Surviving First Year: Tips, Trick and Useless Information


If you’re reading this and will be starting at UBC in September, congratulations! You’ve successfully managed to maneuver your way through the black void that is applications and personal profiles. You’ve been selected because you’ve showed, on paper at least, that you have what it takes to thrive at UBC.

You’re probably wondering what comes next. By now you have selected courses and the only thing remaining is for two months to pass and you to show up and begin your education. Understandably, you may feel nervous or uncertain about beginning this new chapter. I know I did. To be honest, I’m still nervous and uncertain about where I’m going, but I’m eager to start and I hope you are too.

I wasn’t the perfect first year or anything like that, and in fact a lot of what I have to say are things I learned because I was a lost little first year. So without any further ranting, here is a list of things I picked up during my first year that may be useful to you. Or it may not be! Who knows, I don’t ????

1. Utilize Imagine Day, But Don’t Idealize It

As most of you already know, Imagine Day is UBC’s way of welcoming all first years with tours of the campus, orientation leaders, club booths, music, free food and a pep rally. Santa Ono might even play the cello for you guys!

It’s a super fun day and a great way to ask orientation leaders any questions you may have and also just get to know the campus and other first years. However, don’t expect to have made all your friends and figured out your whole university life after just this one day. A lot of my friends, myself included, felt a bit disappointed after Imagine Day because they expected more from all the hype.

Especially if you’re not a sociable person, chances are you may not meet too many people on Imagine Day because others are probably feeling shy as well. But don’t worry! You’ll have so many chances to make friends throughout the year, through frosh events, classes and clubs. Imagine Day is just a start, so enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously.

Fun fact: My birthday was on Imagine Day last year, so during the pep rally the entire university actually sang “Happy Birthday” to myself and about 30 others. Talk about a big welcome.

2. Set Goals

Something I’m just starting to do now and definitely wish I had done in first year was set goals for what I want out of the year. Ideally, they should be specific and achievable (google SMART goals). For example: “I want to be a part of two clubs by the end of December” or “I want to get more than 80% in MATH 102 (lol).” Once you have those, you can easily give yourself tasks that will help you achieve those goals, such as “I will do practice math problems every night (again, lol).” I just find that having these written down is super useful when trying to decide how to spend your time, what to get involved in and what to pass on.

3. Get Ready to be Humbled

I mean you’ll see what I mean when you get there but there are a lot amazing people at UBC who are incredibly high achieving in every area of life you can possibly imagine. You probably made it to UBC because you are also extremely talented and motivated with the ability to stand out amongst your peers in high school. But this is a different game, so you can’t expect to play by the same rules. I guess what I mean by that shitty metaphor is: don’t expect to be the best because it probably won’t happen. What I do encourage you to do however, is to talk to as many different people as you can and be inspired by them. Every person has something unique to offer, either through their words or actions so why not get to know everyone?  It’s better to be inspired than to be jealous.

4. Make Time for Fun and Self-Care

I already wrote an entire blog post about this so that should tell you this is pretty important to me. Your mental health is important and should always come before grades. Setting aside time to watch some Netflix and detach from the piles of anxiety you’ve been carrying is essential. It doesn’t even have to be Netflix, it could be spending time with friends, going to parties, even taking naps. Anything that is separate from the source of all your responsibility and stress, you should make at least a bit of time for. People have written books and done studies on this shit so I’m not kidding.


5. Commuters, Commuters, Don’t Despair

If you will be living on rez this year, then you can pretty much skip this section. But if you are commuting, welcome to the family! It’s definitely not easy to be a commuter student, especially if your commute is upwards of 1.5-2 hours each way. I would say the first week is definitely the worst because it can feel like you’re wasting so much time. Eventually though, you get used to it and it become a regular part of your day. I like to be productive during my commute so I usually do homework on my laptop, do readings, read ebooks, and I’m a huge podcast fan so I’m always listening to something too. For early morning commutes, if you can manage to get a seat, I would suggest just sleeping. You already have to get up early, why not make up for it by sleeping during the commute. I’ve also found that when you get out of the bus and step into the cold air, it wakes you right up so you’re awake and ready for class!

Time management also becomes more of an issue when you’re a commuter. It’s often hard to stay for events of club meeting because they’re usually late into the evening when you need to be getting home. It’s hard not to feel isolated from the social/extracurricular crowds at UBC. What I would recommend is picking one club that you really enjoy, and devote your time to that club. That way, you only really have to stay late once a week for their meetings. If there’s any benefit to commuting, it’s that it makes you prioritize what is worth your time and energy and what is not.

One last tip for commuters is to join Collegia! Seriously, the space is amazing, the people are amazing; everyone I know would recommend it.


Aaand with that, I think I’m out of dubious advice for the moment. The most important thing I have to say is to not be too hard on yourself. First year is extremely difficult (the academics can be almost fatal) so it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you’re learning. I hope you have a great experience. I will be a Jumpstart leader in a few weeks and an Orientation leader in September so if you’re in Science, I may see you and give some shitty in person advice as well!

Best of luck~


How to get into UBC

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