Should I Go On Exchange?


Spain! The Albaicín in Granada; the Spanish flag.

Spain! The Albaicín in Granada; the Spanish flag.

Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of seeing the world. I am curious by nature and love to explore! When I learned in high school that as a university student, I might have the option to go on exchange, I immediately added the experience to my bucket list. I took Spanish classes throughout high school and university and made Spanish-speaking friends. My enthusiasm for the language fueled my desire to spend time in a country where I could immerse myself and improve.

So, I arrived at UBC knowing that an exchange program was something I had to do. After submitting my application and much anticipation, I was accepted to my first choice – la Universidad de Granada. A week ago I took my last exam to finish off my semester in Spain, and I can’t believe it’s already over! Now that I have finished my exchange, I want to be a resource to students who are thinking about doing the program themselves.

There are loads of questions students ask themselves when considering going on exchange: Will this delay my graduation? By how much? How much will it cost? Do I have to speak another language? What if I don’t make any friends and am left alone? Is it “worth it”?

My answer is: DO IT. If you have the opportunity to spend a semester or two in another part of the world, absolutely take advantage!!! And you do have this opportunity, guaranteed, as a UBC student. Through Go Global, you can choose from a variety of exchange, research and study abroad options. UBC has partner universities all over the world, and you can even establish connections with universities that are not “partners” yet — so all the doors are open!

Tapas! They are appetizer-sized dishes that come free with your drink (in Granada).

Tapas! They are appetizer-sized dishes that come free with your drink (in Granada).

Spending the past semester on exchange has been one of the best decisions I have ever made (tied only with my decision to switch majors at the beginning of my third year). In Spain, I have improved my Spanish immensely, adopted customs, learned more about others, learned more about myself, made lifelong friends, fallen in love, traveled, explored new interests and much much more. I have had some of the best adventures of my life…..and oh, yes, I have done some studying as well. (;

There have been challenges. I had problems getting my visa, my student loans didn’t apply and I had to find an alternative way to pay for my studies on exchange. I found solutions by doing a bunch of research, submitting last-minute documents, being supported by my family and working throughout my exchange. Anything is possible! If you have fears or doubts, forget them! Step outside of your comfort zone and go somewhere new — I guarantee you will be glad you did.

It was always my dream to travel and spend time in another country. Maybe you’re in the same boat, or this is a new interest for you. Either way, I highly encourage you to check it out!

Remember that thing I wrote about falling in love on exchange? It wasn't just with the country...

Remember that thing I wrote about falling in love on exchange? It wasn’t just with the country… (PS. The building in the background is Granada’s gem, The Alhambra!)

If you have questions about Go Global programs, the website I have linked to includes the contact info of their advisors. If you want to ask about my experience specifically, feel free to tweet me at @nirel_me or email me at nirel4peace[at]gmail[dot]com (replace [at] and [dot] with [@] and [.]). You can also find more blog posts by other UBC bloggers and myself at the Go Global Bloggers homepage.

Much love x

flamenco dancer. photo credit: spain-holiday.com

Dance at the world, and the world will dance back.

flamenco dancer. photo credit: spain-holiday.com

flamenco dancer. photo credit: spain-holiday.com

This morning, I went to the bank to pay a bill. I stepped outside and was greeted by a sunny day, which was particularly pleasant after the last few rainy ones. I walked inside the bank and waited behind the only other person in line — a middle-aged man whose face I couldn´t see. The tile floors lended themselves so well to sliding around that I couldn´t help myself. I began to fancy myself an ice skater, the small bank lobby my rink. The man in front of me turned around. What happened next I had not anticipated: he began to dance! Flamenco (1), no less.

I started giggling as we danced around our 2 meter x 2 meter stage. Words flowing as smoothly as his dance moves, he spoke romantically about art and life. He talked about the importance of creativity and how it mirrors the beautiful process of a germinated seed growing into a plant. He even made a direct analogy to the birth of a child, which was surprising considering that children had been on my mind recently.

I have noticed that so many small coincidences in my life connect many of the seemingly random situations I find myself in.. In all this randomness, we make connections. We meet people whose narratives overlap with our own. And it´s crazy how one person´s actions, subtle as they may be, can influence another´s. You notice my smile and wear your own; others notice yours and begin to grin themselves. I goof and dance around, and it turns out you like to do that, too!

Smile, and other people will notice…and some will smile back. Dance, and the world may just dance back. (:


(1) Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance, native to the south. This story takes place in Granada, Andalucía (in Southern Spain).


Vegan Roasted Vegetable Sandwich at The Boulevard

Campus Food For Every Taste And Every Budget

Do you love food? Are you new to UBC, or have been here forever but have been to the same place for lunch every day since first year? Maybe it’s time to change it up.

Here is your go-to guide to grub on campus, neatly sorted out for you by exactly what you’re looking for…Okay, so maybe it’s not the be-all-end-all guide, but hey — it’s a start.


