From Vancity to Mancity

By Giulietta Grassi (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

A year later, and I am back to Manchester, where the Vancouver dream began…

It all feels surreal, I’ve been back in Manchester for a month now and I can’t believe that study abroad is over. As crazy as it sounds, I am definitely grieving… I feel like i’ve just gone through a horrible break up.. sad but true. Its been a hard and weird adjustment, but I think I am finally settling back into life in Manchester. Being reunited with my friends has been amazing and the heavy load of work is definitely helping me settle (as geeky as it sounds) as its makes me focus on something other than daydreaming about Vancouver.

My dissertation is the main thing thats begun this first month back, constant thinking and researching on what I want to spend the year studying, and it’s Vancouver that has helped me find what i’m interested in. My Gender Race and Social Justice course on African-American women in the Americas (and having the most amazing professor teach me this), has lead me to study race and inequality for my dissertation. I feel inspired by my year abroad, the people i’ve encountered and the things i’ve learnt, and feel extremely passionate to start my research.

Although the reality of returning back to Manchester and my year abroad ending has been a struggle, I wouldn’t change it for the world. As every pain of grievance for Vancity I would do 100 times over just to have experienced my year abroad.

Since returning this quote has never felt so accurate to me:
“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.” (Jonah Lehrer, 2009) This is study abroad. It molds you into the person you want to be, helps you discover what you love, leads you to the most amazing adventures and leaves you with the greatest friends you could ask for. As cheesy as it sounds: it has been the best year of my life and the best decision anyone could make… study abroad!

Over and out,


Ps. You’ll be teased about study abroad references forever.. but its worth it… my “in Canada”s and “but in Vancouver”s have lead to a month full of the my friends teasing me with the “did you study abroad in Vancouver?” joke.. forever proud muahaha

The last month of the best year ever

By Giulietta Grassi (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

It’s officially one month ’til I leave the best city in the world, one month ’til I come home to London and start my final year at Manchester. I am lost for words just thinking about it; I can’t believe a year has passed so quickly… I just want to fly back to the beginning and do it all over again. It has been the best year of my life!!

The past month has been packed with trying to see and do as much as possible. We visited Seattle again for the weekend, had one last trip to the USA, and visited my friend’s friend who studies there – the best way to experience Seattle life! It was the best weekend, just exploring the city some more and chilling all together, especially during the long coach journey there, which wasjust filled with us playing pranks on the first person to fall asleep after barely any sleep the night before.

The festival of Holi also happened on campus, thousands of UBC students gathered in the rugby field where Indian music blasted from speakers and we covered each other in paint. IT WAS INCREDIBLE! By this point I actually recognised the different Indian songs playing after spending a year being shown the ropes by one of my best friends here who is from New Delhi.

Also, my best friend from London came to visit – it was amazing! I took her to all the main spots, downtown, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Main Street, the Museum of Anthropology on campus (it’s amazing and free for students!), all the blossom tree spots and then on the final day I took her to Whistler where we met all my friends who had been skiing for the day for apres-ski. It was amazing having her here and having her meet all my friends; it felt like she had always been here… the best reunion!

The past week has been filled with exams, and as cheesy as it sounds, I have actually been enjoying studying and the work I’m doing. I love the freedom of choosing what your final papers are on (yes, apparently I say ‘paper’ instead of ‘exam’ now…) and using your own research and articles found; it makes me excited to think about dissertation writing when I get back – I never thought I’d see the day when I would say that. Also, the non-stop work period means everyone is downstairs in the main commons block of Walter Gage (my accommodation) studying together into the early hours, half of the time is spent studying but the other half is spent hysterically laughing together and procrastinating; my favourite time of day.

The weather has also turned back to summer weather, as it was when I first arrived, and I LOVE IT. The trees are covered in blossom and campus is covered in people studying, listening to music and SUN. I never want to leave this place! It’s weird how in a year you can find a completely new life for yourself, one that a year ago you had no idea about but now is the most important thing to you.

