First Impressions of UBC

By Joe Gaskin (University of British Columbia, Canada)

First impressions

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.

2015-09-05 13.39.23

5 minutes away from campus
5 minutes away from campus
Not a bad view from halls
Not a bad view from halls

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!

UBC Thunderbirds
UBC Thunderbirds
Rock Climbing
Rock Climbing

Home Sweet Home

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

After another two weeks of travelling in Canada and the US, I eventually made my way back home – first to Germany and then to Manchester (at last).

In Germany, I spent the majority of my time with friends and family, exchanging stories on all the things that had happened in the last few months (and there were a lot), celebrating my sister’s highschool graduation and visiting friends in different cities in the area. It took me a while to realise that I am not in Canada anymore (it is summer, but where is the snow?!), but I eventually got used to the fact that my time in the country famous for its beautiful nature, its icehockey team and maple syrup was over – for now. Writing and talking about Canada still makes me feel nostalgic, but at the same time I have missed my loved ones at home. And there are a few things that  I sometimes take for granted in Germany that I have missed, too:

The architecture, for instance, (here in Freiburg)…


…or a good wiener schnitzel with spätzle – a typical German dish.


Back in Manchester I worked as a student ambassador for a couple of days before starting my internship.

IMG_9774As part of the internship I sometimes travel to London and I must admit I was quite surprised when I found a sunny and hot London (it was over 30°C!)  instead of the cold and rainy one I was used to. I mean, where is the rain?! Where is the wind?! Why is it not cold?! Well, at least the red buses are still there and of course, the impressive architecture. London never fails to amaze me in some way or the other – and neither does Manchester.


Although it is in the middle of summer and many of my university friends are back in their home country or travelling, I was very pleased to see some of them during graduation in July. It is unbelievable how fast time has passed. Two years ago I first arrived in Manchester, not knowing a single person. This year I am welcoming new students to our University in September, with a wealth of experiences to share. And next year? Next year I will (hopefully) be where some of my friends were this July – graduating with a degree from The University of Manchester. Let’s see what the future holds in store for me, but whatever is going to happen – the beautiful memories I have made in Canada will always stay with me.

What happened next?

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

UBCAbout one and a half months ago my time at UBCO came officially to an end and it was time to say goodbye – goodbye to UBCO, but not to Canada. After we had finished our exams, Maria, a friend from Mexico, and I made our way to Banff and Lake Louise. It took us quite a while to get there (yes, it all looks very close on the map… maybe a bit too close), but the view awaiting us was simply breath-taking.


I would even say that Banff was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Nothing compares to the feeling of sitting on a rock thousands of metres above the ground, somewhere in the mountains, a light breeze touching your skin, overlooking the whole town, and just enjoying the view.

592At some point on our way we got lost and stumbled across a secret spot. It is not just a name that we invented, but it is actually on the map – “The Secret Spot”, except that we were heading somewhere else and just ended up there. I guess putting down your map and getting lost every once in a while is not such a bad idea after all, you might even discover something beautiful. It is another one of my favourite spots (and there were many in Banff). We sat there for quite a while just listening to the sound of the waterfall and the waves passing by. It fills you with a kind of inner peace and satisfaction.

As you can see in the next picture, the weather can change quite tremendously from one place to another in Canada. Maria and I foolishly assumed that the weather would be similar – I mean come on, how much of a change could there be if you travel a few hours to the east? Well, this is Canada, and if there is one thing I have learned about Canada by now it is that it’s very diverse, whether it comes to its scenery, its wildlife, its population or, yes, its weather; it is diverse and it is constantly changing. But at the same time this is what I love about Canada.

Lake LouiseThe picture shows frozen Lake Louise, which is just about thirty minutes from Banff.. Do you see what I’m trying to tell you now?

We didn’t really have the appropriate clothing for the weather, but we nevertheless walked around the whole lake (and went hiking for hours in the mountains in Banff). At some point we were even walking on the lake, but we didn’t even realise until we got back and viewed the lake from afar.

