Bachelor of Advanced Science, 2nd year
Bachelor of Advanced Science, 2nd year

Academic Experience

I took five courses to satisfy the credit requirements. I don’t recommend Geography of Canada, which I swapped out of after the first hour. I took three second year subjects – plant biology, medical anthropology, and ethnic relations, and two third year subjects – forest genetics and biogeography & global change. I would recommend forest genetics: great lecturer, no final, and very doable 20% quizzes every few weeks. I would also recommend medical anthropology for having such interesting content! The professor’s field of expertise was malaria, but the course broadly covered how people and cultures view particular diseases.

My lab in plant science was full of content but had a very relaxed vibe. No lab coats, gloves, fancy desks or chairs. It made it a bit more approachable and less stressful than some of UQ’s labs which are more formal. UBC’s course difficulty is lower than UQs. I was above average for all of my five courses with only about 5-7 hours private study a week. This allowed time to prioritise social events and travel more than would be possible at home.

Lectures were not recorded. If you are normally studious and turn up to your classes, your main issue will be studying for the finals. If you don’t ‘get’ material when it’s taught, you have bad notes and poor revision material. It helps to sit next to the same 1 or 2 people in a class so you can ask them for notes or add them on Facebook and discuss the material before finals.

Overall in the semester I had 6 mid-terms (multiple mid-terms are a thing here), 4 assignments, 5 heftily weighted quizzes and 4 finals. I was never really overly stressed during the term.

Personal Experience

I made a lot of friends on exchange, extraordinarily cool people that I would have otherwise never ever met. I didn’t form any close friendships with local Canadians, but that wasn’t a bad thing as they were all pretty focused on their studies and not really up for much travel/socialising. Some exchange students banded with their home countries, but mostly friendship groups were an eclectic mix. Danes along with Australians were common at UBC. I also made friends from France, Czechia, The Netherlands, Belgium, England, Scotland, Switzerland and Slovenia. It was a wonderful insight into various cultures.

I finished my UQ semester in November and the term at UBC started at January, so I travelled Canada and the States for a month beforehand. During the actual exchange I travelled to the Rocky mountains in winter, Tofino, Vancouver Island/Victoria, Seattle & Portland, Deep Cove and Whistler. After my exchange, I took the opportunity to travel even more as the winter semester ends in April, essentially giving you an early summer break. I travelled with friends from UBC to the Rockies again, and then did a west coast trip hitchhiking and greyhounding down to San Fran and then across to Yosemite (accessible by public transport). I visited my family in Germany, and travelled through Canada a bit as well.

I developed my ski skills, my independence, my budgeting abilities, and my confidence. I also took Salsa classes with the Latin Club, something I’d always wanted to try.

Accommodation

Living on campus makes all the difference in getting the full exchange experience. I didn’t get positive impressions of the experiences of those who lived off campus. I stayed at Fairview, which had a relaxed and social, but also homely vibe. 4-6 people would stay in a small house with 2 or 3 floors. You won’t get assigned a mixed dorm unless you specifically list the name of an opposite sex person who is also applying for residence on your application. Fairview and Gage were the main exchange student residences, and then a few at Marine Drive. I visited Gage a few times but found the setup a bit like a hotel and not as friendly.
Don’t stock all your hope into your roommates. My two Canadian roommates I rarely saw but my roommate from Amsterdam was an absolute Gem. A lot of people had pretty mediocre roommates, and didn’t become close friends with them.

