Eliza: Final Reflections

I have been back in New Zealand for about two weeks and am already missing Canada and my time at UBC. Truthfully, I have struggled to write this post as it is really difficult for me to look back on the most wonderful time I have had without getting too emotional. I can safely say that my four months in Vancouver was a life changing experience that left me with some fantastic memories and life long friendships. It has definitely been adjustment coming back to New Zealand summer after a few months in the cold weather, but I am loving the sun so far.

I thought I would use this post as a place to look back on my favorite memories of my time away. I got the opportunity to live on campus at Fairview Crescent, and loved being so close to university, as well as getting to live with some fabulous people. Over the four months, I became really close with my three roommates, Camryn, Sara and Jordyn. Coming home after a day of uni and getting to hang out with them all was great, and the house had a really positive and fun vibe. All three of them were from different parts of Canada and introduced me to their friend groups, meaning I was able to make friends with heaps of really cool local UBC students.

While on Exchange I got the opportunity to travel twice. Over thanksgiving weekend I went the Rockies with the UBC exchange student club and a hundred other exchange students from all over the world. It was a super fun trip where I met lots of interesting people and took in the gorgeous scenery that is the Canadian Rockies. After the last day of classes, I was able to go away for the weekend with another exchange student from the university of Auckland, Abby. I really enjoyed Seattle and exploring, but must say that Vancouver had to be my favourite city by far.

Some of my fondest memories were just spending time with all the lovely people I met whilst away. I managed to find some nice people in all my classes and in my group project assignments, as well as through my room mates. Me and my room mates really enjoyed having movie nights together, and watching friends, a show we all loved (we even had a friends poster hanging up in our living room!). As weird as it sounds, I really enjoyed the hours spent at the library with my room mate Sara and good friend Mary, studying for finals.

Overall, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to study the last semester at UBC. I had so much fun and fell in love with Vancouver, UBC and all the welcoming people I met along the way. Coming back to Auckland and re-adjusting back to life at home has been bittersweet. I am happy to be back with my friends and family, enjoying the beautiful weather, but part of my heart will always be back in Vancouver. Vancouver will always be a second home to me, the first place I moved away from home and where I made some close friendships with people I already miss dearly.

To anyone that is thinking about exchange, I highly recommend you go for it. I had the time of my life and wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Although it may seem scary, you will have the most amazing time and won’t regret your decision!

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Some exchange friends (left to right: Finja, Will, Me, Antonio, Há, Jenny, Lotte)
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Team REME – Archaeology group project. (Left to right: Simran, Rachel, Brynn, Me, Andreea)
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Last Hockey game in Canada with Mary!
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Gingerbread house decorating with the roomies! Showing off our creation with Camryn
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My UBC memory box. Decorated in the school colours, containing all the things and memories I collected during my exchange. Something I will treasure forever!

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Eliza: Travels to Seattle

Classes are officially finished at UBC and we are in the thick of finals season. To celebrate the end of classes I decided to go to Seattle for a few days before heading back to Vancouver to do finals. I went with a fellow Aucklander on exchange, Abby.

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Sunrise on the way to Seattle

We decided the best way to get there would be to take the train. Not only is it a lot cheaper than flying, it is a lot more cost effective and you get to experience the most beautiful sunrises over the coast as you make your way towards Seattle. The only negative was having to get up at 4.30am in order to make it to the train station in time for the 6am train. Once in seattle, we stayed in a hostel in Chinatown, which was in a really good location – only taking two stops on the light rail to reach city center.

Whilst in Seattle, there were some things we had to see, in particular the Pike Place Market. The Market was a really cool experience. As you walk towards the market it doesn’t seem like anything special, but as you cross the street you see the iconic market sign and the most picturesque view of Puget Sound. Inside the market there was a lot of fresh produce, and especially seafood. Right across from the market was the first Starbucks. It still had the original logos on all the signsand had some really cool Merchandise items (I was able to get my sister, who is a big Starbucks fan, a Pike Place mug for Christmas!). We stopped to grab some lunch and also stopped by the famous gum wall. I personally thought the gum wall was disgusting but am glad I got to see it and get a photo standing as far away from it as I could.

