It seems slightly weird being back in Manchester after a year away. You quickly get back into the same old routines and after a few weeks it feels as if you were never away. But of course, the feeling of nostalgia is always there, which is both good and bad.
I thought it would be good to write a post that just sums up my year and shows just how much fun I have had. It’s been a life-changing year and something that I wouldn’t change at all even if I could. But it is so hard to sum up my experiences in words so I created this photo slideshow, which I thought might get my message across a bit better. Enjoy!
The biggest and best trip of my time abroad came right at the end of term. UBC was weird in that university finished for the year at the end of April. This means you’ve got just under 5 months’ summer holiday. Of course, I had some sensible aims for this time off, such as work experience and earning money, but I could not ignore how good an opportunity this was to go further afield from Vancouver and travel.
In February, at UBC, you get a reading week which I guess is meant for studying but if you’re a study abroad student there are probably better ways to spend it (i.e. travelling). During my reading week, I rented a car with 3 friends and we went on a road trip around British Columbia and neighbouring Alberta.
Something I thought most about when choosing where to study abroad was where could I travel to from where I’ll be living. I believe that Vancouver is in a great location as pretty much anywhere in North America is accessible from the city. This led to me going on few awesome trips beyond the city.
Without a doubt the best part of going to live in Vancouver was its location, particularly the mountains on the city’s doorstep. Just a half hour drive from UBC and you can be in the Rocky Mountains. No matter what time of year it is there is always a range of things to get up to in the mountains. In the summer, there are some great hiking trails – I hiked up Grouse Mountain (overlooking Vancouver) and completed the Stawamus Chief hike in nearby Squamish. The hikes are tough but they are worth it for the views you get at the top. There are plenty more hiking trails in the mountains that are worth exploring as long as you’ve brought along your bear spray, just in case you get into a bit of bother with a beast.
Vancouver isn’t even Canada’s biggest city but I was so surprised at the sheer amount of things to do in the city. All you needed was a spare few hours and you could go explore and experience a new thing in the city. The annoying thing is that in this blog I can only describe the things that I did, but there was so much to do in the city that I naturally wasn’t able to do them all (even with 9 months spent in the city).
Before study abroad I probably worried most about settling into life in a new country, far away from my family. But my second worry was how I’d do academically. I was motivated to not let my grades drop over the year – even though I only had to pass the year. This post explains the academic assessment at UBC and the differences to what I’m used to at Manchester.
Although it might not be the main reason why you’d choose to study abroad, the actual studying aspect is still very important. So, I thought I would write this entry just to explain what it’s like studying at a completely new university and to show that the ‘studying’ aspect of ‘study abroad’ isn’t all that bad!
By Joe Gaskin (University of British Columbia, Canada)
It has been a long time coming but I am finally in Vancouver at UBC (and have been now for over three weeks now). It was a long journey getting here that included fourteen hours of travelling and a two-hour wait for my study permit at Canadian immigration. Due to the time difference of eight hours between Vancouver and the UK I was unbelievably tired by the time I got into downtown Vancouver but it was only late afternoon, so I powered through to night time trying my best to stay awake despite the demands of my body clock. I was glad I made the decision to stay in a hotel the first night to get a good night’s sleep.
The next day I moved into my accommodation at UBC – Walter Gage (or just ‘Gage’ to us UBCers) – which has a lot of similarities to the tower block at Owen’s Park in Manchester. The tower I’m in is full of exchange students – the majority being English, Australian and Kiwi – with the odd Canadian here and there. In fact I’ve probably met more English people here than I have in Manchester but I like it because there are a lot of familiar voices so it doesn’t seem like you’re too far from home.
The campus here is beautiful. It’s right on the coast so it’s packed with views of the ocean. Unfortunately for me I’ve drawn the short straw in terms of rooms because mine looks out onto a bus loop compared to others in my flat that have wonderful ocean views from their window with mountains in the background. Before I came here I’d heard that the Vancouver climate wasn’t too dissimilar to that of Manchester in that it rains a lot. So far, however, this could not have been further from the truth and hopefully – touch wood – this will continue (although as I write this I look out the window and it is tipping it down with rain). We’ve made use of the sunshine by taking advantage of the many beaches on or near the campus.
What I’ve been up to so far
As you might expect, time has flown by since I arrived. I’ve been up to quite a bit and it’s hard to know where to start. To begin with, I had my first experience of a frat party, which was toga themed, and it was very surreal to say the least. It was at the frat village where all the houses are based around a courtyard. I struggle to describe what it was like so the best way is to say that was very stereotypical and exactly like the ones in the movies – red cups and everything.
Classes have also started and I’ve fit into my routine quite nicely so far. There are a lot of differences from the UK style that I’ve noticed so far such as packed classrooms rather than lecture theatres, hilariously outspoken and loud lecturers and dogs roaming around during class. I’ll go into further detail about all this and more in my blog post about academic differences so make sure you read that.
I also went to my first college Canadian football game. They claim it’s different from American football but I am yet to notice any difference. It was a really nice chilled atmosphere where tonnes of students would sit on the grass banks around the pitch. There was plenty of drinking, eating and socialising and actually not much watching of the football – the reason why they probably like going. It turned out to be a good game in which UBC won so it was a shame we didn’t watch more of it.
I’ve actually covered a lot of the sporting culture here in Canada so far as long with the football game I’ve seen some college basketball, some NBA pre-season basketball between the Toronto Raptors and the LA Clippers, and I’ve seen the Vancouver Whitecaps ‘soccer’ (that’s football to you and I). I’ve also tapped into the music scene here in Vancouver going to see acts such as Joey Bada$$, Catfish and the Bottlemen as well as being lucky enough to gain backstage access to an AC/DC concert with my flatmate Max for his 21st birthday.
This past weekend I went to a rock party in Squamish – a town an hour outside Vancouver in the mountains – and I learnt to rock climb. We climbed all of Saturday and capped it off by having a party and camping over on the Saturday night. It’s really handy having the mountains so close to the city so it is easy to get out, explore and try things you might never have done before.
So I think its fair to say I’ve been up to quite a bit so far and hopefully this will continue even though the workload is starting to kick in. I will try my best to keep you up to date as best I can along with covering topics such as academic differences, which will be the subject of my next post. See you then!