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!

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Throwback to the “Sunshine” Coast trip when it rained for two days straight…
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I joined a UBC intramural football (soccer) team and got to play at Thunderbird Stadium!
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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.

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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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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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Views 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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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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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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.

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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.
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Garibaldi Provincial Park, near Whistler. All of this is less than 2 hours away from Vancouver!

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

 

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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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Seb: Housing at UBC

Hi everyone! After six weeks of travelling through the United States and Western Canada, I now find myself at the University of British Columbia! I want to start off this blog series by talking about housing because this is definitely something I wish I’d known more about before I came here.

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First of all, the University of British Columbia (UBC) isn’t really located in Vancouver. It’s about a forty-minute bus ride from downtown. This creates a beautiful campus environment, with everything from swimming pools to beaches to walking trails to supermarkets to sports stadia.

With such a large and beautiful campus, unfortunately this creates massive (massive) demand for on-campus housing.

But that’s fine, I thought. I’m an exchange student. I’ll definitely get accommodation on campus.

See, the thing is, UBC doesn’t actually guarantee residence for exchange students. I knew that when I applied, but figured it was more of an escape clause for them in case of exceptional circumstances.

Unfortunately, that’s precisely what happened to me! Back in June, about a week after everyone else started excitedly chatting about which hall of residence they had been accepted into, I received my wait list position via email. It was almost 3000. No that’s not a typo. A wait list of three thousand people for housing for the Fall semester. Yikes! Apparently the total waitlist was as long as six thousand.

My understanding of the housing system is that it’s pretty much a lottery. Despite doing everything I was supposed to – choosing my preferences, applying early, paying the application fee – I still didn’t get a place.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person in that situation. From anecdotal evidence, I’d guesstimate that about a quarter of exchange students this semester found themselves with no housing. Finding accommodation, as a student, for just a few months in a city like Vancouver (with a rental market that makes Auckland look pretty tame) is not an easy task.

Naturally, this put a lot of stress and pressure on me just as I was heading into my Semester 1 exams back in Auckland. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a sublet on-campus through Facebook, but I know I was extremely lucky to have done so.

Overall, I didn’t feel like the probability of not being assigned housing was adequately communicated to me by UBC and it just caused me a lot more stress than I had anticipated.  I also didn’t like being left in the dark while all my friends had received housing offers.

If you do find yourself in this position, don’t panic! The best advice I can give is to join all the relevant Facebook pages and find a group of people who are also looking for accommodation so you can search together. Also, if you’re going in the Spring Semester (Auckland Uni’s Semester One) apparently there is less demand, so you may have better luck! Expect to pay somewhere in the region of CAD$700 to $1200 for a room in a shared unit close to campus.

UBC is a great place but, goodness gracious, the housing situation here is a really challenge. But if you can make it through it, then it’s totally worth the effort! UBC are responding to the huge demand for on-campus housing by committing to building 6300 new beds in the next 10 years. For us exchange students, that can’t happen fast enough!

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Sunset at Wreck Beach, just a 15 minute walk from my residence. Not bad, huh?

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Reflections: Shirley

Final thoughts are usually something of a mixed feeling for me. Even the name itself just pushes you to face all the preparation, all the hidden fears and excitements of living a life elsewhere for half a year and all the amazing memories that have come out of it is about to end. Usually I would find myself in a state of blankness, that really horrible feeling of dread and knowing that at least for the next little while, I will leave behind adventure for the mundane monotony of home.

But in actual fact, that was not how I felt leaving Montreal. Of course I would miss everybody that I have met and had a great connection to without a doubt, and I appreciate that the time and experiences I had were unique and special. But somehow the things I learnt about myself, about how to progress with my life and how to think about things from a different perspective made me particularly excited to come home. And nobody is more surprised about that revelation than I am. It’s like what they say, you never really find the things you look for until you stop looking. And I wasn’t prepared to find this newfound appreciation not just for the world outside of my own country and the lovely things that comes with it, but of it instead. I didn’t even realise I had missed New Zealand that much until I could not stop smiling landing back from a long journey and savouring the sunlight instead of the snow. There are too many new ways of changing my lifestyle and mindset to better ones that ultimately I appreciated the experience for what it was: As a big learning curve that ultimately gave me exactly what I needed at this point in my life.

