Hey guys! I’m currently heading towards the end of my finals season in UBC, which means I’ll be leaving Canada in just over two weeks! I’ve wanted to live in Vancouver for many years and I’m happy to report that this place lived up to all my expectations! Looking back on my time here, I thought it’d be useful to share some things I’d recommend bringing (and not bringing) on your exchange at UBC!
- Waterproof hiking boots – In Vancouver it tends to get a little bit wet during the winter months. Having a nice pair of waterproof boots will keep your feet warm and dry while walking between classes, and they’ll double as hiking shoes for trails up in the mountains! Don’t be that person putting themselves in danger on a slippery, rocky hiking trail by wearing running shoes!
- A good rain jacket or a ski jacket – For similar reasons, having a good ski jacket will be very useful both for up in the mountains and staying dry around campus.
- Waterproof pants – For the same reasons above. Especially if you plan on cycling. Wet jeans aren’t a fun time!
- A credit card – I signed up for a credit card just before I left Auckland and I’m so glad I did! Some car rentals and hotels require a credit card (not a debit card) as a pre-authorisation. They also come in handy for renting ski gear, bikes etc. Having a credit card will also give you that peace of mind in case you forget to top up your account balance and your debit card declines (awkward!). I think most banks offer a fees-free credit card with their student package, so get amongst that. Just remember to pay if off in time!
- A travel card – I’m not a big fan of pre-loaded travel cards because, for regular purchases, I don’t think they offer better rates than your regular bank card. However, where these cards are very useful is for withdrawing cash from ATMs. Travel cards will typically allow you to do this for free, while if you use your New Zealand debit card it might cost you about $7 per withdrawal. Canada is better than the USA, but not quite as good as NZ, when it comes to accepting bank cards universally. So, it does still help to carry some cash with you just in case. Also, No-Frills (the cheapest supermarket closest to UBC) only accepts Mastercard or cash, so bear that in mind.
- A travel power adapter and a NZ multi-board – Travel hack 101: Bring a NZ multi-board with you and charge all your devices with just a single power adapter. Boom!
- A headlamp – During winter the sun sets at about 4pm. Having a headtorch is really useful for hiking, running or cycling in the dark!
- Some thermal base layers – Polyprop or merino base layers are great at keeping you warm (even when it’s wet), wick moisture away from your body, weigh very little and take up next to no space. These are a no brainer. Don’t forget thermal pants!
- Food from home – I was pleasantly surprised by how much New Zealand (and English) food I could buy in Canada. Whittaker’s chocolate and Tim Tams are both available at Save on Foods on campus. In fact, Whittaker’s chocolate is actually cheaper here than it is back in NZ! However, I haven’t seen any Milo yet!
- Stationery – Get that stuff here! There is a Staples on campus (similar to Warehouse Stationery) that has everything you need
- Bedding – Again, just buy it here! Go to a thrift store or Ikea or see if any outgoing exchange students are selling!
- Kitchen appliances – These probably won’t work here anyway (since the voltages are different).
- Lots of hoodies and jumpers – Around Vancouver and UBC I’ve pretty much adopted a three system: A t-shirt, a merino jumper and a rain jacket on top. This way, I just wear a fresh t-shirt every day and keep the outer layers clean! This saves heaps on laundry and meant I had to pack a lot less (since these are typically quite bulky items). I don’t have a huge wardrobe to choose from, but who cares? You’re on exchange! Anything you can also use as a mid-layer for skiing would be a smart choice!
I thought about including ski/snowboard equipment on this list but I couldn’t quite decide. I think that’ll depend on how much skiing you plan on doing here, how good your gear is back home, whether you’ll be travelling before, what your airline’s luggage policy is etc etc. Personally, I didn’t bring my ski gear with me and I’m happy I didn’t. I’ve found renting to be a much better solution for me!
Anyway, it’s been a wonderful time at UBC and I can’t say enough good things about Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada in general. I’ll be very sad to leave, and I can’t wait to come back some day (maybe on a more permanent basis next time?).
I still have one more blog post to write, by which time I’ll be back in New Zealand. So that’ll be a good chance for me to reflect on a lot of the things I liked and disliked about my exchange!
Until next time!