“Oh, I didn’t go for Jump Start.”
This was a conversation that occurred many times during my first year. Some of us are just not able to attend Jump Start.. for starters, it’s not exactly cheap, and visa delays happen to the best of us. I happened to receive my entry visa to Canada on the very day Jump Start was scheduled to start, so you can see how it was a little impossible for me to just hop on a plane and bid the world adieu. I was quite crushed – I was really excited about making new friends and trying to look cool – but I made it work. If for some reason, you’re not able to attend Jump Start this year, fret not. As an international student who, prior to UBC, had never been to Canada nor lived abroad, I’m here to tell you that you’ll be fine.
This is the biggest part of adjusting to your new life in Vancouver, and also the most tedious. I know I spent much of my time anxiously conducting research about EVERYTHING Vancouver. But seriously, do. your. research. If you just hop around the UBC International Student website, you’ll find lots of resources on health insurance, immigration documents and filing taxes. (Yes, health insurance is mandatory and yes, you do have to pay that every month.) The website is updated very frequently, so that’s another plus.
If you’re worried about setting up a phone number or a bank account – research comes in here too. What are the major phone carriers in Canada? The major ones are Rogers Communications (which includes Fido, Mobilicity, Rogers Wireless), Telus (Telus, Koodo) and Bell (Bell Mobility, Virgin). Before arriving in Vancouver, you could always take a look at your options.
What about banks? There are already several banks within the UBC Campus (BMO in the University Village, RBC in Wesbrook Village, Scotiabank by the small bus loop…. but of course, you’d know this if you did your research!). There are also (unofficial) Facebook social groups for UBC students, so if you’re really confused, you could always ask for some guidance from your seniors. Yes, I know that setting up accounts and dealing with paperwork isn’t always fun (in fact, it never is), but these little things will really be the foundation of your new life in this city.
This is rather connected to the point above. Say hypothetically, you just won a trip to…. Iceland! Yay! Good for you! The flight tickets are free, and your hotel fees are totally covered. You just don’t have an itinerary, and you have no idea what to do……. so you conduct research! I found that I really found my way around Vancouver by acting like a tourist and going on holiday for the first week or two. Within a week, I knew my way around Downtown.
I started out by covering the basics – what is there to do in Vancouver? And how do you get there? What can I see? Where should I eat? Wikivoyage and other websites like Yelp or Travel Advisor have lots of information. A quick search will return the usual suspects – Stanley Park, Capilano, the Grouse Grind… and eat the sushi! This simple research is something you’ll always be falling back on.
I also suggest walking around campus before classes begin. The Fall term is starting on the 8th, so there’s an entire week of exploring to do! In my first year, I ambled all around UBC (and took lots of photos for Instagram). I suggest not worrying about getting lost or getting somewhere. I actually found the Cecil Green Park House by just aimlessly wandering around campus.
Besides, you should be able to claim your U-Pass in September, which means unlimited travel in 3 zones! This is the perfect opportunity to discover the heart of Vancouver… or something cheesy like that. Don’t worry about getting lost – if you have no Wi-Fi or phone data to look for directions, you can always ask a friendly stranger, or even a bus driver. Most of the bus drivers have excellent knowledge on where’s where in Vancouver (and they should!), so they’re a pretty safe bet. They’ll usually let you know what bus you need to take to get to wherever you want to go. The Transit app might also be something you’d want to download, as it shows all nearby transport options (and their ETA!)
– UBC’s International House
If there’s something that’s still bothering you… the International House is here, have no fear! This building is basically a safe haven for international students. I remember getting unnecessarily distraught about applying for a Social Insurance Number, and running to the warm embrace that is the I-House to ask for help. And help me, they did.
– Other resources?
If you’re lucky enough to have high school classmates coming along with you to UBC, they’ll be very important resources (and friends!) during your first few weeks in Vancouver. Share information with each other! Introduce new friends! GO OUT THERE AND LIVE! FLY! BE FREE! YOU CAN DO IT! DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS JUST BE DREAMS!
Also, like I mentioned earlier, UBC Facebook groups can be really resourceful (when they’re not annoying and filled with spam). If you’re more of a Twitter person, there are several UBC-associated Twitter accounts that tweet reminders, important information, and the like (they also tweet out UBC Blog Squad posts! So watch out for that! /end shameless plug). These are some examples: UBCfyi, Youbc.
And if you’re worried about culture shock, homesickness, or if life just gets you down, all you need to do is ask for help.
Sometimes, it’s all about perspective. I find that when I do something that scares me, or put myself out there, the world usually rewards me in the strangest ways. All right, now that the cheesy moment is over….
But seriously. Maybe you’ll be missing out on the Jump Start community and fun (just like I did………. sigh), but there are plenty of opportunities to build and join communities of your own. You’ll meet people in clubs and classes…. If you happen to be in a first year program like CAP, Arts One, CSP or Science One you’ll build a strong bond with your colleagues, as all strong bonds are built through suffering caffeine-fueled nights and horrendous midterms together. If you’ll be living in rez, you have the chance to meet so many people and experience the glorious roller coaster ride that is rezlife. You’re not the only one looking the make new friends, so just reach out, and you might be surprised.
(Unless you actually don’t want to make friends. That’s cool too.)
I may have just written a whole wall about things you should do, but really, it’s all up to you. How do you want your life at UBC to look like? Tuum Est, and all, man.