The Curry Mile or UBC’s Main Mall? Academic Differences between Manchester and UBC

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

So If I am honest, the four days I have had back at UBC following Christmas at home have been dominated by one emotion: stress! The modules I was originally registered on turned out to not be my kind of thing, so the task of trolling through pages of courses to try and find ones that fit into my timetable and aren’t already full is quite a challenge. It would be easier if there wasn’t so much choice! The ability many of us exchangers have in choosing modules from pretty much any subject is a fantastic opportunity to delve into new topics, yet at the same time can be a little overwhelming.  I would definitely recommend signing up for five courses, trying them all out and then dropping the one you enjoyed the least.

Initially, UBC seemed very similar to Manchester – yet as the weeks go by it is clear they are both very different academically. Today was the first day I had a lecture in a proper lecture theatre – last semester, all of my modules were taught on classroom levels. This means interaction with lecturers and (in most cases) pretty quick feedback times when you hand in essays and exams. I’ve had no modules with a tutorial or seminar included, which means a more chatty, relaxed and friendly atmosphere with the lecturer is somewhat hard to come by.  Teaching styles have varied a lot – one lecturer last semester used an old-fashioned school projector and didn’t put anything online… Yet compare this to another module whereby I took part in online discussions with students at the University of Singapore and the University of Western Australia!

Agreeing with Sarah’s post, there is definitely much more work to do here at UBC. Consistent readings, midterms, essays and final exams means there is no break  – especially in the first semester where there is nothing like reading week. Be prepared for this jump! Nevertheless, the work does seem easier, plus coming to UBC with a seemingly higher standard of essay writing skills than equivalent UBC students means essays and exams are marked highly.

As a final point – the highlight of my academic time here at UBC is the campus. It is absolutely beautiful, with fantastic views of the mountains, lots of green space and wonderful gardens. The leafy green walk along the pedestrianised ‘main mall’ to lectures is going to be missed when I go back to the long old curry mile!

University Life Canadian Style

By Sarah Winspear (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada).

So I’m just about to start my second semester at UBC and thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on the academic side of studying abroad. Teaching is quite different at UBC with the majority of my classes in first semester taking place in a classroom rather than a lecture theatre even though they are lectures. The classes seem to be smaller and for my courses there were no seminars or small group sessions only lectures, although this may just have been the courses I took. One of my classes did have a computer lab attached as this was a computer based class.

Another major difference and probably the biggest difference is the assessment style, rather than the one big final exam and perhaps one piece of coursework I might get assessed on at home here there were weekly tasks in some classes, mid terms and coursework, so many varied methods of assessment. This means it does take the pressure off final exams and they are worth a smaller percent of your overall grade. Another thing worth mentioning is that the grading is often higher here with a pass being 50% rather than the 40 at Manchester.  With this assessment method it means you get more continuous work than at Manchester but personally I have not found the work load difficult and there is still plenty of time to do whatever you would like and enjoy your weekends.

Also it might be worth noting that rather than having an extensive library with most the books in that you need for your course available to borrow, at UBC you are expected to buy the books you need for a course. There are many ways of doing this though with a second hand bookstore, UBC bookstore for new books and the possibility to buy a used book of another student.

Overall UBC is academically quite different but it is very easy to adapt to and is not a negative difference, it’s just not what you’ll be used to. I hope this has helped and provided an insight into academic life at UBC!

First week at UBC!

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

Yes, I made it! I’ve been here for a week now and settled in pretty quickly.

Moving to Canada suddenly hit me when I opened up the window on the plane and saw the Rockies in all their glory. Wow, they looked incredible! Even the pilot said there couldn’t be a better day to fly…

Canadian Rockies

 Immigration was pretty quick and easy, plus both of my suitcases came off the plane (phew!). The easiest way to get from the airport to accommodation was by taxi (you could use the skytrain and busses yet a 13 hour+ trip means a very tired and hungry  traveller!) The taxi was pretty easy to catch and cost $45 including a tip.

UBC Fairview Crescent

I am staying in Fairview Crescent, self catered university accommodation separated into flats of four or six. Upon arrival, my room looked pretty bare…

Yet I quickly erected photographs, bunting and free maps from the geography building (!) to make it a little more homely.

WP_20130903_001 WP_20130905_005

 Thankfully, for the first few nights my flatmate lent me some bed covers to sleep with. I was able to quickly find pillows at a local department store, yet a lot of confusion arose on the topic of a duvet. Seemingly, a ‘duvet’ is very uncommon here – most people use a ‘comforter’, being a duvet and bed cover in-one. Hence, I went on a trip into the downtown and discovered the Canadian version of TKMaxx, where I was able to find a comforter and pillowcase set for about £43. What happens when it comes to washing my bed-linen, I don’t know…

Transport around Vancouver is very easy due to the compulsory U-Pass all students buy. This is a card much like the stagecoach bus pass in Manchester, yet the U-Pass is also valid on the Sky-Train. Busses are very simple to use here, as the name of the next stop is displayed on a screen overhead. It costs about £87 for the pass until December, definitely worth the money!