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Pike Place Market
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Famous Gum Wall at the Pike Place Market
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First Starbucks

The next day we went to the space needle. To get there we took the monorail, which goes directly from the Seattle Center to the space needle. Me and Abby were kinda debating going up the Needle as it was $32 US (which converts to around $45 New Zealand dollars) per person, but the views from the top were definitely worth it! There was a really cool observatory deck surrounding the outside of the space needle where you had 360 degree views of the city, as well as a moving floor on a lower viewing deck inside of the needle. You also got a really great view of the city as you went up and down the elevator. Me and Abby are both big Grey’s Anatomy fans, and later on in the day, we went to go see where “Meredith Grey” lives, a really nice house just outside of the city. There was also a really nice viewpoint of the city at a nearby park that we went and had a look at.

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Space Needle
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View from the Space Needle
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Views from the lookout

On our final day we took a ferry out to Bainbridge island for the day. It was a short ferry ride from the city, only taking around 35 minutes (and only costing $8.50 for a return ticket!). The Island was pretty small but had a really nice art museum, some cute cafes and gift shops and a cute ice cream store with some of the best dulce de leche ice cream I’ve ever had! In the evening we went to see a production of Annie at the 5th avenue theatre. It was a really well done production and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Then we headed back to the hostel and got ready to get up early for our 7am train back to Vancouver.

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On the ferry to Bainbridge Island
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Bainbridge Island

It was great having a few days away after finals to get to see another part of the pacific north west! As of writing this I am in my last 10 days of my exchange and am getting ready for my time to come to an end. I have had some of the best experiences of my life and am going to miss Vancouver and UBC immensely.

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Eliza: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

The seasons have definitely started to change here in Vancouver! We ended daylight savings a few weeks ago, and now the sun is setting by about 4.30 and the temperatures have started to drop…although there is no snow yet! The leaves have mostly dropped off the trees, and it is starting to feel a lot more like winter here!

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The streets were filled with the brightest orange leaves for weeks while the trees dropped their leaves!
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Beautiful sunset at Westbrook Village, the local shopping area next to campus

We are heading into the last week of classes this week and I am still absolutely in love with Vancouver and really enjoying the classes that I’m taking. With only three and half weeks left of my exchange, I am beginning to feel really sad that my time in Vancouver is nearly coming to an end. The last few weeks have been pretty hectic, filled with midterms and assignments, but we are finally on the home stretch. The last few months have just flew by and It’s hard to believe that I am already in the last month of my exchange.

As the weather has changed, so has the vibe around campus. Following Remembrance Day on November 11th (known as Armistice Day in New Zealand), everything has become more Christmassy. They have hung up string lights along main mall, and Christmas events such as gingerbread house decorating and Christmas themed movie nights hosted by my residence (aka. Rez).

Me and my room mates set up the Christmas decorations in the house last week, including our very own Christmas tree!  We already have Christmas music going too! Also as the weather is getting colder, it is the perfect weather for hot chocolate, and I am on the hunt for the perfect Christmas jumper (and it will actually be cold enough to wear one!).

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Our Christmas decorations! (Camryn, Jordyn, Me)

It seems that Christmas is starting earlier here in Vancouver, as Christmas festivals and markets are already popping up around the city. I went with two of my room mates, Sara and Jordyn to a Christmas candy festival in Yaletown, and have plans to go to the German Christmas market and the VanDusen festival of lights (both of which I have heard great things about).

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Eating Maple taffy with Sara – made by pouring maple syrup into the snow and rolling it up on an ice block stick!
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Some of the lights hung up around downtown Vancouver! (Jordyn, Me, Sara)
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At the Yaletown Candy Christmas festival. Sitting on a seat carved out of Ice! (Jordyn, Me, Sara)

I am loving getting into the spirit, and finally getting to experience a cold Christmas season!

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Eliza: Advice for Moving to a New City

I have been in Vancouver for around 2 months and am absolutely in love with both the city and UBC. Since my arrival I have been working hard to adjust and make the most of the short time I have here.

Prior to arriving in Vancouver, I was a bit nervous about my decision to move to the other side of the world alone, but shortly after arriving in the city my fears were eased as I completely fell in love with the city. Although it was a bit isolating and overwhelming at first, I quickly immersed myself into the university culture and made some great friends, especially my room mates. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel out of place, but I have come up with some of the things that have helped me the most so far on my exchange.