There are many other spots and viewpoints that I particularly enjoyed, but before I show you and tell you too much, it would probably be best if you go there and see for yourself. Because, whether you believe me or not, even the most beautiful pictures that I have taken do not fully capture the beauty of the view I have seen in real life.

Reflections On Returning To Manchester… A Year On

By Sophie Black (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

It’s been a year since my time at UBC ended.

The sense of spontaneity and adventure has long gone, taken over by the dreaded dissertation and final year stress.

Living in Canada for the year taught me to be flexible, open-minded to different cultures, and adapt to new ways of thinking and doing things. I have grown in so many ways – I have more confidence, I am far more independent, and my mum says I am noticeably more mature (I’m not sure what she is insinuating… but I’ll take it as a complement!). It has made me more appreciative of what I have – a spin on the phrase ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. Since I lived ‘without’ them for a year, now I have returned from Canada I value my family and friends so much more.

My year at UBC undoubtedly made me feel so much stronger academically. This was only compounded by the fact that I was able to take modules beyond my Geography degree, spreading my understanding into the anthropological, sociological and psychological realms. I have frequently found myself referring back to concepts and theories I learnt out at UBC, subsequently making my essays and exam scripts seem interdisciplinary in addition to giving the impression I have gone way beyond the reading lists!

My time abroad has led me to constantly encourage younger students to take the same path. When the academic year started again in September, I took the opportunity to become a Global Guidance Ambassador for the International Programmes Office. This job has run perfectly alongside my final year of university, giving me eight hours a week when I can escape from my dissertation and just chat to students who are thinking about studying abroad. It has enabled me to share my wonderful experiences and hopefully encourage more to take the same opportunity. It does, however, come with one major downside: I am SO jealous of all the students who still have their time abroad ahead of them!

I totally appreciate those who find the idea of studying abroad terrifying. I too had many an evening of tears to mum in the weeks prior to my flight out to Vancouver, panicking about being away from home for so long. Yet think about it this way: how many people have you ever heard tell a story of their awful time studying abroad? How many say they regret going? (hint hint) Going on exchange is an incredible experience. If you have the chance, go!

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


Kangaroos in Kelowna

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

With only one and a half weeks of teaching left, the term is slowly coming to an end. After weeks full of coursework, from term papers and assignments to group work and presentations, I finally found time to visit the kangaroo farm that reopened about two weeks ago. They had a variety of kangaroos (wallabies and wallaroos to be precise), from brown ones to grey ones and even an albino kangaroo. Apart from that, there were also some other animals such as peacocks, parrots and sugar gliders, but the baby kangaroos were my favourite. 001

On the left you can see my friend Karlee holding Steve, who is currently the youngest out of all baby kangaroos at the farm. Somehow he looks a bit angry (maybe we disrupted his afternoon nap or perhaps it’s the sun) but he looks adorable nevertheless.

The one that I was holding is slightly older and looked very sleepy that day.


Here you can see one of the adult kangaroos lying in the sun:


And after I tried to take a close-up picture:

511He was very calm at first, but when I accidentally blocked his sun, he suddenly got up as if to say, “Human, what are you doing, I am trying to get a tan.” – Sorry kangaroo, my bad!

And for all those of you who are going to be in Kelowna next year or in the near future and want to visit the farm: When you are at UBCO, take the bus number 23 and get off at the bus stop right after 7-Eleven (a gas station). From there you just need to walk 5-10 min down the road. There should be signs when you get closer, but it is relatively easy to find. It is advisable to arrive early to avoid the long queue in front of the baby kangaroos.

What else happened last week?

Last Wednesday we started filming a video for the International Office at UBCO for prospective exchange students who are thinking about coming to Kelowna. On the photo you can see Lydia from the University of Birmingham just before her interview. She has been attending UBCO for almost a year now. It will probably take some time before we are completely done, but I will put the video up once it is finished so that you can learn more about the experiences other exchange students have had here at UBCO.


