From East to West: The Ins and Outs of Going to School Across the Country

Not to turn up the pressure or anything, but the time is drawing near for all you high school seniors to make one of the biggest decisions of your life. The deadline to accept UBC’s offer of admission is June 1st, and I’m sure that a bunch of you are struggling to decide whether this school is the right place for you. Some of you might have to move across provinces, country borders, or even oceans in order to attend UBC, and you probably have a ton of questions about what that move is going to mean for you. And that’s where I come in.

I know what you’re going through. Just a year ago (although it feels like it’s been much, much longer), I was in your shoes: getting ready for prom, persevering through the last few weeks of high school, and trying to decide if I was ready to move across the country. You see, even though I had been set on UBC for the majority of my high school career, my head was swimming with doubts as the deadline approached. I had lived in the same house my entire life and gone to school with the same people since kindergarten. Would I be able to cope with such a dramatic life change? How often would I get to come home? And how was I going to fit my entire life on a plane? I wish I’d had someone to answer these questions, but I pretty much had to figure things out for myself. Luckily, you don’t have to.

Why did you choose UBC?

As soon as I discovered that UBC existed, I decided that was where I would go to school–probably because it was as far away from Richmond Hill as I could get without actually leaving the country. But as I continued to research the school, I started to fall in love. It was a little strange, but without having ever been to Vancouver, I somehow felt like it was my home. I could picture myself hiking in Pacific Spirit Park, wandering around Granville Island, and skiing at Whistler on the weekends. I was awe-struck by the mountain views, the beautiful buildings, and the fact that there was a beach on campus (plus, UBC’s amazing academic reputation didn’t hurt). And so, at the end of last summer, I boarded the plane to YVR, saying goodbye to my Ontario roots and waving hello to my new West coast life. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Was it difficult being so far away from your friends and family?

Honestly, moving to UBC was a huge change. It was surprising to me, because before I went away for school I felt completely prepared to live away from home and wasn’t expecting to get homesick at all. However, it was difficult for me during the first couple of weeks because even though I was meeting tons of new people every day and there’s always so much fun stuff to do, I didn’t have close friendships with anyone just yet. But I think that not knowing anyone in Vancouver was actually a good thing in the long run, because without that pre-existing social network I was forced to be more outgoing and make friends with people in residence, which led to me making some of the best friendships of my life.

How often did you go home?

During first year, I went home over Thanksgiving (5 days) and winter break (20 days—I finished finals super early). I chose to stay in Vancouver over reading break in February, but the majority of my other friends from Ontario went home then as well. I realize this may not seem like very often, but don’t freak out. Overall, I found that my friends who went to school in-province ended up going home about as often as I did, maybe with an additional weekend thrown in here and there. The thing is, once you’re actually living in residence it becomes your home, and you don’t really feel the need to leave very often. Besides, all the fun times in rez happen on the weekend anyways. You’ll seriously miss out if you’re going home all the time.

How did you move all your stuff to Vancouver? What did you do with it over the summer?

The logistics of moving across the country can seem scary, but it’s manageable as long as you plan ahead. My mom came to move me into residence in September, and we each brought 2 suitcases on the plane (I had a ridiculous amount of stuff, so you probably won’t need this much baggage). I also got a bunch of dorm room stuff using Bed, Bath & Beyond’s Pack & Hold service. Basically, you go into your local store at home, get a fancy wedding registry machine, go around the store scanning everything you want, and then pick it up in BC. The only issue is that the closest Bed, Bath & Beyond to campus is in North Vancouver, so you’re going to need to make a bit of a drive. It’s definitely worth looking into, though.

As for the summer, the majority of my stuff from my dorm room (skis, printer, big sweater collection, etc.) is currently tucked away in a storage facility in Kits. I actually ended up spending quite a bit of money on storage over the summer, but that’s because I put it off until the absolute last minute. If I hadn’t been so distracted with finals, I’m sure I would have been able to store everything at a friend’s place or take advantage of the storage company that comes directly to Vanier. Plan ahead and summer storage shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Do you ever wish you’d gone to school closer to home?

My mom actually asked me this as soon as I got back from Vancouver, and it caught me a little off guard. It should be pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever read my blog that I’m totally in love with UBC, and while first year was definitely rough at times, I’ve never once regretted my decision to move across the country. One of the most important lessons I learned this year was that taking risks can pay off. You know yourself best, and if you really think that UBC is where you belong, you’re probably right. Trust your instincts, tell those doubtful voices in your head to shut up, and take the leap. It just might be the best decision you ever make–I know it was for me.

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