The next month is going to be filled with doing as much in Vancouver with everyone as possible, along with travelling up to Banff and the Rockies, and being with my friends 24/7 until we all have to say goodbye. The thought of it hurts, but I just feel so lucky to have had this year here, that has been life-changing. All I can say is… STUDY ABROAD !!!!!!!! If you get the chance RUN AT IT, because I promise you it will be the best decision you have EVER made.

Stanley Park seawall
Stanley Park seawall
Blossom on campus
Blossom on campus
Holi festival
Holi festival
Ferris wheel in Seattle
Ferris wheel in Seattle
My best friend from home
Reunited with my best friend in Vancouver
Goofing around in Seattle


Trips (Seattle, L.A. and Whistler)

By Giulietta Grassi (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

The trips and travelling have been one of the best things about studying abroad! I’ve loved going away with everyone, from researching where we’re going and where we’re staying right down to getting on a plane all together and finding our way in a new place. Here is a breakdown of some of the places I’ve been to so far during my first semester:

Seattle was the first place on our list of places to visit. It’s so easy to access from Vancouver, a 4 hour coach journey and you’re across the border and in the US of AAAA. I loved Seattle! It’s got a big city vibe, similar to Vancouver, minus the mountains and sea. We were lucky because we knew some people studying in Seattle, so we got the full American college experience. We visited the public market, wondered the thrift shops and went to a college Halloween party. It’s amazing how a border can make so much difference, Vancouver and Seattle are right next to each other, yet there is such a difference in feel between the two. I loved every moment of this feeling and this trip, and I am definitely going back to Seattle before I leave.

Los Angeles!!! What I loved most about this trip was the spontaneity of it. We had never planned to go to L.A., but one day it was suggested and a few hours later we had booked tickets to go in 2 weeks time… IT WAS THE DREAM. We spent the whole plane journey singing Miley Cyrus Party in the USA. We managed to find a cheap apartment to stay in, right off of Hollywood Boulevard, and spent the 4 days wondering Hollywood. I definitely recommend going there for a short break, it was perfect just to get some sunshine, chill at Venice beach and feel like Hollywood stars for the weekend.

I’ve visited Whistler 3 times since being here, all 3 of which have been amazing. The first time was (when there was still some warmth in Canada) for Thanksgiving. We rented camper vans which had tents attached to them. We spent the weekend camping just outside of Whistler village, it was so cool! There were 17 of us cramped into all these different camper vans, sleeping on tents attached to the tops of the vans. It was one of the best and funniest experiences of my life. The other 2 times I went were during winter; skiing in the day and going out at night. Being the clumsy human I am, I managed to hurt my knee badly so am unable to ski now, but even without skiing Whistler is amazing; just exploring the village, staying with loads of friends in an amazing apartment, surrounded by snow and cosy winter vibes. I definitely recommend taking advantage of Whistler as much as possible in Vancouver! BUT being really careful skiing and do not be dumb like me. Whether a skier or not, Whistler is perfect for the weekend and chilling with friends.

Thanksgiving camping in Whislter
Beverly Hills, L.A.
Thanksgiving camping in Whistler
Skiing in Whistler
skiing in Whistler
Skiing in Whistler

UBC school life

By Giulietta Grassi (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

So I have been in Vancouver for three months now, and I still can’t believe it! Three of the most amazing months of my life. It definitely has been an adjustment, living so far away from everyone you love, getting used to the time difference, and finding your way completely by yourself. However, the biggest thing I think I have had to adapt to is UBC’s academic and school structure.

The workload here is really different compared to Manchester. I always assumed there wouldn’t be much difference between Canada and England, but there really is. I, and many of my other international friends here, have found that UBC’s workload is much more than our home universities’. When talking to the others from Manchester, we all agree that the workload here is much bigger, but the work itself seems to be easier. I am still trying to decide which I prefer…

In Manchester, as an Anthropology student, I usually have some readings and a few small tasks a week, followed by a big essay or two every two weeks/once a month. Whereas at UBC I have big tasks usually every week and much more weekly work and readings as a whole. I have definitely found this challenging to adapt to, but I have loved having this challenging. Yes, it has been difficult to keep on top of, trying to travel and do as much as possible here, but as geeky as it sounds, I have liked challenging myself.