On Friday, I went to the last B.A.R.K. session of the term. Below you can see my friend Maddy with our special guest of the day – Doogle, a 4-month-old golden retriever puppy:


Later that day there was a cultural fashion show called Rejoice that celebrates cultural diversity. Students from different countries sang traditional songs, performed traditional dances or showcased their countries’ traditional clothing. There were also some aboriginal designers involved that presented their creations. I was really impressed and enjoyed the show very much.

258All in all, it has been an eventful past week and I am looking forward to the remaining ones to come.

Halftime – 2 months gone and 2 to go

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

Two more months in beautiful BC. To some it may sound like a lot, but I feel like a day passes in the blink of an eye and two months are gone only too soon. Before I arrived here, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but there is just so much to do and to explore, I discover something new every day. The more time I spend here, the more I want to stay.

163Today I went hiking on Knox Mountain with a friend and the view was simply breath-taking. I was especially amazed by the water and the different shades of blue you could see. It looked so pure and clean and mirrored its surroundings, as if there was a thin layer of glass between the water and the air. It was a really beautiful kind of quietness that surrounded the area and there were benches along the way up, for you to sit and enjoy the view. It’s the kind of place you go when you just want to take a moment to escape busy city life to enjoy nature, to think and clear your mind.

091The legend says that this is also where Ogopogo, the lake monster, lives. It’s a bit like the Canadian version of Loch Ness.

We also saw some deer, three younger ones and a parent (I think), and a baby squirrel. Unfortunately, the baby squirrel escaped before I could take a picture of it. It was tiny and very cute. I find deer so adorable, the one on the photo looks pretty much like a real-life Bambi to me. My Canadian friends laughed when I told them that we have deer in zoos and that I have never seen one outside of the zoo.

240They were like, “That’s so strange, they are everywhere. We often find them in our yards”. And me? “I would love to have deer in my backyard!” But the Canadians? “Nah, they are so annoying, they keep eating our plants.” – Excuse me?

That really surprised me, but the thought that, as one of my friends once said, having deer in zoos for Canadians is like putting dogs in zoos for us made me smile. It’s funny how Canadians are used to having so much wildlife and nature around them that they sometimes forget how beautiful their country is.

When we first saw ducks here my friend actually asked me whether we have them in Europe too and whether they look the same, which really made me laugh (yes, we have ducks in Europe and yes, they look the same, same colour, same shape). I sometimes wonder what people from Kelowna (good weather, city life, wildlife and friendly people) would think of Manchester. But then again, people are often attracted by opposites. And even though I’m falling in love with Kelowna, I still miss Manchester from time to time. Every place is unique and beautiful in its own way. Beauty, after all, lies in the eyes of the beholder.125

Last week I also went skiing for the first time. Although we fell quite often during the first two times, we managed to ski without falling by the end of our little trip. There is a student offer on most Fridays where you take the bus to Big White with other students at the bus stop in front of the EME building, which is also the only bus stop on campus. From there you can take the 97 to Walmart, the mall (Orchard Park) and downtown.

As mentioned in my last post, I also went to the B.A.R.K programme this week. Below you can see me hugging Bailey. When you are trying to leave or sometimes for no reason, Bailey reaches out to you with his paw. He is also able to stand on just two legs with both of his paws in your hands.

136The B.A.R.K. programme is the first of its kind in Canada and was established about three years ago. A man who kept running into people who would stop to pet his dog started it as a programme against stress and mental illnesses and it has been quite successful so far. There is a short survey about your stress level before and after your visit. All dogs are trained and very calm. They have also introduced a B.A.R.K. To Go programme – a dog somewhere around campus that you can pet when you pass by instead of a drop-in session. I love it.

My current stress level? Very close to zero.

A week in Vancouver

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

Thursday, 12th February

It’s reading week – hip hip hooray! As soon as classes ended last Friday, my friends and I packed our bags and headed to the Greyhound station (a Greyhound is a coach that takes you to different cities in Canada for relatively cheap prices). Destination: Vancouver.

