Announcing the Closure of this Blog

Recently, UBC Blog Squad has moved towards focusing its content on the new-to-UBC experience, thus removing 2nd year and contributor roles to the program. As a 4th year student, these changes have influenced my involvement with Blog Squad and has lead me to create this post announcing my decision to transition this blog from “active” [...]

Summer #5: 2 days in Seattle from the Eyes of a Vancouverite

Item #5 on my summer to do list is to take a short trip somewhere nearby.  I went to Seattle.  Why? Well, for one I’ve never been, and more importantly there is this awesome new bus company that sells super cheap tickets. It’s called Bolt Bus. Roundtrip, $15.

Bolt Bus drop off point in Seattle.

They have wifi! If you're lucky you can catch their $1 fares. Sounds sketch but it's not!

From the train station at Science World station, it drops off right outside Chinatown in Downtown Seattle within the free bus zone. (I love that free bus zone. Buses are free to ride in the downtown core!)

No offense Seattle, I’ve always imagined you to be a more boring, less ethnically diverse version of Vancouver. Did it turn out to be? Yes and no. Seattle is a lot like Vancouver but subtly amplified in little ways.  For instance, there are beautiful old buildings like in Gastown and plenty of hipster things around like galleries, thrift stores and cafes… just more. Was it more boring? I’d say it depends how into art you are but it felt less bustling, not that Vancouver is very bustling. Usually.

“What the heck was there to do in Seattle?” I heard that a lot when I came back. Here are some ways you can entertain yourself in Seattle for the weekend:

1.) Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour: Highly recommended and I don’t even like tours. I’d say it was the highlight of my weekend. The history of Seattle itself is hilarious. Lets just say they didn’t anticipate a lot of things. Major plus that the guides are great at telling the story. There is also the “Underworld Tour” which is an “adult version” of the Underground. Didn’t do it but I have high hopes for it given how interesting the one I did was.

2.) On a Sunday, the Fremont Sunday Market: It’s a little street market selling some interesting snack foods and a whole lot of artsy knick-knacks. Jewellery, furniture, picture frames, lots of mainstream old vinyl. My friend bought a polaroid camera and I got an old teacup. If you like Etsy type stuff this is a nice place to go. Getting there >>

3.) Fremont Troll: If you’re going to the market you might as well go check out this cool sculpture on the way. See Wiki page.

4.) Speaking of sculptures, Olympic Sculpture Park: Nice place by the sea for a walk in the evening.  The art there is pretty and felt just abstract enough to casually enjoy. It is a few blocks west of the free bus zone. To be honest, all of Downtown Seattle is like a sculpture park. Even the bus stops have neat skylights.

5.) Find Bruce Lee’s Grave: It’s just a grave… OF BRUCE LEE. No, it’s really just a normal cemetery. The interesting part is taking the bus there and looking out the windows in awe of how much Seattle is like Vancouver. Especially the residential areas.

6.) Coffee shops and art galleries: Wander around and you’ll find them easily. Try Pioneer Square area. By art galleries I mean those stores that are selling art that look like galleries. No admissions fees and maybe get inspired… or just straight up confused.

7.) If you’re really bored and with another person, do the clock hunt: I was a little scared that Seattle would be incredibly boring so I challenged my travel buddy to a contest. Who can take the most pictures of analog clocks. A bunch of tourism sites said “Seattle is rich in street clocks.” The catch is that you have to take the pictures without your challenger taking the picture too. My clock count: 11. I was aiming for 40.

8.) For nightlife, try Shorty’s: A bar with pinball machines. Need I say more? Speaking of nightlife, it seems like it is always happy hour in some places. Look for happy hour specials in restaurants, it’s a very affordable way to eat.

Other things to check out: Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Nordstrom and other American things we don’t have. I didn’t see much special about the first Starbucks or Pike Place. Pike Place really is just Granville Island’s market but with more fish and flowers. About the Museums in the Space Needle area, I didn’t go in so I can’t say if they’re worth it but the building structures are really cool! Local bands and exhibitions are aplenty, find a paper. Lastly, avoid the financial district on weekends. You look up and the really shiny skyscrapers draw you in but it’s really dead. I couldn’t even find an open Starbucks.

Downtown Seattle from afar.

Overall, Seattle is a city of nice walks lined with beautiful buildings and random art everywhere. Boy, do I mean everywhere. If you’re stuck in Vancouver this summer and just want to get out but have little time or little money (or both), Seattle is not a bad choice. Be prepared for hills.

[19] Co-op For Engineers

Second year engineering students at UBC can apply for a program known as “Co-op.” Students can ONLY apply in second year and NEVER again (!). When I applied back in 2011, the application form was posted in August and UBC accepted applications until September 15, 2011 as seen in the following e-mail I received (in italics). Note that all students receive a similar e-mail sometime in the summer before their second year:

Dear Sophia,

We would like to remind you the deadline to apply to the UBC Engineering Co-op Program is 4pm on Thursday, September 15th, 2011.

The UBC Engineering Co-op Program will enhance your education with paid, relevant, technical work experience and launch your engineering career. By participation in the program, you will add valuable experience to your resume and have the opportunity to explore different engineering industries during your undergraduate degree.

