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!

Eliza_5a
Some exchange friends (left to right: Finja, Will, Me, Antonio, Há, Jenny, Lotte)
Eliza_5b
Team REME – Archaeology group project. (Left to right: Simran, Rachel, Brynn, Me, Andreea)
Eliza_5c
Last Hockey game in Canada with Mary!
Eliza_5d
Gingerbread house decorating with the roomies! Showing off our creation with Camryn
Eliza_5e
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!

Eliza_Signature

Seb: What to Bring (and Not Bring) to UBC

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!

Do Bring:

  • 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!

Don’t Bring:

  • 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!

Seb_Signature

Seb_4a
Throwback to the “Sunshine” Coast trip when it rained for two days straight…
Seb_4b
I joined a UBC intramural football (soccer) team and got to play at Thunderbird Stadium!
Seb_4c
The beautiful trees in Pacific Spirit Regional park, just on the edge of UBC campus!

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.

eliza_4a-1.jpg
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.

Eliza_4b
Pike Place Market
Eliza_4c
Famous Gum Wall at the Pike Place Market
Eliza_4d
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.

Eliza_4e
Space Needle
Eliza_4f
View from the Space Needle
Eliza_4g
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.

Eliza_4h
On the ferry to Bainbridge Island
Eliza_4i
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.

Eliza_Signature

Seb: Hiking in Vancouver

Hey guys! In this post I wanted to share my experiences hiking in Vancouver! The great outdoors was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to come to UBC and I’m happy to report that British Columbia lives up to all the hype! If you want to up your Instagram game, seriously, this is the place to be!

This year we were treated to an exceptionally long hiking season, with the weather remaining largely (and unusually) excellent across October and November. This meant I had plenty of opportunities to do lots of hiking in the Vancouver area, and I thought I’d share some of the best ones with you!

PSA: Please remember that just because these mountains are close to Vancouver, doesn’t mean you can treat them the same way you would a walk in the Auckland Domain! Make sure you bring appropriate gear for the conditions you’ll be facing! If you’re not sure, the Auckland University Tramping Club website has some good guidelines for gear you should (and shouldn’t) bring!

This also applies to driving – winter driving in Canada is nothing remotely like winter driving in Auckland. Make sure your car is equipped for the conditions you’ll be facing. And drive safe please ❤

Elfin Lakes – 9/10

Near Whistler, this was a nice relaxed hike that started with an uphill forest section and then continued through exposed sub-alpine meadows and grassy areas above the bush line. The hike ends at the beautiful Elfin Lakes, which you can swim in! It took us about 2 hours each way and overall was fairly easy. A good beginner hike! Just keep in mind that the gravel road up to the carpark is a bit dodgy. This one gets a 9/10 for me.

Seb_3a

Seb_3B

Seb_3c

Cheakamus Lake – 7/10

Also located near Whistler, this is the easiest hike on this list. It just follows the perimeter of a large lake, so there is virtually no elevation gain at all. The time taken depends on how far you wish to walk. We extended the track to one of the campsites and it took us about 5 hours return. An excellent hike for beginners, and it wasn’t too crowded either! But the views are beautiful even if the hike itself is a bit easy! This one gets a 7/10 from me.

Seb_3d

Joffre Lakes – 9/10

This is a very popular hike, and with good reason. You pass three beautiful alpine lakes on the short hike up. It’s a fairly long drive from Vancouver, but the hike can be completed much quicker than the signs suggest. It took us about 2 and a half hours instead of the posted five. This one gets a 9/10 from me due to a superb views-to-effort ratio! Unfortunately, due to its popularity, the carpark fills up quickly so it’s best to start early!

Seb_3e

The Stawamus Chief – 8/10

A huge free-standing granite monolith located in Squamish, about halfway between Vancouver and Whistler. This is an excellent day hike, with great views of Squamish and Howe Sound. There are three peaks you can climb, and depending on how many you want to tackle, the hike can take anywhere between two and five hours. Given how accessible and popular the hike is, it’s surprisingly technical, with lots of rock scrambling! The views weren’t as spectacular as some of the other hikes on this list, so this one gets an 8/10 from me.

Seb_3f

Howe Sound Crest Trail – 10/10

The full HSCT will take you at least two days, but you can choose different sections to match your ability level. We did St Mark’s Summit and the humorously-named Unnecessary Mountain as a day hike, which took us at least 6 hours. I’d recommend starting the hike from the Cypress Mountain ski field, rather than from Lions Bay via public transport, since this removes a lot of the elevation gain. This one gets a 10/10 from me for amazing views, versatility, and proximity to Vancouver.

Seb_3g

Seb_3h

Mount Seymour Trail – 10/10

Mount Seymour is one of the ski fields in Vancouver, but during the summer months it’s also a great hiking location! The Mount Seymour trail traverses three separate summits with amazing views of Vancouver, the surrounding mountains, and even out towards the United States. It’s not a bad place to catch a sunset too! (remember to bring a headtorch for the way down!). This one also gets a 10/10 from me.

Seb_3i

Seb_3j

Garibaldi Lake – 8/10

This is another very popular hike. The hike to the lake is uphill and moderately hard but shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours. Experienced hikers can use Garibaldi Lake as a base for further walks, such as Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. If you attempt one of these, you’re looking at 12 hours or so of hiking, but the views look amazing! We didn’t attempt those when we visited, but if I was to go back again I’d definitely give it a go!

The hike to the lake itself gets an 8/10, but if you continued up to Panorama Ridge I reckon that’d be a solid 10/10!

Seb_3k

Rainbow Lake – 9/10

Located in Whistler, this was quite a long hike (around 20km) and fairly moderate in difficulty. What makes this hike awesome is how diverse the track is – you pass forests, meadows and alpine lakes and all of it is beautiful. This gets a 9/10 from me!