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It’s only fitting that this last post should be a visual highlight reel of my experience in Montreal, and along with the various posts I as well as my fellow exchange students have done over the past half year, hope that it inspires even just a few of you to take the plunge. These snapshots what words can’t capture, only that the feeling after having achieved and experienced all of this makes me feel very lucky and extremely grateful. It can be scary, intense and at some points no matter if it’s organising it of simply living it. But in all honesty, nothing could make your university life more memorable. In twenty years, it won’t matter as much what grade you got in which paper. That won’t be the conversation starter when you have work events, family gatherings or social reunions. But for me, the special times like watching my first ice hockey game, or hiking in sea of golden leaves during a storm, or having a white Christmas on top of a mountain… Those I will share time and time again with fondness and happiness.

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Thank you to everyone who supported the content; Giving a glimpse of my adventure was such a creative outlet to share those incredible moments and I enjoyed it every step of the way. And as cliché as it may sound, it cannot compare to actually living it. Don’t believe me? I dare you to give it a try.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)

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Wanderlust: Shirley

Some people may be thinking that exchange life is more like normal life at home but in a different place, and in a lot of ways they are right. The length of time is definitely long enough for certain habits and routines to development and the ones around you take really no time at all to become family. But it is also a way of life that is exciting and thrilling, unrelenting and often tiring at the same time, which may sound unappealing but would definitely not be done in any other way. Because the soul source of all those feels that makes the whole experience so vibrant and worthwhile comes down to one thing: The ability to travel.

There are limitless easy possibilities when you find that you’re in a country surrounded by other regions and countries rather than by sea, and I can say without fail that each and every exchange student would have taken absolute advantage of this to see more, taste more, learn more and feel more. So for a fun post that might even give you a bit of inspiration with where you might want to do your exchange in the first place. By no means do I love Montreal any less, I thought I could give a brief little rundown of all the other places I managed to wander to.

The first and certainly the one that set the standard was Quebec City. Granted a massive push of summer heat even at the end of September, it was like we had walked into a beautiful European town that really glowed and you just couldn’t help but smile wherever you went. With a huge French influence that really appealed to what I love personally, the days spent just walking around and enjoying the delicious food on outside terraces while listening to street jazz music was just the perfect start to my exploration of this part of the world. It was exactly the type of holiday that I love, and a perfect way to get excited about my next endeavours.

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The second destination could perhaps be considered a must hit for eastern Canada and while I could have chosen a better time than before a heavily weighted midterm to go, Toronto was a place that appealed to me in ways I couldn’t have imagined myself. Being the biggest city within Canada, the rich variety of things I saw whilst I was there really made an impact, and the engineer inside me really appreciated that even without the CN tower, those tall buildings downtown were extremely impressive. And of course the Niagara Falls were not at all disappointing, but I loved the fun and amusing township most of all which everyone had somehow forgot to mention. While it was undeniably more slightly stressful than what I was used to, perhaps it was the most surprising trip that led me to a place I seemed to think I had a full grasp on yet found I knew barely anything at all. But isn’t that what travelling is all about?

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If Quebec City was the epitome of a perfect summer vacation, then Ottawa was its equal in every way as a winter getaway. And in true contrasting style, we managed to fill a house full of new friends and roommates to have a wild weekend away, where we could celebrate coming together from all over the world and make unforgettable memories while we had the chance. It was true a time of bonding, with one of my best friends and my roommate treating ourselves like queens in an outdoor mountain spa in the dead of winter. I cannot even convey the luxury of having warm water wrapping around you as the morning light faded to a chill night, and when the lights and candles started to glow through the steam, we experienced our first real snowfall. It stayed until the next day when we walked our way through Ottawa in absolute awe of this magical setting to consolidate a very heart warming and lovely weekend away.

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The final and certainly biggest destination was the only one I had set my eyes on before I had even left for my exchange experience because who could deny an opportunity to explore the concrete jungle? New York was absolutely spectacular. It was impressive and grandiose and interesting in so many ways, but I could not believe how lucky I was to get a full week and a half to spend there, including the infamous New Year’s Eve. Snowstorms and high winds did nothing to knock our spirits to wander anywhere and everywhere that we could, and I don’t think we could have taken more advantage of being there than we did. Rooftop parties, food and cafe hopping days, shopping getaways… we went big because as sad it was, we knew we were going home.

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But what a perfect way to finish off a massive adventure that held nothing back and gave us everything it had. If something like this doesn’t convince you that an exchange is worthwhile, I really don’t know what will.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)

Adobe Spark (10)