I’m actually at a friend’s house in Vancouver right now as I am writing this post, which means we are already halfway through reading week *sigh*. Here are some pictures of my trip:

228One of our first stops was the UBC Vancouver campus. A friend who goes to UBC Van showed us around. The campus is much bigger than the one in Kelowna. I still haven’t seen all of it, but apparently even some first year students that go there haven’t seen all of it – that is how big it is. There’s a greater variety of food places to choose from and it seems busier, but it also takes longer to get from one place to another, and it is easy to get lost when you first arrive there (if your sense of direction is as fabulous as mine). Another thing I noticed is that their dorm rooms (at least the ones I have seen while we were visiting) are tiny compared to the spacious rooms we have at UBCO. 223

The Vancouver campus is beautiful, but also quite overwhelming; I don’t actually know which one I prefer, both campuses have their pro and cons, but as an exchange student I quite like the small campus environment in Kelowna – it is easier for me to get ar200ound .

When I was there I also stumbled across a little talent show that they called “The Coffee House”. It was really cozy. People played instruments, presented poems and sang which was really nice to watch.

086On Friday we went to the Vancouver aquarium near Stanley Park. That was the first time I had seen a beluga whale (as far as I can remember). We went to all the shows, except for the penguin show which we missed because of a 4D movie. My favourites were the sea otters. Sea otters are so incredibly cute! Did you kno237w that they have the densest fur in the whole animal kingdom? We were told that their skin never actually gets wet which is hard to imagine since they are swimming almost all the time. I really enjoyed my visit there. The Vancouver aquarium is amazing and I would highly recommend going there if you are in Vancouver and as much of an animal lover as I am. Also, when you go there, tell me whether you could find the sloth, because it’s always hiding. I eventually found it laying very high up in a tree, but it wasn’t really moving. In German, sloth is “Faultier” which literally means lazy animal. If that really was the sloth, I can see where that is coming from.

SeeotterIn the evening we went to an ice hockey game (a must if you are visiting Canada), the Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins. I especially loved the beginning when the lights went off and they sang the national anthems as well as the breaks with the funny ‘Kiss Cam’. On the Kiss Cam picture below you can see Fin, the mascot, kissing (or rather eating) someone.

FINAll in all, it was a great Friday the 13th (no bad luck, but maybe I shouldn’t say that too loud) and a wonderful reading break.

Finally, another picture of the picturesque landscape on my way back to Kelowna. This is one of my favourite parts of Canada –  everywhere you look you see beautiful nature. Whether on the train, the bus or the Greyhound, I just love staring out the window. I think the view of the mountains is one of the things I will miss the most. I don’t know why I like them so much, but I just do, and I still keep staring at them every once and a while when I go to class.

I can’t believe how fast time has gone by again. 001What really suprised me is how fast the weather here can change, one day it is sunny, the other snowy, and then misty or windy (luckily, rarely rainy, an advantage of being in Kelowna instead of Vancouver or Manchester). However, it’s definitely getting warmer and spring is approaching, which means the kangaroo zoo opens soon! I am also going to the BARK programme next week, basically a room full of dogs that volunteers have brought there for you to cuddle with! 🙂 I certainly wouldn’t mind a room full of dogs  in Manchester (or cats, but I’m more of a dog person).

Academic differences between Manchester and UBCO

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

To all those coming to UBCO, or interested in coming to UBCO, here are some differences that you might be interested in knowing beforehand:

  • Term dates and alternative assessment

The second term at UBCO starts about two weeks earlier than in Manchester and lasts about four months. Since the start of the term at UBCO falls into the January examination period in Manchester, you have to arrange alternative assessment for these exams. While it is in most cases possible to arrange alternative assessment in the form of an essay in more discursive subjects, such as Politics and Philosophy, other departments, such as Economics, require you to sit your missed exams during the August resit period for the first time. While it felt nice not to have to study for exams in January, the alternative assessment, the deadlines of which coincided with the start of the term at UBCO, as well as the academic system at UBCO both require good time management.

  • Course choice

Since it usually takes four years to complete your bachelor’s degree in Canada, exchange students from Manchester usually take third year courses. You are, however, allowed to take one or two second year courses. What I noticed is that some second year courses complement my first year studies in Manchester very well while in other cases third year courses were a more appropriate choice. For this reason it is useful to email the professor about the syllabus before you make your choices. At UBCO, as in Manchester, you are allowed to add or drop courses within the first two weeks. After that there is another deadline here in February, up until which you can still drop courses, but with a W (for withdrawal) standing on your transcript. Although withdrawing from a course is not recommended as you would need to do the required number of credits per semester in order to complete the equivalent of a full year at Manchester.