Daily Cheap Eats:

Chinese food for lunch from The Village basement

Chinese food for lunch from The Village basement

Monday: Head to the downstairs food court in The Village for a large variety of inexpensive ethnic foods (entrance near McDonald’s). {V}

Tuesday: Grab an Original Burger from Triple O’s for $3.33 +tax.

Wednesday: Say “shalom” to the folks at Hillel as you fill up your lunch plate for $5. Later, hit up the basement of MacMillan (where Agora café is) for a $5 dinner at 5pm, hosted by LFS Undergrad Society. BYOC (bring your own container). {V}

Thursday: Explore the SUB food court and choose whichever type of food tickles your fancy! {V}

Friday: Stop by Sprouts downstairs in the SUB for a by-donation lunch between 11:30am – 1:30pm. BYOC. Around 3 or 4pm, head to The Delly for 50% most of their food items. {V}

Saturday:Dim sum / yum cha breakfast at the Totem Park dining hall. Do it.

Follow: @chowvancouver@freefoodubc@ubcsprouts


Vegan & Gluten-Free Goodies:

Vegan Roasted Vegetable Sandwich at The Boulevard

Vegan Roasted Vegetable Sandwich at The Boulevard

Vegan / Vegetarian

On campus, cozy sister cafés Seedlings and Sprouts are great spots to grab a bite and meet friendly people. The Gallery, Bernoulli’s Bagels and The Boulevard also all have excellent vegan & vegetarian lunch options. Coming soon: “Palate” will be serving veg cuisine in the Nest (aka New SUB), starting January 2015. {V}

Also, VegUBC organizes events (eg. monthly potlucks & dinner outings) and is working on providing resources, recipe tutorials and answers to anyone with questions about eating more vegetarian and vegan food. Join the facebook group for updates on events.


Great Dane has gf sandwiches and they will clean off the area they make them on if you are allergic. The Delly in the SUB basement also has GF Indian food. Looking to indulge? Mahony & Son’s has GF nachos and Tim Horton’s has GF coconut macaroons. Feeling Fancy? Sage has tons of GF fine dining options.

Follow: @vegubc@vegcoastvan@gfvancouver


Halal & Kosher Restaurants:

Wednesday 'Hot Lunch' at UBC Hillel

Wednesday ‘Hot Lunch’ at UBC Hillel


The UBC Muslim Students’ Association has compiled this list of restaurants on campus that serve halal meat.


The UBC Hillel hosts Friday night Shabbat dinners every so often and offers affordable hot lunches every Wednesday. All food served is kosher, and they are also a great reference if you have questions about kosher food elsewhere on campus. {V}


What’s With Food In Rez?

Lunch at Place Vanier Dining Hall

Lunch at Place Vanier Dining Hall (all veggie!)

It’s actually quite good. Both Totem Park and Place Vanier dining halls are open to the public and offer a wide selection of food items. They label whether dishes contain dairy, eggs, meat, shellfish, pork, wheat, etc — which is super helpful. I recommend the wrap station in Totem, The Ginger Pot and soups at Vanier and the salad bars at both, which are all very vegan-friendly. {V}


Looking For Something Sustainable?

UBC Sustainable Campus Food Guide

Check out the UBC Sustainable Campus Food Guide. This beautifully illustrated guide packs a bunch of useful information, including:

  • “UBC Food Rules” checklist with tips on how to eat eco-consciously on campus
  • Where on campus you can refill your reusable water bottle for free
  • Large directory of sustainable restaurants & cafés at UBC (p.9), **which highlights vegan and gluten-free options** {V}

Follow: @sustainubc, @healthyubc, @ubcfarm


Helpful Resources:

  • Complete list of all UBC-affiliated places to eat on campus, locations & hours
  • Mobile app to order your food in advance
  • This blog! I will be posting throughout the school year on here and on the VegUBC blog — including where to find great food around UBC and how to make your own yummy, healthy food at home (with loads of quick & easy recipe ideas).


Hope that helps! If you still don’t know where to find food on or around campus, feel free to give me a shout out.

What are your favorite places to eat on campus? Have I missed some UBC gems? Share your favorite spots in the comments!




PS. For those returning students who recognized this post, it is an updated version of last year’s UBC fyi newsletter post (which I wrote).

Source: pjmedia.com

HE’s 50 Life Secrets and Tips

Playlist: anything on sound cloud’s “deep house” station

This list (and website) are pretty fantastic. I am a big believer in sharing tips for success in life. I am SO grateful to everyone I have learned from in my life, which makes me especially excited to teach, encourage and inspire others.

I think that people are sometimes afraid to share their secrets to happiness or success because they think doing so will make them lose their advantage over others….as if life is just one big competition….which is unfortunate, because when it comes down to it, we’re all in this together. Don’t you ultimately want this world to be filled with happy, successful people? I do.

If you are doing something that makes you happy and/or successful, share it! (in the comments, if you like :) )

I refer back to the list often, and I suggest you incorporate some of these tips into your life if you haven’t already! They’ve improved my quality of life.

-Nirel xx

research definition

Fun Language-Learning Tools!

