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).


Avo roll at Peko Peko. Photo: @VegUBC on instagram

Campus Food For Every Taste And Every Budget

You’ve come to the right place.

With UBC’s many cafes, restaurants, residence dining rooms and food trucks scattered around campus, you’ll always find something that suits your taste and your wallet. The Nest (UBC’s new student union building) has an impressive list of old SUB favorites and new additions.

Here’s where you’ll find the best bang for your buck (good-tasting, good-for-you food at a good price):

Something For Everyone (The Nest Edition):
Peko Peko – Deliciously fresh sushi, with loads of veggie options, for about $4 a roll. Great grab-and-go lunch!

Avo roll at Peko Peko. Photo: @VegUBC on instagram

Avo roll at Peko Peko. Photo: @VegUBC on instagram

The Soup Market – Local soup options (made on Granville Island), varied daily. Always one of each: veggie, fish and meat soup, served with fresh bread. $5-6 for a medium-sized bowl on a cold, rainy day.

PI[E] R squared – Okay, so this may not be your healthiest option….but their pizza is a student favorite, at $2.75 a slice.

If you’re looking for curry, quality burgers or noodles, you can find them at Delly, Flip Side and Grand Noodle Emporium, respectively (all in The Nest). All run about $7-8.

Vegetarian / Vegan / Gluten-free / Health-conscious:
Most places on campus will accommodate these diet restrictions, so be sure to check menus or ask!

Seedlings; Sprouts – Quinoa bowls, chickpea burger & stews, all for under $4. Brownies, raw brownie balls and fair-trade, organic coffee all for $1 or less! Menus for both of these student-run initiatives here.

Palate – New, in The Nest. $6.50 daily sandwich & soup combo. Otherwise, choose from fresh panini, wraps and salads for $6-7, or build-your-own sandwich!

Panini at Palate. Photo: The Ubyssey. More at http://ubyssey.ca/culture/nests-food-definitely-sub-par/

Panini at Palate. Photo: The Ubyssey. More at http://ubyssey.ca/culture/nests-food-definitely-sub-par/

Agora – On the south end of campus, similar food & prices to Seedlings and Sprouts.

Treat Yourself:
Here’s where you can spend a bit more and indulge in a next-level dining experience:

Mercante – Authentic Italian pizzas, cooked in a stone hearth oven and made to order, for $10 a pop. Well worth it for a true quality pizza lover! Gourmet salads and desserts for about $4-6.

Mercante Pizza. Photo: students.ubc.ca

Mercante Pizza. Photo: students.ubc.ca

The Perch in The Nest and Biercraft in Wesbrook Village both offer $6.50 craft beers on tap, wine for about $8-9 and cocktails for $9-12. Food options for both average about $14 a dish, with cheaper appies and tapas if you want the fancy food & atmosphere at a student-friendly budget.

Beer, coffee, fresh-pressed juice…and don’t forget the free water refill stations located in buildings all around UBC (just BYOB — bring your own bottle)!

The (newly remodeled) Pit and Koerner’s Pub both offer the best deals on beer on campus — about $5 for a draught beer (or under $4 during The Pit’s happy hour). You can also find wine and cocktails at both (and pressed juice at Koerner’s!) for $6-9, if that’s your thing.

Speaking of pressed juice — and, of course, smoothies — grab a ‘meal in a cup’ from Liquid Nutrition, in The Nest, for a breakfast or lunch you can drink. All organic, vegan and whole-food based, this place packs nutrients without compromising great taste.

<UPPERCASE> is the lovechild of students’ old favorite Blue Chip Cookies and Bernoulli’s Bagels. Stop by in The Nest for bagels, fresh coffee, cookies and other baked goods. Hit up {lowercase} downstairs for the same, minus the bagels.

Food in Res:
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. and have impressively good, mostly locally-sourced food.

Lunch at Place Vanier Dining Hall. Photo: author's own

Lunch at Place Vanier Dining Hall. Photo: author’s own

Stay ‘In-The-Know’:

On The Go
UBC now has 5 (!!) food trucks, and there’s a cafe in or around just about every building on campus. So….you’ll never go hungry, no matter where you end up studying. For more info on food trucks, ranging from burgers to Thai bowls, follow @UBCstreetfood on Twitter.

It's About Thai food truck. Photo: @UBCstreetfood

It’s About Thai food truck. Photo: @UBCstreetfood

Feed Me Now
This sweet feature on the UBC Food Services site lets you know which AMS-run food joints around campus are open, right now (with real-time updates).

Skip the line with the AMS’s mobile ordering system.

Keep in mind these suggestions are a small selection of the wide range of options on campus. Check them out and explore for yourself to find your favorite food spots! The Village (University Blvd) and Westbrook Village are just around the corner and have tons of food options as well.

I would argue there’s pretty much no food you can’t find on campus.

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.