Denbar 'Celtic Treasure Chest'

It doesn’t take long to realise how expensive the food is here. A trip to the supermarket leads a painful dent in the student loan! To my surprise, cordial/squash doesn’t exist here in Canada – instead they have juice ‘crystals’ that you add to water. Bizzare! A necessary trip to the British food shop in Denbar (around 10 minutes away by bus) quickly came about through cravings for Robinsons Apple and Blackcurrant!

UBC Flag Pole

The weather has been beautiful and very warm – my favourite place on campus is at the ‘flag pole’, where a view of the mountains and rose garden is lovely! The campus here is very large yet so green and clean, making the 20 minute walk to and from lectures really enjoyable.

Here are some thing’s I have been getting up too this week…

Thanks so much for reading!

Sophie 🙂

(p.s. any questions are welcome in the comments section below!)

Beautiful BC

By Sarah Winspear (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada).

I really don’t know where to start, so much has happened in the past week!! One thing that immediately struck me about Vancouver and the UBC campus is how beautiful the surroundings are. I still can’t believe I live so close to such vastly differing terrains with mountains, the ocean and a city centre so close by, and I love how green the area is, so many trees!!!
Image

View from the 16th floor
View from the 16th floor
Campus
Campus
Campus views
Campus views
UBC cmapus
UBC cmapus

So far this week I have been to the beach which is actually on campus and about a 10 minute walk from where I live. I thought I lived close to the coast at home but this is a whole new level. Wreck beach has some amazing views out to the Pacific and of the mountains, only downside is it is actually a nudist beach, but once you get over this fact it’s actually a really pretty area.

Wreck Beach
Wreck Beach
wreck beach
wreck beach

I’ve also been to Stanley park near downtown which is another beautiful area but unfortunately we didn’t have much time to walk round it all so I would like to hire a bike and some point and cycle the perimeter.

Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Stanley Park
Stanley Park looking onto Vancouver
Stanley Park looking onto Vancouver
View from Stanley park
View from Stanley park
Stanley Park
Stanley Park

Since being here I’ve had quite a few new experiences including going to a country night at the Roxy in downtown. I went with Canadians and there was a live band on and loads of people wearing cowboy hats, denim shorts and boots!! It was great even though I only knew two songs; Taylor Swift and Mumford and Sons. Some people even started line dancing, we definitely don’t get this in England but I loved it!!! Also that night there was a woman with a snake allowing people to take photos with it, well this was the first snake I’d ever seen and to be honest I thought they were pretty scary before hand but I was brave and decided just to touch it, it was a very weird feeling like nothing I’ve ever touched before.

Downtown Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver

On Tuesday there was Imagine day which was a day for new students to get told information and then get the chance to sign up for any societies or clubs. There were a lot of stalls all trying to get you to sign up. While I was there a group started singing acapella, it felt like I was in Pitch Perfect . I signed up for a couple including: the Ski and snowboarding society (I’ve only been skiing once and I’m not very good but hoping a few trips to Whistler will help me improve), the exchange society, who are putting on a trip to the sunshine coast, and I signed up to a sorority (not that I actually know what that means).

I’ve had two days of classes so far but I’m still adapting to having lectures in classrooms rather than the lecture theatres I’m used to and having to find classes that aren’t full if you want to switch a class. I’m particularly looking forward to the cartography (maps) course as I did a similar module last year however this one seems a lot more practical-based in which you make many of your own maps in lab time. I’m also taking a course on Modern Europe which should be interesting learning about Europe from a Canadian perspective.

This evening I went to my first ever basketball game, it was the UBC Thunderbirds against University of California Riverside. Unfortunately we lost 77-88 but it was a great evening, but again very strange having a sort of mini indoor stadium a 2 minute walk away. There were cheerleaders, a band, and Thunder the UBC mascot. It was all as you would imagine and there was even a commentator who in every time out would advertise for things such as refreshments. In every break there was load music playing the atmosphere was brilliant!!

Thunder the UBC mascot
Thunder the UBC mascot
Basketball game
Basketball game

I have another day of classes tomorrow then a free pancake breakfast on Saturday which I cannot wait for, the amount of free food so far has been great; we had a bbq on Monday and a free lunch on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll get to explore a little more of Vancouver this weekend and I’ll let you know how it goes!!

Sarah 🙂

Preparing to leave for UBC…

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

Since my final second year exam, time has absolutely flown by. With so many warnings about the expense of studying abroad, I have spent much of my time working to earn as much money as possible. Usually I’m pretty organised, yet with only a few days to go, I seem to have an ever-growing list of things to do!