Seb_3l

The Grouse Grind – 7/10

Do you like stairs? If you do, then the Grouse Grind is for you! This track is basically a giant staircase set in a forest in North Vancouver. It took us about an hour and a half of suffering hiking to make it to the top! Unfortunately, when we made it to the top, Vancouver was blanketed in wildfire smog which meant we couldn’t see anything at all! Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to hike back down due to dubious “safety reasons” which means you have to purchase a gondola ride ($15) back down the mountain. Hmmm…

This one gets points for being public-transit accessible, having great views (on a good day) and there being a range of other cool attractions at the top of the mountain, such as a bear enclosure!

Overall, I’d give it a 7/10.

Seb_Signature

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!

Eliza_3a
The streets were filled with the brightest orange leaves for weeks while the trees dropped their leaves!
Eliza_3b
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!).

Eliza_3c
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).

Eliza_3d
Eating Maple taffy with Sara – made by pouring maple syrup into the snow and rolling it up on an ice block stick!
Eliza_3e
Some of the lights hung up around downtown Vancouver! (Jordyn, Me, Sara)
Eliza_3f
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!

Eliza_Signature

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!

Eliza_2a

Eliza_2b
University Hockey Game with One of my roommates Cam (left) and a friend Thora (middle)!
Eliza_2c
University Basketball Game!
Eliza_2d
Noah Cyrus concert with one of my Roommates, Sara
Eliza_2e
My Halloween costume with my room mates (Jordyn on left, Cam in the middle) We were ‘spice girls’

 

Eliza_Signature

Seb: Budgeting in Vancouver

Vancouver is infamous for being an expensive city. In this post I want to help share some assorted tips and tricks that I’ve picked up during my time here to hopefully make your time in Vancouver easier and more affordable.

seb_2a.jpg
A beautiful Autumn day on campus!

Groceries:

  • There are two big supermarkets you’ll be going to – Save on Foods (on the edge of campus) and No Frills (a 15-minute bus ride from campus. The Canadian equivalent of Pak ‘n’ Save).
  • Groceries are overall a bit cheaper than NZ, especially if you shop around. This is partly because groceries in Canada are tax-exempt.
  • If you go to Save on Foods, which is typically more expensive, get a MoreRewards card (like FlyBuys) and take advantage of their sales.
  • Supermarkets don’t sell any alcohol, you can only find this in dedicated liquor stores.
  • There are a couple of op shops (thrift stores) close to campus. You can get everything you need for your kitchen/room from there (no need to go all the way to Ikea!)

Transport:

  • Campus is big – buy a bike or use a bikeshare service (Dropbike)
  • Don’t buy a car – Make friends with locals or use a carshare service (they are very affordable if you split between a full carload)
  • Public transport in Vancouver is amazing
  • You are required to purchase a public transportation pass when you come to UBC. You’ll be surprised how much use you’ll get out of it (even if you live on campus!)

Skiing:

  • Buy your passes for Whistler before October 7 to get the cheapest price
  • Whistler is totally do-able as a day trip from UBC. No need to pay extortionate prices for accommodation in the village!
  • There are also several other ski fields (Grouse, Seymour, Cypress) closer to Vancouver which are less than half the price of a day pass at Whistler
  • Ski gear is significantly cheaper here than in NZ. Find a second-hand store or Ski swap event for some sick gear. Sometimes brands will even come to UBC and set up a pop-up outlet store.

Housing:

  • Don’t stress over choosing between Walter Gage or Fairview Crescent (the two halls of residence where most exchange students end up). They’re both nice and well-located.
  • Walter Gage is apartment style and located right in the middle of campus.
  • Fairview Crescent is townhouse-style and is effectively its own little village slightly further from the lecture theatres but in a nicer, greener area.
  • If you’re unable to secure housing at UBC, the HI Jericho Beach hostel allows long-term stays for around CAD$300 a month.

Other:

  • Canadian University students (including exchange students) get six months of free Amazon Prime. Score!
  • Mobile plans in Canada are extortionate. At least double the price you’d pay in NZ for the same service. You’ll have Wi-Fi most of the time anyway. Just buy some Skype calling credit or a calling plan and you’ll literally save hundreds of dollars.
  • If you’re brave enough to risk a $10 haircut, Chinatown is the place to go.

Travel:

  • There’s no mid-semester break in Term 1 (September – December). If you want to go travelling, do it before/after the semester or go during a long weekend.
  • Don’t just arrive on September 1st! Get to Canada early and do some travelling around beforehand.
  • Hiking season in Vancouver lasts until around October (when the snow starts to fall!).
  • Join the Exchange Student Club. They run lots of fun events and also rent out tents – handy!
  • Under the United States Visa Waiver Programme (this is what you’ll be admitted under if you arrive in the US with an ESTA), travelling to Canada won’t reset your 90-day clock. So, if you want to visit the USA you’ll have to do all of it within a 90-day period (unless you get a travel visa – but this will add extra time and cost).
  • Vancouver Island is amazing but is also deceptively hard to get to. The UBC Surf Club runs a trip to Tofino every semester which is probably the cheapest, easiest and most fun way of getting there!

Canada:

  • I’d highly recommend going to a Vancouver Canucks game (ice hockey). Go to a pre-season match in September for the cheapest tickets (~$20).
  • In Canada they don’t call it ice hockey. It’s just called hockey.
  • Tim Horton’s is always a good idea.
Seb_2b
Garibaldi Provincial Park, near Whistler. All of this is less than 2 hours away from Vancouver!

Seb_2c

Seb_2d
Canadian canoeing on the Exchange Club’s Sunshine Coast trip!
Seb_2e
Surfing in Tofino. Yewwwww!

 

Seb_Signature