  • Teaching methods

Different from the typical combination of lectures and tutorials at Manchester, there are no tutorials for most courses here at UBCO. Instead, there are two 80-minute classes per week for every module that you take. The class size is much smaller with usually no more than 100 students in one class. In one of my classes, there are just 40 students which is a great contrast to the 200 to 300 people you sometimes find in a lecture theatre in Manchester. I enjoy the small class sizes, since it makes it easier to get to know your classmates and generally facilitates class contribution. Many students ask questions during class and it is not unusual to do exercises in class and to discuss the answers afterwards or for the professor to engage students in a discussion. You also get to know your professor better and, as in Manchester, all professors have regular office hours and are very willing to help with any problems you might have. Moreover, there are TA (teaching assistant) hours as well. Teaching assistants are usually students that have taken the class before.

  • Assessment methods

Whereas there is usually a great emphasis on the final exams in Manchester, the final exams often accounting for 60 to 100%, more weight is placed on continuous assessment here in Canada. There are a variety of assessment methods that are used, such as midterms, group work, take-home midterms and exams, graded assignments and homework. None of my finals accounts for more than 40%. If, however, you miss one of your midterms, the weight of the midterm is usually added to the final. If the midterm is worth 20%, for instance, then missing this midterm would mean that the final exam accounts for 60% of your grade. Although it takes pressure off you to do well in your finals and spreads the workload throughout the semester, this makes it even more important to stay on top of your work and keep up with the reading throughout the term.

  • Essays

Essays or term papers here often require you to choose your own topic or pose your own question within a certain framework, a little bit like a mini-dissertation. It gives you much more freedom in your focus and research and allows you to explore a certain aspect of the course that is of particular interest to you in greater depth. The preferred writing style and form can vary slightly from the way you are used to structure essays in Manchester so that I would recommend asking the professor about any formalities you might be uncertain of beforehand, such as referencing or the word limit.


(Can’t finish a post without a picture of the beautiful scenery, I just love the view too much. I am sure you will too if you decide to come here 🙂 It looks even more beautiful in real life.)

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

New City, New Uni, New Home

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada)

My first two weeks in Kelowna passed by very quickly. I moved into Purcell, a hall of residence on campus, and soon got to know my roommate (we have two separate rooms, but our rooms are connected through a common bathroom). Because afternoon classes and the international student orientation were cancelled due to a snowstorm on my first day of class, my roommate gave me a little tour around the campus and told me everything I needed to know to survive the first week of uni. Despite the cold weather, the Canadians I have met so far seem to be very warm people. They are generally very friendly and helpful.010

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at UBCO were the beautiful snow-covered mountains and trees in the background. They seem so close, but are yet so far. I was told that even students from other parts of Canada are amazed by the scenery here when they first arrive. Many students here are from Vancouver and even though you can see the mountains there as well, they are not as close as they are in Kelowna.

127D058uring my first two days here, it snowed non-stop for 48-hours, it broke a 78 year record for the amount of snow fallen within that period. That was a lot of snow. By the next day, the snow reached up to my knees. I have never seen that much snow in my life, but I liked it very much. It wasn’t as cold as I expected and there was enough snow for one massive snowman and many, many snowball fights. On my second day my roommate, some of her friends that I got to know that day and myself drove to an open field full of snow to have a little snowball fight. Shortly afterwards when we were driving further, the car drove off the road and got stuck in the snow.   It was an interesting and funny experience because that has never happened to me before, but then again, we are in Canada (where in the UK could you get stuck in snow?). It was a really fun day and I enjoyed the snow very much.