Keep in Contact

I’m not ashamed to admit I am a homebird, hence the thought of spending so much time away from home is pretty scary. I do have a few relatives in Vancouver who I have been in contact with over the past few months who assure me there will be home-cooked meals on offer (phew!). I would definitely recommend getting in touch with any relatives or contacts in the area before you leave, just to gain some much needed reassurance and support!

Packing

Tips for packing your life into two (pretty small) suitcases

  1. I started a packing list two weeks prior to departure, and referred back to it when additions needed to be made. If begun early enough, its definitely a great way to be sure you are taking everything you need. I have only two suitcases to pack all of my belongings in – a significant challenge!
  2. Roll your clothes instead of folding. In my experience, you fit so much more in! Leave thicker jumpers for the top, and pack everything in really tightly.
  3. Write your name/address/flight number on an A4 page and place it on the top of everything inside your case. It just gives you a little more comfort in knowing if it gets lost it will eventually find its way back to you.
  4. Bed covers…pillows….duvets….don’t bother trying to fit them in – too bulky. Far easier to just hunt down some inexpensive ones when you arrive!
  5. Don’t forget to include a few photos and things to put up onto your walls, just to make your room feel a bit more homely when you arrive!
Suitcase, please don’t get lost!

Finance

I have opted for a Travelex ‘cash passport‘ to take with me, as it seemed like the easiest and quickest option. You can order it all online, the terms and conditions/charges are really clear, plus it’s simply a relief to know I’m going out to Canada with it all already sorted. The only catch is the conversion rate they set themselves, yet for the sake of saving any hassle once arriving in Canada and having to organise transferring money over to a bank account, I thought it was worth the £50 or so I lost. I’ve also exchanged some sterling to Canadian dollars to take some out with me so taxi’s from the airport and initial expenses can be paid for. I shall report back in later posts on how successful the above were!

Only a few days to go now, doesn’t quite feel real yet…

Thanks for reading,

Sophie 🙂

First night, first impressions, first blog!!

By Sarah Winspear (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada).

I’m currently sat in a hostel in Vancouver waiting to meet up with people for breakfast before moving into residence later today so I thought what better time to write my first post about getting here and my first impressions.

It seems like such a long time ago that I went to the study abroad notice board and found UBC next to my name and now I’m here, in Vancouver. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. The last couple of weeks I’ve just been waiting to get here. I was surprisingly calm and relaxed about the whole thing, I expected to be panicking and worrying but I really wasn’t. Saying goodbye to friends and family wasn’t too bad either, probably because I knew all my friends from home will still be there when I get back. Also I would never be able to forget them because they’d put together a photo album for me and wrote little personal messages in, this was along with them getting me a colour by numbers book and pencil crayons (geography joke). With all the goodbyes done all that was left was the packing which was probably the most stressful part but still not that bad. I thought I’d packed a lot until I got to Vancouver and saw Naomi’s luggage.

So the morning came of my flight. When I woke at 4.30am it still hadn’t really hit me that later that day I would be in Vancouver. I arrived at check in over an hour before it opened so sat around waiting then got through security to sit and wait for another 3 hours. I was so relieved when the flight was called that I would finally be on my way. Just as we were boarding Naomi, a fellow Manchester geographer, joined me for us to have a quick ‘hello, how are you?’ before we had to go our separate ways on the plane. The flight was ok, nothing special, but I was gutted when there was no personal entertainment system and just a very small screen a few rows in front showing films which weren’t of interest to me. This was the one thing I was looking forward to, catching up on some films on the flight. I thought ‘oh well at least I have a window seat so ill get good views’ but ohh no it was just cloudy until out of nowhere I saw a glacier!!! I got far too excited at this expressing to the person sat next to me I’d never seen one before but had taken a module on glaciers last semester. I was astonished at its vast size and it made that whole module become a bit more real. When we got to Vancouver we met up with Hannah, Naomi’s friend also here on exchange, and Steph, an Australian who will be living in the same flat as Hannah this year. So the 4 of us went to the hostel and met up with 2 other boys from Manchester here on exchange. We went out for tea and ate salmon and rice before heading to bed ready for the big day today. It was nice to arrive in Vancouver and not be alone. I already feel like I’ve made new friends as I didn’t know any of the other exchanges we met up with other than through a Facebook group we made!! I think everything will become a lot more real in the next few hours after I move in to halls and meet my new flat mates.  Apologies for the lack of pictures but as you can tell I’ve been quite busy. I will let you know how the next few days pan out and keep you updated on life in Vancouver and UBC!!! Sarah 🙂 <a href=”http://sarahwinspear.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/image.jpg”><img src=”http://sarahwinspear.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/image.jpg?w=300” alt=”Leaving gifts from some of my home friends including: photo album, colouring pencils, a globe pencil sharpener and a colouring book.” width=”300″ height=”224″></a> Leaving gifts from some of my home friends including: photo album, colouring pencils, a globe pencil sharpener and a colouring book.