Bachelor of Business Management
Bachelor of Business Management

Academic experiences

I study a Bachelor of Business Management with a dual major in Advertising and
Marketing.
In the second semester of my second year I studied at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada.
At UBC I studied five marketing subjects, making up almost all of that major, and what a way to earn it!
What I didn’t anticipate, was just how difficult final year subjects at the Sauder School of business would be. Sauder is a pretty prestigious business school with a very low acceptance rate for their domestic students, and the expectations of students reflect this.
In hindsight, five business subjects was an unreasonable workload, I didn’t meet any students taking that many business courses. Three was a normal amount to take. However I wouldn’t change a thing, I received an incredibly focused education on marketing from an excellent school in a very brief amount of time.
Studying business at UBC is perceived to be very serious by a lot of students; there’s a culture of success, of being the best that is very North American. Students would wear suits to class, just because, and no one would make fun of them for it!
Sauder’s academic system is rather unlike what I’ve experienced at UQ. There weren’t tutorials; instead there were two 90 minute seminars a week per class. The contact hours ended up the same, but the format was very different.
In my first lecture, the professor (often abbreviated to ‘prof’, and never lecturer or instructor) told the class candidly about participation marks, which are worth 10-20% of your grade, and require “saying something insightful and useful one in every three classes”. This was pretty academically fascinating because sounding clever just became incentivised. The results were great discussions in the class, and no concern for being the only student to offer an opinion. It created a really interesting classroom dynamic. However it made classes very tiring for introverts that aren’t used to engaging with that many people at a time. You’d find yourself constantly wondering, “is this idea good enough to voice?”.
The content has a very practical focus, arguably a less academic focus than UQ which is neither better nor worse, just different. Four out of my five of my professors either currently worked in marketing or had retired from high up executive positions to teach, even an ex vice-president of marketing at Coca Cola.
Sauder makes great use of the Harvard case learning system, which has been shown to enhance learning outcomes although is pretty slow compared to the pace I’m used to at home.
Instead of learning theories we would read an approximately 15 page document which told a story about a marketing situation, we then had to analyse this situation and make recommendations, which we would do alone and then in class. It was really useful, and the learnings will stick with me, but it was much slower than reading theories.
Another interesting academic difference; for all five classes there was no textbook.

UBC

Personal experiences

The greatest personal experience I had were the friends I made and the memories we made together.
I was surprised to discover my peers were predominantly either born in China or had parents who were. I quickly made friends with a charismatic young man named Long. We’ll be friends for the rest of our life, and have plans to go to China together later this year.
Long introduced me to honey lager, a Canadian lager infused with honey that’s bitterness is balanced with honey’s sweetness. I even picked up a couple of phrases in Mandarin.
Vancouver’s thriving Chinese population allowed me to learn a great deal about Chinese culture, language and history which provides me with valuable cultural insight here back in Australia. China’s importance as a global player is growing quickly, and this perspective will become increasingly useful.
I enjoyed exploring a lush forest right next the UBC campus; in fact one of my favourite memories is skipping a morning lecture for the 40 minute walk to uni.
Most mornings I didn’t skip uni however; instead I walked down a tree lined pathway (usually through drizzling rain). To speed this journey up I learnt to skateboard, something I never thought I’d do.
Vancouver has a prime location for exploring parts of the world that are very hard to get to from Australia.
Over Christmas my girlfriend and I went to Alaska (North Pole!) for a properly white Christmas.
We saw the Aurora Borealis while we were there after several late night attempts.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas (which was fascinating but somewhere I’ll never return). Vancouver is also close to British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, on Vancouver Island. It’s a beautiful city with a much more European culture than the mainland.
In the summer it’s a great time to go whale spotting; we were lucky enough to see pods of killer whales, humpback whales, two different type of porpoise and elephant seals!
A highlight of the exchange was integrating into Canadian culture, joining in on halloween and carving pumpkins. We had a great time watching the UBC Thunderbirds play hockey, and then later the Vancouver Canucks.

hockey

Accommodation

My partner Samantha came with me to Vancouver so we found a small furnished apartment close to university to live in together. Our apartment was on a beautiful, idyllic white picket fence street right next to a lush, sprawling forest.
The apartment was a converted space in the basement of a very sweet married couple. Basement suites are very common for student in Vancouver, and there are lots of websites you can find them advertised, craigslist, kijiji and others.
I personally used makeyourselfathome.com, which advertises more expensive properties, but with the benefit of having someone to organise it for you. They were really helpful to me at every turn.
Almost all of the exchange students I met lived on campus, and I think that was a great experience for them. I was very happy in my apartment with my girlfriend though, if you will be off campus look for something in Kitsilano (very trendy and easy to get to Uni), or near Dunbar St.
Stay away from the east side and downtown isn’t very much fun. Busses are very slow in Vancouver because they are always stopping to let people on and off so it takes a long time to go a short distance generally. So try and stay pretty close to the uni.
My favourite part of living in a basement suite was having my own space, it was a welcome reprieve away from busy university life.
I always loved my walk (and sometimes skateboard) to and from the bus stop. It was expensive though, and means I missed out on the camaraderie of living with other exchange students.
Right next door to our apartment is a beautiful nature reserve full of hiking trails, squirrels, skunks, racoons and all manner of fascinating wildlife that we don’t get in Australia. There’s even salmon in the rivers at the right time of year.