Here are my top Five tips for adjusting to a new place and making connections:

  1. Put yourself out there!

Go say hi to someone new in lectures. It really is as easy as sitting down next to someone new, introducing yourself and getting a conversation started. Don’t forget to ask for their Facebook/number so that you can keep the connection going and find them next class! I know it may seem awkward at first but if you are confident about it you will start to make connections in no time. Not only in this a good way to make some new friends, but it is also super helpful to know people in your classes for help with studying, assignments and any questions you may have.

  1. Join as many clubs as you can.

Clubs are a great way to meet like-minded people, as well as doing something you enjoy! My club recommendation at UBC is the Exchange student club. They are a great organization that organizes a large range and number of events from bar crawls and ice skating, to entire weekend trips away (I recently went to the Rockies with them and it was fantastic!).

  1. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t make connections right away.

It takes time to get to know people, and though it may be awkward at first, you’ll build up friendships over time. A good start if you don’t know anyone is always getting together with other Auckland students currently in UBC, and building up from there.

  1. Connect with other exchange students.

They are in the exact same boat as you and will be trying to make new friendships too! Joining the UBC incoming exchange student page is a great start, as other students post all the time about activities they are going to do with open invitations. Through this, not only do you meet people but you also get to go out and see some of the beautiful sites that Vancouver has to offer!

  1. Try to immerse yourself into Canadian culture as much as possible!

Thanks to my three wonderful Canadian roommates, I’ve been lucky enough to try some of the Canadian staple snack foods such as maple cookies, ‘ketchup’ flavoured potato chips and a range of ‘all dressed’ flavoured snacks.

These Five things were a huge part of me being able to adjust so smoothly and really enjoy my first few weeks on exchange. Although the first couple of weeks was a sort of limbo where I was not ‘good’ friends with anyone, I now have made some really strong friendships that I’m sure will be lifelong!

Here are some photo updates of what I’ve been up to the last few weeks!

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University Hockey Game with One of my roommates Cam (left) and a friend Thora (middle)!
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University Basketball Game!
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Noah Cyrus concert with one of my Roommates, Sara
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My Halloween costume with my room mates (Jordyn on left, Cam in the middle) We were ‘spice girls’

 

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Eliza: Adjusting to Life in Vancouver

I have been in Vancouver for just over a month now and it still feels surreal to be here. The landscape is breath taking and the campus is huge! Although UBC isn’t located in city central like the University of Auckland, you can hop on a bus and be downtown in around 40 minutes so it is still convenient if you want to visit.

I managed to secure a place in on campus housing and am living in Fairview Crescent, which is town-house style housing. It is a complex with around 700 residents. I love the layout of townhouses with a brick courtyard in the middle. The complex has a really homey feel and even has a coffee shop in the middle – perfect for studying! I have 3 roommates: Camryn, Sara and Jordyn. They are all domestic students from Canada and were so welcoming when I first arrived. Our house has a really fun dynamic and we have all become great friends!

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Fairview Crescent
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Keith Urban Concert with the roomies! (Left to right: Sara, Jordyn, Me, Camryn)

Throughout my first few weeks of lectures I did notice some differences compared to New Zealand in the class layout. In classes, there are is a lot more participation required. It is a part of your grade and you normally get marks through the use of a clicker to answer questions. I have this in two of my classes and really enjoy using it. The questions are normally reviews of the lecture and give hints as to what the lecturer sees as important concepts to grasp, so they give a good indication for what could be assessed in midterms, assignments, etc. They also track attendance, which means there is no lecture recordings. The lecture recordings are definitely one of the things I miss most about the Auckland system, as they were a great way to look back on anything you missed or didn’t understand during the lecture, so it has been adjustment not having them as a back up.

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i-clicker: used in classes to answer questions and track attendance

While it is important to keep up with studies and stay on top of assignments, it is just as important to make the most of your time while on exchange and go out and explore, and this is one of my main goals during my exchange. Over the last month I have been lucky enough to visit downtown Vancouver several times, go hiking at Joffre lakes, go to a Keith Urban concert with my roommates, and even have a weekend away in the Rockies over thanksgiving break!

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Sunset in Banff, Alberta
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Columbia Icefields, Alberta
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Joffre Lakes with Abby, another exchange student from UoA

Overall, I have had an amazing first month at UBC and although it has been an adjustment compared to my life in Auckland, I am really enjoying myself and am excited for what’s to come over the rest of my exchange.

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Lake Louise, Alberta

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