Vancouver. One of the best cities in the world. What more can I say? My name is Josia, and I embarked on my student exchange program at the University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada.

Currently awaiting graduation, I am an international student pursuing a Bachelor of Economics/Arts. I am in my 4th and final year, and my exchange semester in Vancouver just happened to be my final semester as well! It is safe to say that my time at UBC has been truly unforgettable. The friends I made came from all over the world - England, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, just to name a few. Most, if not all, are friends that I will cherish and continue to keep. Together we explored the scenic Grouse Mountain, and the victorian setting that is Gastown. Not forgetting also the winter sports madness. Snowboarding and skiing was on many of our to-do lists, needless to say. Never did I expect myself to love snowboarding so much that I even bought one there! Many (myself included) flock to Grouse, Cypress and Whistler mountains to satisfy their snow hunger. As for accommodation, I lived on campus like many other exchange students.

On-campus living is great as it is the best avenue to socialise and make friends. One of the biggest benefits is that lecture rooms are at your doorstep. Of course, there were some downsides. It was tough having to deal with the different living habits of 5 other flatmates, though fortunately none of us got on each other's nerves. As for academics, I took up Economics, International Relations and also a French language course. I have to say that UBC does indeed have a very different academic system. Lecture sizes are smaller, which makes learning much easier as it allows students to engage more with the lecturer. Having said that, academic standards are more demanding and skipping lectures is an option you wouldn't want to take. It is advisable to have at least CAD6,000 for daily expenses, accommodation, academic material, and miscellaneous costs (alcohol, outings etc.). However, I would recommend keeping an extra CAD4,000 to CAD5,000 if you intend to do any travelling in nearby cities/countries before, during or after your exchange program. Simply put, it's better to have more than less.

5 top tips:

  • Coffee. If you're true blue Aussie, you'll know what I'm talking about! Great Dane Coffee just behind Walter Gage Towers is your best bet for your coffee fix amidst the studying during midterms and finals. Read: authentic, specialty, legitimate, REAL COFFEE. Alternatively if you have time to explore the city, try Coffeebar and Revolver in Gastown, or Elysian Coffee near the Broadway-City Hall station.
  • Socialise, socialise, socialise. If there is an event, party, or any social activity on or off campus, make sure you get your butt down there! Going for exchange is your one-way ticket to making as many international and local friends as you can, so don't let any opportunity to meet more people slip through your hands. You'll never know when you'll need a place to crash if you're visiting a new city, and networks are important once you graduate and enter the working world.
  • Don't skip lectures (well, try not to at least). UBC's academic system is quite different from UQ's and if you get complacent with your studies, it will haunt you when midterms and finals approach. The last thing you'd want to do is scramble and panic when crunch time comes. Stay on top of your lectures and you'll definitely have a more enjoyable time on exchange!
  • Explore and travel. Vancouver is beautiful, and so are the nearby cities. Many students take short trips to Seattle, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Banff, and many others. Make full use of your time in North America to see the world, literally.
  • Winter Sports. You HAVE to snowboard/ski at some point on your exchange. Canadians cannot live without winter sports, and neither can you if you're going to be there for 4 months. British Columbia has some of the best mountains in the world for winter sports (Whistler, Big White, Grouse etc.). It'll burn a hole in your pocket, but trust me, it's worth it. All of it.


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