Looking for a summer project? Learn a new language! It’s amazing to think you’ll be able to form connections with people you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to communicate with… Here are some tools to get you started:

ielanguages (comprehensive vocab lists w/ flashcards & audio)

duolingo (there’s an app for this language-learning game and it’s SO fun!!)

kypros (specifically Greek vocab lists)

Good luck, don’t give up and have fun!! :)


Edit: Just discovered this awesome podcast — another awesome tool!!

coffee break (great for Spanish, French & German)

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FYF : Concerts – Alt-J @ The Commodore Ballroom

Playlist: Alt-J – Fitzpleasure

Much like The Black Keys’s Brothers was the soundtrack of my 11th grade year, I listened to Alt-J’s debut album, An Awesome Wave, on repeat throughout my first year of university. That album just resonated with me — I blogged about their KEXP performance and even recorded a drum cover of the song “Breezeblocks”. Needless to say, I was stoked to see they were coming to Vancouver and bought pre-sale tickets to see them several months in advance. My friend, Kett, and I scored second-row spots and the show was fantastic. Also, The Commodore Ballroom is gorgeous.

alt-j concert april 2013

alt-j concert april 2013 2alt-j concert april 2013 3nirel and kett at alt-j


This post is part of a series of posts I am writing about my first year at UBC, upon reflection. Check out the First Year Flashbacks category or look for the “FYF” image beside each post to read more.

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FYF : Concerts – AMS Block Party @ MacInnes Field, UBC

Playlist: Mord Fustang – Lick The Rainbow, Good For Grapes – London Fog

Like I said, AMS knows how to put on a kick-ass outdoor concert. Maybe it was the fact that I came earlier and saw all the bands play, or the pouring rain, or the four cups of hard cider now that I’d turned 19, but I liked this end-of-the-school-year show even better than its beginning-of-the-year equivalent. Line-up included Mord Fustang, Dillon Francis, K’Naan, Good For Grapes and Anxiojam. After that, I’m excited to see what AMS has in store for Welcome Back BBQ 2013! (Minus MacInnes field, which unfortunately has been ousted to make room for the new Aquatic Centre.)

Looks like Dan has his hands full…


UBC AMS block party 2013


This post is part of a series of posts I am writing about my first year at UBC, upon reflection. Check out the First Year Flashbacks category or look for the “FYF” image beside each post to read more.

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FYF : Concerts – Idan Raichel Project @ The Vogue Theatre

Playlist: Idan Raichel Project – Mi’ma’amakim

My Mama was my valentine this year when she came up from Seattle to visit and see this show with me on February 14th. My friend saved us front-row seats in this intimate venue, so we were actually able to tell Idan Raichel “good job” (in Hebrew) and he answered us, “thanks”! Having my mom and friends at this show, which showcased fantastic musical talent, made it a total blast. Also, check the IRP out if you are into foreign music at all — Idan Raichel is an Israeli artist who collaborates with musicians from all over the world to create masterpieces in various languages.

My beautiful mother & me….just an arm’s length away from Idan Raichel!

the vogue theatre idan raichel project

-N <3

This post is part of a series of posts I am writing about my first year at UBC, upon reflection. Check out the First Year Flashbacks category or look for the “FYF” image beside each post to read more.

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FYF : Concerts – Bassnectar @ Thunderbird Stadium, UBC

Playlist: Bassnectar – Bass Head

Timestretch was the first dubstep album I ever listened to. Since then, I’ve managed to find a place for the genre in my heart: blasting it during workouts and raging at the occasional concert/music festival. Going to this show made me realize that I am by no means a “raver” — the music was way too loud (yes, I am aware I sound like your grandma) and Bassnectar is not as upbeat as the Skrillex-esque dubstep I’ve been listening to lately. However, I still managed to have some fun, thanks to the friends I was with. Remember, kids — friends are important. Especially at a rave that you went to not knowing it was going to be a rave. Oops.

fyf bassnectar 2012

fyf piglets at bassnectar 2012

My Haida First Floor Piglets!


This post is part of a series of posts I am writing about my first year at UBC, upon reflection. Check out the First Year Flashbacks category or look for the “FYF” image beside each post to read more.

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First Year Flashbacks : Concerts – Welcome Back BBQ @ MacInnes Field, UBC

Playlist: Morgan Page – In The Air

I’ve always been an avid concert-goer, and my first year at UBC was no exception. A huge part of the reason I chose to attend UBC in the first place is because Vancouver is a beautiful city with so much going on — and if an artist is going on tour, it is likely they’ll play here.

AMS knows how to put on a sick outdoor concert. I definitely felt “welcome” after this show, featuring: Hey Ocean!, Morgan Page, Starfucker, Minxy Jones & DJ She. Partied it up with my new Jumpstart buddies. (:

fyf ubc welcome back bbq 2012

nirel at ubc welcome back bbq 2012

Broken foot? What broken foot? I’m here to dance (safely, of course – don’t want to break the other one…).

fyf ubc welcome back bbq on grass


This post is part of a series of posts I am writing about my first year at UBC, upon reflection. Check out the First Year Flashbacks category or look for the “FYF” image beside each post to read more.