowing me to take mid-semester exams at different times or re-allocate marks to other assessment. Don’t hesitate to approach the academic staff here with a problem.

Personal Experiences

Firstly: MAKE SURE CENTRELINK IS 100% INFORMED AS TO YOUR TRAVEL/STUDY PLANS.

Secondly, be prepared. Vancouver is – without a shadow of a doubt – the greatest City I have ever visited. It is in prime location for snowboarding (or skiing, if you are that way inclined), with Whistler-Blackcomb actually being all that it’s cracked up to be. With 17 feet of snow (about 12 feet more than anywhere else in North America) by January, Whistler truly is a playground you can take absolute advantage of in Vancouver. Furthermore, the $525CAD (including tax) UBC Student season pass feels like you are stealing from the resort.(Aside: there are three other snow resorts within a 45 minute drive from UBC – Seymour, Grouse and Cypress Mountains – all giving you the opportunity to night-ride any night from December onwards).

The cultural aspects of this city are supreme. Amazing restaurants and incredible street performers on Granville Street (like Brisbane’s Queen Street (but better)) during the day were two things instantly apparent to me. Granville Island, Granville Street, Stanley Park, the various Botanical Gardens, and the (in)famous Wreck Beach at UBC all deserve a visit, or many.

The city has an AMAZING nightlife, with cheaper prices than Australians are used to, and usually amazing producers/DJ’s in control of a dance floor. Vancouver is as much a party city as it is a “chilled” place to live. If you are passionate about music (especially EDM or dubstep), Vancouver is second only to New York in variety and frequency of shows. In one two month period I saw deadmau5, skrillex, NERO, Dirtyphonics, M83, Porter Robinson, 12th Planet, Knife Party and many others.

The best aspect about Vancouver was definitely the people. The other students on exchange were amazing from the word go: two American exchange students stopped to help with my luggage for over 90 minutes when I first arrived at UBC and ended up being among the best friends I’ve ever made. It is so easy to make great friends at UBC and in Vancouver, the City residents are so laid-back and accommodating, and the diverse student exchange program means that now I have friends quite literally all around the world. I have never enjoyed life as much as on exchange, and the people who I spent my time with there are mostly the reason for that.

I did not find culture shock a problem… unless it’s a problem to instantly wish you were a Canadian citizen and never want to return home. There are many, many Australian citizens living or travelling in Vancouver, so you never feel far from home. In short, I did not want to leave Vancouver, and am so thankful for the opportunity to study abroad there that I’m finding it hard to keep this testimonial short. It truly was the greatest time, and the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Expenses

  • I found the expense summary from UQ Abroad to be spot on. Any disparity was caused either by my error, exchange rate fluctuations or was really no cause for concern.
  • Prices on most things are cheaper (bar bread, milk and mobile phone services) than in Australia, and with the $AUD currently as strong as it is, expenses should hardly be a problem. Get into the fruit!
  • Be prepared to pay $50+ a month for mobile service that has any decent allowance for calls, messaging and data, but always remember that you are saving money in almost every other area of consumption in Vancouver.
  • When getting groceries, there are frequent-shopper cards at most of the major grocery stores. Get them. They will save you incredible amounts of money.
  • Even better: shop at Costco. It’s an experience in itself.
  • $50 - $75 + snacks was what about what I spent on food per week, unless in Whistler.
  • Rent your textbooks, they are half price that way.
  • Organise to buy a bike or skateboard the MINUTE you get to UBC. The campus is roughly 5 times larger than UQ. Once you walk from Fairview Crescent to Place Vanier, you will understand.
  • Anyone wanting to travel North America: do multi-city flight bookings via Bing’s search engine. The savings are immense.
  • Top tip: If you are buying your food on university meal plans months in advance, don’t be surprised and feel the need to complain if your friends are cooking nicer meals than those you are paying too much to be served.

Accommodation

I lived in Fairview Crescent, and am happy I did. Though the Walter-Gage apartments are more central and would have been perfect for the long walks to class in the mornings afternoons, I cannot disavow the fact that some of my best memories were made at Fairview. It really doesn’t matter where you live, you will have an amazing time regardless. If over 19, definitely go for Fairview or Gage. If under 19, I’d recommend waiting to go on exchange. UBC Housing services are great, they are very tolerant and organised.

Top Tips

  • If going in late August: it is HOT. It gets chilly quickly though, so don’t over-pack your summer clothes. You can always buy more in Vancouver or the USA for much cheaper than at home.
  • Get any weekly-study you have done early so you can frequent “The Pit,” the UBC Student bar on Wednesday nights. Get there before 10 on busy nights, the line can take over 2 hours… for reasons only fully understood once you enter the club.
  • Have an open mind: many things are radically different than at home.
  • Go to the American Midwest if you can. The more popular tourist centers are always packed with Australians, so the time I spent in Minnesota and Michigan was out-of-this-world. Going there over Christmas and New Years was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.
  • Las Vegas is a $300 return flight from Vancouver. Book it ASAP.

This was a lot longer than I was expecting, but I’ve tried to be informative, open and forthright about my experience. If you work hard enough at your subjects (they seem to require slightly less work than in Australia) you can have an amazing, life changing time and still get results to be proud of.
 

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