Another thing I’ve found is that participation in class makes up part of your grade here. At first I was so scared by this, but now I actually like it… I like being forced to have my say in class – it makes me really think about what the class is about, and the aspects I am interested in. I have definitely done a lot of mumbling, going red and being flustered by questions that I’m expected to answer, but afterwards I have loved the feeling of having my say and giving my opinion, no matter the reactions. I feel like this way of learning is really stimulating and has really made my class experiences much more enjoyable.

The academics here has definitely been the biggest change for me from Manchester. Keeping up with constant work, rather than just the usual big essays. Although I am still unsure as to which way of learning I prefer, either way I feel UBC’s way of learning has taught me alot. I know that I’ll be coming back to Manchester with much more confidence (I hope) and much more willing to put my hand up in lectures and have my say. It’s taught me to speak out.


By Giulietta Grassi (University of British Columbia, Vancouver)

After days of stressing, packing and saying goodbyes I have now finally made it to VANCOUUUUUVER! I’ve been here nearly 2 weeks now and have loved every moment of it. Let me try and somehow start from the beginning…

I arrived in Vancouver completely jet-lagged and confused, and getting through immigration was only the start… but a few hours later I was in a hostel, surrounded by people from all over the world and in downtown Vancouver at the centre of it all. Vancouver is beautiful! It is the perfect mix of city life and outdoors. You walk 5 minutes down the road from sky rise buildings and traffic to see the sea and mountains, I’ve never seen anything like it. IT’S AMAZING! Coming from London, I’ve always been used to non-stop, busy and fast paced city life, but here city life is just as busy but relaxed and chilled out; music is blasting from cars, people dancing and taking salsa lessons on the streets, outdoor Zumba classes and much, much more.

I stayed at the Same Sun Hostel on Granville Street, and it was definitely the best choice! I was daunted by the fact that I’d be staying there for 9 days before campus accommodation opened up and I could move in, but I would not change a thing. The people there are so friendly and everyone is in the same situation, looking to meet people and explore the city. I spent the 9 days visiting the main spots like Stanley Park (go there at sunset!), Granville Island, Gastown and China Town and meeting different people from all over the world daily. But the best part of it was definitely climbing Grouse Mountain, one of the hardest, most amazing things I have ever done! I was told it was a short, hour-long hike… no no no! It is a good 2 hours of uphill hiking, but worth EVERY MINUTE FOR THE VIEW (and bears!!) from the top. Definitely do it, despite all the blood, sweat and tears shed, I would do it all over again!

9 days later we made it to UBC and it could not be more different from Manchester! The campus is HUUUUGE and basically a village of its own; you even need to take the bus to get to some parts of it, crazy! It’s so beautiful here. I’m living in Walter Gage on the 8th floor and my view looks out onto sea and mountains. Waking up in the morning could not be better! I’ve been here 2 days now and I still can’t get over how beautiful everything is. You walk 10 minutes from your room and you’re on the beach. (I spent my first trip there saying “WOW” and “I can’t believe it” for a good 10 minutes before it finally sank in that I’m living here for a year.) The flats in Gage are perfect; 6 people to a flat and Walter Gage as a whole is really social so there are different events on each night. So far my time here has just consisted of meeting more people and exploring UBC! I am in love with it here already!

I would definitely recommend staying at a hostel downtown before moving in to accommodation: it gives you the time to meet other international students going to UBC, as well as people from Canada and all over in general, (which sets you up for great connections if you decide to go travelling after!). Also, campus is so big and it takes 20 minutes to get downtown from UBC, so staying at a hostel gives you the time to see Vancouver properly before getting completely immersed in campus life.

I hope this blog has somehow been helpful and given you a better idea of what the beginning of Van City life is like! This next week is going to be filled with frat parties, BBQs and making the most of the weather and beach before summer ends! UBC’ING ME SOON!

Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Top of Grouse mountain
Top of Grouse Mountain
Wreck Beach