Graduations and goodbyes

Hello friends. It is likely that this will be my last blog post, since in a few short months I graduate from UBC, and my blog will probably become part of an archived library of forgotten words, sinking into the deep recesses of the internet, rarely read anymore. That’s fine with me. I got to spend a few lovely years writing and sharing my feelings and my experiences with you lovely readers, and so I think you deserve a proper goodbye.

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to think about what to write, but I have constantly come up short of ideas. Technically, I’m still enrolled at the school, but I’m only in two full-year courses and strictly speaking, they aren’t academic. I work full time now and I’m rarely on campus. My participation in campus life is limited nowadays, and it seems to me that I don’t have much to offer anybody. So, instead of writing about nothing, I’ll tell you about an experience that absolutely changed my life.

This past summer, I went on a Global Seminar with UBC. It was a month-long trip through Poland titled “Witnessing Auschwitz: Conflicting Stories and Memories.” I can say with 100% certainty that this trip was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. The course involved full days of lectures, museums, tours, and research in a few of the places in Poland most related to the Holocaust – Warsaw, Auschwitz/Oswiecim, Krakow, and Bialystok. My fellow students and I spent multiple days in concentration camps and death camps; we toured what remained of the Warsaw Ghetto and had lectures by the leading academics in the field of Holocaust history. We saw huge piles of clothing and suitcases in exhibits at Auschwitz, and we walked in fields where every blade of grass had been richly fertilized by the bones of dead Jews. We saw the scratch marks on the walls of the gas chamber in Auschwitz I, and we stood in the spot where many of those destined to die in Birkenau stood, just moments before they were killed. Our sleep was plagued by nightmares involving those who we were studying, the horrific history replaying in our minds every night as we tried to slip into a dreamless slumber. The experience, for me at least, was harrowing, exhausting, and troubling; however, it was also life-changing, brilliant, and inspiring. We were able to meet with the most learned historians in the field of Holocaust history, and more specifically, Auschwitz history. We had the rare privilege of having full access to almost everywhere inside Auschwitz, allowing us to research freely. Personally, I think it was incredible to be able to see the passion behind the field of Holocaust history. It is a difficult subject to research, partially because of the emotional impact and partially because of the lack of original documents, but to those who teach and give tours, it is an endless source of fascination. They are passionate about discovering the truth and listening to the stories of survivors, and they love being able to teach others about the subject.

Witnessing Auschwitz absolutely changed my life. I am more conscientious about my language now, more critical of scholarly text, and more aware of biases in memoirs. I have been able to conduct my own research into a subject that I’m passionate about, and my supposed term paper for the course is being published in a book that the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial is releasing. I think more deeply about certain issues, and I am much less hasty when demonstrating judgment. Witnessing Auschwitz was an incredible experience, and I am so lucky that my school offers such amazing opportunities to its students.

I’m not trying to convince you readers to go on this trip; please only go on it if you think you can handle the research, the emotions, and the month in Poland with very minimal fruit and vegetables (trust me, you’ll even miss broccoli). There are other Global Seminars that UBC offers in quite a few different fields. If you’re interested in studying abroad but you can’t necessarily do a semester abroad (I couldn’t due to my music requirements), these Global Seminars are a phenomenal way to experience the world in an academic setting.

So check them out! Explore. Become better students and better people. Have experiences that challenge you and change you and help you to grow. Open your minds to new ideas and be constantly learning. Because maybe the UBC motto doesn’t mean that your undergrad or your masters or your PhD is yours to control, like I previously thought. Maybe it means little a bit more, has a larger meaning beyond the scope of the school. Maybe, just maybe, the University of British Columbia is just the first step in creating your own destiny.

Tuum Est.

“It is yours.”

And the world is yours.

UBC Cards: The best way to say “put it on the plastic

Well well well. Here we are. In 3 weeks, most of us will be back on the UBC campus getting ready for our first week of school. And when I say most, I truly mean most. Some people will still be at home, spending every last minute with their families. Some people will be on vacation still and rushing back to Vancouver. And some people won’t even be thinking about school, they’ll just be partying until the moment school starts. Now, whatever you’re doing, I’m sure money is on your mind. School is expensive, books are unnecessary, blah blah blah. But to all you worriers out there – you’re saved! Because here comes a fantastically educational blog post about all the free things you can do with your UBC Card.