To apply please visit our website at, under the 'Prospective Student' tab and follow the link to the application form. Your Co-op Application Form along with a copy of your resume, unofficial transcript and signed UBC Engineering Co-op Program Undergraduate Terms and Conditions must be submitted to the Engineering Co-op Program Office by the deadline.

Please refer to the attached A Student Guide to Engineering Co-op. If you require more information, have questions on the program, or would like to speak with a co-op representative, please phone 604-822-3022.

Yours Sincerely,

Jenny Reilly
Director, Engineering Co-op Program
Director, The Canada-Japan Co-op Program
2385 East Mall,
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z4
Phone: 604-822-6598
Fax: 604-822-3449

1. What is Co-op?

It is a program available to several faculties at UBC where a student is able to gain technical experience (read: work in a real job related to what you are currently majoring in) for 4-5 terms spread throughout the student’s studies at UBC. Basically, acceptance to Co-op gains you access to a Co-op database where job listings are posted. These employers hire students for 4-, 8-, or 12-month terms. Below is a tentative schedule from the Co-op brochure that shows the typical plan of a Co-op student’s university years:

The STUDENT must apply to a minimum of 11-12 jobs PER WORK TERM in order to remain in Co-op. Furthermore, the student is required to go through Co-op workshops that are supposed to help in finding a job (I will cover these later). These workshops cost money (currently $216.48, see If you are hired through a Co-op job posting, you must pay more money to UBC for every term you work for “tuition fees.” (Note: you are not in school at all during work terms- you are working a full-time job while paying UBC hundreds of dollars on the side). You earn a salary at your work which varies among employers. Here is the “average salary” chart according to discipline that is featured in the Co-op brochure:

The definition of Junior, Intermediate, and Senior vary according to the subjects you have taken and the amount of appropriate work experience that you have. Furthermore, the salaries vary according to how wealthy the employer is. As an example, take my discipline: Chemical and Biological Engineering. A job in the oil sector can SOMETIMES pay upwards of $4000 per month for a student with little experience. On the other hand, a job in the pulp and paper sector or as a research assistant MAY give you a generous $1900 per month even with a lot of experience. Thus, it is better to forget about prospective salaries and focus instead on gaining hired (not an easy feat if you are picky).

2. How do I apply for jobs in Co-op?

The main advantage of going into Co-op is the large choice of jobs available in the Co-op database. These employers are specifically seeking UBC students to work for them in 4-month increments. Many of these jobs are (apparently) unavailable to the mass public, giving Co-op students a job-hunting advantage.

The employer looks at the student’s marks, sometimes the overall averages and sometimes marks in very specific subjects. For example, organic chemistry is frequently scrutinized by employers in the biological sector. The employer also looks at the student’s resume and cover letter. The resume must be in a specific format for Co-op, and a template is given to the students upon entry to the program. Co-op workshops give students tips for writing resumes and cover letters, but the task of writing them remains entirely with the student.

Next, prospective students might receive offers for an interview from the employer. Once again, it is up to the student to impress the employer during the interview and one should consider investing some money in formal clothing for interviews.

Twice per term, employers select and rank the students that they would like to hire among the interviewees. Successful interviewees also rank the employers based on who they would prefer to work for. Students and employers are then matched up according to their preferences.

Another handy thing about the Co-op database is that it shows whether the employer: is considering your application, has rejected your application, has selected you for interviewing, or has hired you or some other student.

3. What are Co-op workshops?

For a mandatory $216.48, students attend 3-4 Co-op workshops. These workshops contain an online and an in-person component. Last year, students had to watch online videos and complete online quizzes before each in-person session. This online component occasionally took HOURS to complete, featuring tasks such as listing all your skills, writing sample cover letters, and testing your comprehension of the online videos. The videos themselves were sometimes quite lengthy. Sometimes, one had to watch several videos, complete several quizzes, and complete several tasks before the in-person meeting. When this time-consuming process is placed in the middle of midterm week, things can get pretty hectic. There were a total of 3 in-person meetings/workshops and they were brief and served more as question-and-answer sessions. The bulk of the knowledge came from the pre-workshop online videos. It is mandatory to complete all tasks, quizzes, and show up to all the workshops. Students then go through practice interviews in groups of ~4 with their Co-op coordinator. They must also hand in a resume and a practice cover letter. We then received a total mark based on our participation, mock interview, and scores in the Co-op tasks. Students who get over 50% are only now OFFICIALLY in Co-op. I repeat: in order to start applying for Co-op jobs, one must first attend and complete all workshop components for a passing mark.

4. How do I get into Co-op?

As seen in the e-mail at the very top of this post, one can apply at once the applications open (for me it was in August). One must then answer a series of questions and write some paragraphs (such as why you want to be in Co-op). Applications can be submitted until mid-September (you will receive an e-mail letting you know the exact date). People whose first-year average was 75% or above were able to get in automatically (although they still had to answer the questions). Next, those who were not automatically enrolled are set up for interviews. I was interviewed by my Co-op coordinator in the presence of two other candidates. I believe that good marks, a positive and responsible attitude, and previous work experience gave students an advantage over others. After everyone’s interviews are over, students are e-mailed whether they have been selected to participate in Co-op. Those that are selected must then complete the Co-op workshops with a passing mark in order to officially be admitted into the Co-op program (an e-mail is sent in December to let you know if you got in). In January, selected students are finally able to apply for jobs for the summer term using the Co-op database.

