When I signed up for exchange, I did not know what I was truly in for. The reality was, an incredible year by any standards. Surrounded by water on three sides and temperate rainforest on the fourth, the University of British Columbia Vancouver is stones throw away from numerous outdoor opportunities. Within a day of being in BC, I found myself standing on a glacier with a free trip run by one of the clubs out of campus, and from that point did countless other trips from hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, ice and rock climbing, mountain biking (the best in the world) and just a little bit of road cycling. On orientation day at UBC, I met a guy who asked me if I wanted to ride my bicycle across North America. Naturally, I said yes (bctodc.tumblr.com).

When I left Australia, I was mid-way through second year BSc in Geographical Sciences. Despite the heavy workload of 5 subject per semester, I loved academic side of things at UBC where physical geography is a big department and I was lucky enough to get a research position with one of my lecturers. I think one of the reasons many people don’t go through with exchange is the balancing act of finding the right match-up subjects, but you shouldn’t let you stop this. Just get organized early.

I formed a close group of friends who I’ll be in contact with for the rest of my days, and beyond that a network of friends who I may not be in everyday contact with, but will always be keen for a beer in any number of cities around the world. I lived with Canadians on campus, which was a nice refresher from the exchange kid cliques, which form quickly. Living costs were reasonably high in Vancouver, but if go cheap on day to day things (beans and rice), you can use that money on your Whistler student pass, more than a third cheaper than the normal cost of a season pass. I myself saved myself 26 cents buying crayons instead of pencils and managed to get 30 days knee deep in powder on the ski hill. You win some, you loose some.

If I was to break down the must-do’s, the VOC is a must at UBC. The club has more outdoor equipment than you can imagine and for the price of gas, you can pick up all the skills you need to summit mountains. Even if I am a little biased, I would definitely recommend picking up a bike on exchange, regardless of where you are. Van was especially bike friendly and it is the best and cheapest way to see a city. A friend on exchange taught me to “always ask.” There’s no limit to where you’ll get if you just ask, whether it’s an unofficial ‘student price’ or a hitchhike that ends in getting ‘the best lobster in world.’ Get ready to be challenged, get ready to have no idea what you’ll end up doing exchange and get ready to love it.


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