From the moment you get on campus, your UBC Card will become one of the most important cards in your wallet. First of all, it has that awful picture of you (you know, the one where you thought you couldn’t smile so it’s like a mugshot but a particularly bad one at that) which you use for ID purposes. However, the UBC Card is a lot more helpful than that. To make this easy for you, I’ll put this in list form so you can see all the items on the list in a nice orderly fashion.

Free things to do with a UBC Card

1. Go to the Nitobe Gardens. Have you ever heard of the Nitobe Gardens? If not, then you’re missing out. The Nitobe Garden is a gorgeous Japanese garden hidden away by Place Vanier and the Asian Library. It is absolutely free as long as you show the attendant your UBC card, and its beautiful scenery, especially in the fog or in the autumn, will relax you instantly.

2. Visit the Museum of Anthropology. This fascinating museum is a great way to learn about different cultures, and it’s free with your UBC card! You can check out the totem poles around the building, or visit the other exhibits inside. Either way, it’s an awesome experience that’s entirely FREE!

3. Check out the Belkin Art Gallery. I haven’t been here yet, but checking out art for free? Hell yeah.

4. Ride the bus! Okay, so technically it isn’t free, but you get your incredibly useful and easily-losable U-Pass with your UBC Card. You put your card into the machine once every month and VOILA, your U-Pass comes sliding out the bottom of the machine. I guess it isn’t really free, but it feels like it is when you pay everything at the beginning of the year.

5. Hang out at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Have you ever wanted to see a huge blue whale skeleton? If so, you’re in luck! The Beaty Biodiversity Museum has one, and a lot of other cool science-y things. It’s also located right off Main Mall, so it’s easy to get to and fun to check out!

6. Drop-in sports at the SRC. If you’re a more athletic than museum-going person, then you can check out the drop-in sports at the SRC. Why? Because they’re free!

7. Check out library books. Yeah, books! When you’re at any of the UBC libraries, you can use your UBC Card to check out books.These include research books, casual reading books, and scores and CD’s. But make sure you return the books on time, otherwise they know it was you who checked them out and they will track you down. I promise.

8. Swim like a fish! You can go swimming for free at the UBC Aquatic Centre. They have lane swimming and everything, which is always a fantastic workout. I’ve also heard that there is a small gym downstairs that you can use for working out if you don’t feel like paying a Birdcoop membership.

9. Party hard. When you’re so busy checking things out of the library with your UBC Card and learning things in museums for free with your UBC Card, it’s good to unwind. So you can also use your UBC Card to get into parties on campus! Frat parties, Arts Week parties, you name it. Many of these events are exclusive to UBC students, so you can’t buy tickets without your ID. Or, if it isn’t ticketed, then you can’t get in without showing a frat brother your ID (or a picture of it on your phone. I’ve done that, and it’s easier than carrying ID around and possibly losing it.)

10. See the doctor. With a UBC Card, you can book appointments to see the doctor at UBC Student Health Services. When you pay your mandatory fees, you also pay a little for a certain type of student health insurance. Therefore, going to the doctor is paid for by that insurance! And free for you!

11. Break into buildings. You can’t actually break into buildings with your UBC Card, but if you’re authorized, you can get into certain buildings with it after hours. For example, I can get into the Architecture buildings when the doors are locked to access the practice rooms. Free building entry! Yay!

12. Book study rooms. I’ve only heard this from friends, but apparently you can book study rooms and tables for free with your UBC Card. Hurrah.

So that’s really all I can think of right now, and this was supposed to be a short blog post so I screwed that up already. The point is, you can do all kinds of fun things with your UBC Card! For free! There’s a lot of discounts you can get with it too, like a discounted yearly pass as the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and 5% discounts on all UBC Food Services things.

But for real, take advantage of your card. It’s a fantastic thing to have, and you can do so many free things with it! So next time you’re at UBC and someone asks how you’re paying (assuming you’re at MOA or Nitobe or something) you can say “put it on the plastic” and flash them your UBC card. And just like that, you’re in.

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