Flora Scott, Chemistry, University of British Columbia, Canada
Despite the many similarities when doing your year abroad in another westernised English-speaking country (I wouldn’t say it was exactly a culture shock), there are many differences between Canada and England.
Other than the most important issues (like how terrible the cheese is) one thing I still haven’t got used to is how the tax is added on after you get to the till/ get the bill instead of being shown on the original price tag. Being in a shop with the correct amount of change never works out as once you get to the cashier desk you find that you need to dish out another few dollars. The student bank account I had with Scotiabank was very easy to open and perfectly functional except you could only take money out at their ATMs and for some reason in Canada debit cards are not always accepted. For someone looking to open an account I would look into the possibility of getting a credit card (although I survived the year fairly easily without one). In terms of converting your English money into your Canadian account, transferwise is useful for doing this quickly and making sure you don’t wind up paying large fees to your home or abroad bank account.
Another shock was the price of phone contracts in Canada. I pay $60 a month (around £35) whereas I’m used to paying no more than £15 a month. It is definitely useful to have google maps so you don’t get lost, but it may be beneficial to get a contract with data only as I rarely used my messages or minutes.
In terms of where to live when arriving on exchange at UBC, I would probably recommend moving into the university accommodation. Of course it isn’t ideal going from having your own house to moving back into halls. You have to share a fairly small space with people you don’t really know and don’t necessarily get on with it, however it is much more convenient. Arriving at a new university, in a new country is quite a stressful experience on it’s own without having the added pressure of trying to find a house. Also, my experience was that out of the 6 people I lived with I only saw two of them regularly. Unlike in the UK, university halls aren’t solely full of first years and my flatmates tended to keep to themselves. So despite the fact it was not a spacious flat it felt big enough and was never overly loud when I needed to study. A lot of the Canadians also keep fridges in their rooms so for the first time at Uni I actually had enough space for my food. The majority of exchange students arriving at UBC live in either Walter Gage or Fairview Crescent accommodation. Walter Gage is directly on campus meaning you can walk to classes in less than 10 minutes. If you are lucky you also have the benefit of an amazing view of the mountains.
A lot of people say that Fairview is the more sociable place to live. I was also told that it was nice to live a little further out of campus (although it is still only a short walk), as UBC can feel like a bit of a bubble. I was lucky enough to have an amazing view in Walter Gage so I am very biased in saying it is the better place to live out of the two.