sunset

Budget

I spent around $12,000 including flights, a couple of holidays and accommodation. It was made cheaper by sharing expenses with my partner.
Transport around Vancouver is free for students (thanks to a mandatory fee at UBC). I found produce to be more expensive than Brisbane and of a lower quality in general (we’re very lucky in Queensland!).
Restaurants and alcohol were a bit cheaper (and remember that you have to tip, 15% is average). Depending on your standard of living and any holidays you want to take I’d budget between $9000-$12,000.

aurora

Academic development and employability

Going on exchange allowed me to develop a wide range of skills, many that I never expected to.
I knew that I would get to practice complex problem solving in unfamiliar environments. I knew I would improve decision making by the sheer volume of decisions I would have to make, and I knew that it would give me a broader culture sensibility to inform my perspectives.
However exchange enhanced my academic development and employability in other interesting and even profound ways.
I was exposed to a highly competitive atmosphere at a very prestigious business school. Students at Sauder take their careers very, very seriously. It was fascinating to be surrounded by a group of such bright and ambitious people.
Working with them was a pleasure and allowed me to develop my team work skills with very bright people. It also created a platform to practice leadership skills; the students were often very talented in different areas and a lot of fun to manage.
I valued the opportunity to collaborate with some incredibly bright and driven commerce students, and was interested to be exposed to a much more extroverted, achievement focused culture.
Further, the business school is held to a very high academic standard. Grades tended to have a much tighter distribution around 75% than I’m used to, and the professors expect a lot of you.
I worked harder than I ever have before (primarily because of the five subjects and an unfamiliar environment) and gained better time management skills to show for it.
Participation grades also had a fascinating effect on me. Being incentivised to quickly contribute useful and meaningful insights meant I had to become proficient at quickly organising thoughts into language and judging their merit before volunteering them. Consequently the time it takes me from having an idea and articulating it into language has decreased drastically.
It was something that was difficult during the first week and second nature in the twelfth.
This also enhanced my quick decision making skills by practicing quick evaluation of an idea’s merits.
I participated in a marketing simulation which gave me some excellent analysis skills when looking at an overwhelming amount of marketing data.
I created a formal marketing report for a real client that they were thrilled with, this was a great opportunity to practice assessing a client’s needs, communicating with them throughout a project, managing a complex project from start to finish and then meeting and far exceeding the clients expectations.
This was great practice at communication and project management. Interestingly, there was more of a language and culture gap than I had anticipated. Although I could understand Canadians perfectly (thanks to American TV), they on occasion would struggle to understand my accent and word choices. Don’t worry though, everyone loves an Australian accent.

sled dogs

Highlight

After exams my partner and I booked tickets for an adventure to Alaska searching for the Aurora Borealis.
I’ve wanted to see the northern lights since I was young. We flew into central Alaska from Seattle and got off the plane to be greeted by a snarling taxidermy polar bear.
We were unlucky with the weather while we were there, it was overcast every evening except our last. On the last night we were incredibly lucky and saw a 20 minute light show of dancing greens and whites all across the sky from the comfort of a remote log cabin.

This wasn’t even the highlight!

Two nights before this we went to a dog sledding lodge 40 minutes away from the town and I drove a dog sled with 12 of the smartest and most hardworking animals I’ve ever met. These animals running as one, with snow and trees whipping past you at disconcerting speeds was a spiritual experience for me that I’ll never forget.

Top tips

Going on exchange is a once in a lifetime adventure.
It’s often really difficult, but incredibly rewarding. You’d regret not going, I know all my friends that missed the chance do.
You’ll make new friends, gain new perspectives, hone useful skills and have the time of your life doing it.
Don’t be afraid to speak to the good people at the UQ Abroad office, they’re a wealth of useful information and always happy to help.
If you’re a BEL student make sure you speak with the BEL exchange advisors, they’re great at helping you pick your subjects.
Research the universities, read a bunch of these testimonials, and once you’re on your way soak it up while it lasts because it’ll be over in a blink.
 

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