Budget

I spent about $60 a week on groceries and had takeout or ate out twice a week on top of th

at. Getting the compass card made travel costs a generally one-off payment, unless I was travelling outside of the Vancouver area. I budgeted $60 a day ($30 accommodation, $30 activities and entertainment and extra food) outside of my groceries and found it was a good amount. This works out to about $2000 a month, $8000 for the exchange. The budget even held up when I travelled if I was careful (e.g. I travelled to the Rockies on this budget just fine in the Spring). Add on to this for ski passes, ski rentals, flights, insurance, visas/permits and unexpected costs. My unexpected costs totalled around $1000. $700 was for damage to a rental car by a driver with limited insurance on a group trip where damages were split equally and my own private insurance didn’t cover the damages as I wasn’t the driver. I also had to pay $180 to get my room lock changed when I lost the keys from my backpack while skiing. If you stay longer than 6 months you will need to apply for UBC’s insurance. I paid four months’ worth, totally $280, something I didn’t really think about since I just accounted for UBC iMed and private travel insurance costs.

The residence advisors set up a shuttle to do super convenient pickup/drop-offs to Whistler on the weekend, $20 return. Epic rides $35 return, potentially more reliable arrival and departure, and ride shares are more difficult to organise and from what I heard, the drivers are often a bit speedy.

Professional Development & Employability

Exchange primarily develops your ability to trust and depend on yourself. Social skills are important in any career where teamwork of some type is required (read: almost every career), and exchange allows you to learn to find things common with students outside of your degree and from different cultural backgrounds. Whereas at UQ you primarily develop you hard skills, exchange is the perfect opportunity to develop your soft skills.

In terms of further study, having experience in another educational institution prepares you for differences in academic systems, as well as opening up a globe of international graduate opportunities – you’ve studied overseas once, you can do it again!

Highlights

A specific memory would be seeing a proper Canadian turquoise lake in the Rocky Mountains. I actually cried because I couldn’t believe how blue it was!

In general, it was the people I met. They gave me such joy and so many memories, and I treasure meeting them over everything else.

Top Tips

 

1. Exchange at UBC in the winter semester. I have zero regrets about my host university choice or the season I went in.

2. Come with half a bag. The thrifting scene in Vancouver is rad. I snagged a North Face jacket for $5. I could have even bought my own ice skates for 12 bucks in my size. The Salvos thrift stores are amazing, but it’s also a cool experience to go to the Rag Machine which sells clothes by the pound.

3. Join the Exchange Student Club and attend Thursday nights at Koerner’s!

4. I tried to attend a Parks Canada club all semester and never got a spot. The VOC has a bit of a sign up fee but I regret not joining. The events did seem to be less beginner-friendly, however.

5. For the Tofino trip by the exchange student club, signon was at 7pm and I started lining up at 2.30. There was way more demand than spots.

6. Cool things to check out on campus: the pool and the sauna, free with UBC card. Also free ice skating hours at the rink. I didn’t take advantage as much as I could have.

7. Sports junkies does decent ski gear hire for $250 for the season.

8. Keep a journal. My record of my exchange is one of the most precious things in my possession. The little moments don’t get forgotten that way.

9. Miku at the waterfront does amazing sushi, for a price. Vancouver has the most sushi restaurants outside of Japan. Take advantage of it!

10. For groceries. There’s Safeway just a few stops from the 99, Save on Foods in the village (a favourite of mine), No Frills (very low prices), and a Chinese specialist grocer on campus (expensive, but good if you’re vegan/vegetarian)

11. Prepare to spend the first few weeks going to a lot of parties and social events to meet exchange students. Do your study when you’re free, don’t procrastinate, so that you don’t have to miss out.

12. Do a dance course with the UBC latin club.

13. Don’t be afraid to contact UBC with questions about enrolment, courses, credits, etc. once you’ve been accepted. UBC gave us information on the orientation night which we actually needed months prior and had all figured out by then. Be proactive and don’t depend on your home or host university for always telling you what you need to do and/or how.

14. GET A FLU SHOT. I am usually sick once a year or every two years with a bit of a sniffle. I was sick FOUR times, sometimes chronically so, and I would hazard a guess that the viruses are a bit different to home and therefore exchange students are more susceptible.

15. Use budgetsimple.com (free) or a budgeting app to keep track of your expenses. Once I started using it, I never overspent my budget for the month. Wish I would have done so from the start.

 

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