5. Summary

  • Co-op allows students to gain work experience in an engineering field before graduating from university
  • Aim to get a high average in first year in order to be selected for Co-op
  • Maintain a high overall average throughout the rest of university to remain in Co-op (I believe you’re kicked out once you drop below 68%)
  • Get high marks in ‘important’ courses (not many Engineering employers care too much if you get bad marks in a completely unrelated field)
  • Be willing to work outside of Vancouver (there are many employers in the database that are from Canada’s other provinces and territories, as well as foreign countries)
  • Have a few hundred dollars ready by September to pay the Co-op workshop fee
  • Think about whether you want to be in a program that makes you pay tuition while you’re working in a full-time job
  • Don’t be upset if you don’t get in- there are many students who are just like you
  • Don’t panic if you don’t get hired immediately- apparently it’s very difficult to secure a job during the summer term due to fierce competition
  • Visit the Co-op office to pick up a brochure… here’s their website:

Finally, here’s one last screenshot of the brochure:

Summer To Do #6: Watch a band play live

Summer To Do #6: Watch a band play live

I can’t say I’ve never seen bands play before or went to a music festival, but I’ve never paid for one nor deliberately went to see a favorite band before. That is why “watch a band play live” was on my summer to do. How lucky was I that Arkells, one of my top 5 favorite bands, came to Vancouver yesterday!

Arkells rockin' out at Vogue Theater!

There’s a huge difference watching a band you don’t know and a band playing songs you actually can sing along to.  The thing I love about this band from Hamilton, Ontario is that even when you don’t know them, you can enjoy the show as if you did.  The first time I heard them was when they played before Our Lady Peace at one of the free shows during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  Even though my friends and I had never heard of them, their tunes were so catchy we managed to sing along anyway and had a great time.

Here is one of my favorites off their first album, Jackson Square. (Of which I thoroughly enjoy every track, how many CDs can you say that about?):

Sometimes I can’t figure out why I would want to go to a concert.  No flying elbows, secondhand smoke, ringing ears, and I can sing and dance along with less self-conscious hindrances when I’m in my own room.  Plus I’m only 5’2 so the view isn’t always so awesome.  But meeting people who hold that music as close to themselves as you do, that feeling is just something else.  There are no awesome opening acts of a band you’ve never heard of at home either (well… sort of.)

Vogue Theater on Granville

This was also my first time watching a show at Vogue… boy did I feel like a concert virgin when I joined the line 3 blocks away.

Tip: go early to line up if you want to get the best standing spot. Maybe an hour and a half? If the band starts tweeting about the line, you should put down your terriyaki bowl and haul it (and pay first of course, not condoning dine and dash!)

Summer To Do List.

Summer of 3rd year is quite possibly my last summer vacation ever. Or at least until I retire or strike it rich. When will I ever get four months of no responsibilities and a casual return to the usual in September again? Maybe if I take more than 4 years to graduate. (Which is likely too actually…)  To try and not regret the following months, I’ve started a list of stuff I want to do before the summer ends.

  1. Dye my hair something not brown: because soon I will be old and it will be deemed inappropriate
  2. Master parallel parking: I have my N but I still can’t really do this
  3. Drive on the highway (after the parallel parking mastering)
  4. Write a song
  5. Go on a short distance trip: likely Seattle or Banff
  6. Watch a band play live, maybe an indie show would be cool
  7. Watch the new Batman movie
  8. Watch the new Spiderman movie
  9. Watch at least two movies on my IMDB watchlist outside of the two above mentioned movies
  10. Travel somewhere farther away for over a week, or however long I can take work off
  11. Go hiking
  12. Play basketball
  13. Make a creative contribution at work
  14. Read a book
  15. Then read another book
  16. Learn to read and write 100 Chinese characters
  17. Lose 5 pounds, or alternative: get fit

So the items aren’t anything seriously epic, but it’s a start.

There was actually a lot of contemplation done before deciding what to do this summer.  School? Work? Full time or part time? Paid or un-paid? Travel?

Summer of 3rd year is a chance to make sure you graduate in 4 years, if that is your goal. Third year is a great time to get an internship too. What with the fear of an empty resume next spring and the many opportunities to leverage our student status for a real foot in the door somewhere.

I think getting an internship would have been the smarter choice for my future. I ended up disregarding that. I’ve taken summer school every year since grade 8, except grade 12.  I worked/volunteered at the same time for most of those summers.  I don’t regret any of those summers at all, but taking a summer to just be a kid again is the choice I felt I needed to pick.  Many internships are full time all summer long, so travelling for something like two weeks would be out of the question. Maybe I’m just a fool who has fallen to short-sighted temptations. Hope I don’t regret it!