It is still snowing here on some days, but on others it is sunny. The sun can be deceiving though, because it felt colder today, on a sunny day, than it did when I first arrived. Some people told me that it sometimes069 snows up until March, but I really hope it doesn’t. I went to downtown Kelowna with other international students the other day and they told me that the park there is much more beautiful when the lake is not frozen and the trees are green. I met other international students during a welcome back dinner for international students during the beginning of the second week. As you would expect, they are from all around the world, from Mexico, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and many other places. Some are here for a whole year, some, like me, only for this term.091

Kelowna has a big mall not far from the Uni, and Walmart is only two bus stops away. That is where I got the things I needed from when I first arrived. You can get a bus pass called U-Pass from the Students’ Union so that bus rides within Kelowna are free for students. Because I am living in Purcell, I am on a mandatory meal plan (not all halls of residence have a mandatory meal plan, but you can purchase one voluntarily as well) so that I don’t have to go grocery shopping a lot. The food on campus is quite healthy, you have several cafeterias with food ranging from rice to noodles to sushi to salad and fresh fruits. They even have a smoothie bar on campus with different “boosters”, such as protein powder or calcium powder, as well as several cafés, such as Starbucks and Tim Hortons which is quite popular amongst the students here. On most days there is a long queue in front of Tim Hortons, but there is a camera around that area so that you can check online how long the queue is.

Due to the fact that the term started so early and I still had alternative assessment to do until the beginning of the second week, I haven’t changed my room much until recently. This weekend I finally found time to print out pictures of family and friends and to put them on the wall to make my room feel homely. It literally took me the whole day, but the result made me very happy. The room didn’t really feel like my room without any signs of the people I love around me. No040w that my wall is full of pictures of family and friends, it also feels more like home. It says “Little things make big days”.  I think that is very true. It only takes something little to make a big change, because, in the end, every big change starts with a little step. For me, one of them was the decision to go abroad, to leave Germany for Manchester and Manchester for Kelowna. I have learned so much in recent years and am very grateful for that. Studying and living abroad really has changed me. Each of the countries I have lived in has left an impression on me that I cannot fully describe. Were I given the same choice again, I would definitely choose to go abroad again. Beautiful memories, invaluable experiences and a lot of challenges that make you grow – that is how I would describe it.

Because the people around me are all very open and nice, I already feel at home here; but there is still a lot to explore. By now I have made a list of things I still want to do here. Some of the top things on my list include visiting other Canadian cities, such as Vancouver and Banff (the national park there is supposed to be stunning), to go skiing and snowboarding, to watch a ice hockey game (most Canadians are huge ice hockey fans) and to visit the kangaroo farm (yes, that’s right, they have a kangaroo farm! My roommate told me about it and showed me pictures, but unfortunately, the kangaroo farm is currently closed and doesn’t open until the spring break). I’ll keep you guys updated about my time here at UBCO, watch out for kangaroo pictures in one of my next posts!

Countdown to Canada

By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia Okanagan, Canada)

27th December 2014

One more week, 7 days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes or 604,800 seconds, to go until I will board the plane from Frankfurt to Kelowna; 6 months in another country, 6 months on another continent. When I look back at the past three months, I cannot help but wonder where all the time has gone. I still remember talking to Global Ambassadors and representatives at the Study Abroad fair, going from stall to stall to learn more about different destinations and universities while listening to the stories of returning students. It feels like yesterday when I handed in my application and waited for the outcome. And now here I am, one more week to go until I will be on my way to Canada.

One week, about 5000 words of alternative assessment and two empty suitcases yet to be filled is all that is keeping me from my study abroad destination right now and I am already counting the days.

2nd January 2015

One more day to go!

I hope you all had a great start into the new year. I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow already. Today is packing day. My two suitcases are almost full by now, but I am still thinking I’ve forgotten something. I realised that I could have ordered bedding, towels and maybe a SIM card in advance instead of taking it with me or buying it on arrival, so if you’re going abroad and living on campus, check if there’s anything you can order beforehand. I need to finish packing now, but I will keep you updated!

3rd January 2015

Somewhere on the way from Frankfurt to Kelowna


4th January 2015

Good Morning Kelowna!

2335This is somewhere near the airport, but today is Move-In Day!