adventures in academia, university life and other mischief

How to save money while studying at UBC

Getting a higher education can be expensive, and if you’re cheap like me, you’re always on the lookout for ways to save money (and not be broke). Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:


  • Bring your own travel mug and get 10-15% off coffee and other hot drinks at most locations at UBC. Be sure to make your own coffee/tea/hot chocolate before you leave home in the morning; you may not need a refill later!
  • Go vegetarian. It’s healthier, better for the environment, and cheaper. Bulk foods are your friends: brown rice, quinoa, beans and lentils. Support the UBC farm and get your fresh veggies locally.
  • DIY TV dinners: Do some bulk cooking over the weekend – save food into meal-sized portions, put into ziplock contains and freeze until ready to eat. Meal ideas: lasagna (make a huge tray, freeze into portions), soups, stews, rice stir-frys. Re-heat by microwaving at the SUB or your faculty’s building. Will keep in the freezer for awhile.
  • Pack snacks if you’re the snacking type, and avoid those moment-of-weakness vending machine purchases they lead you to pay way more for an item. If you’re the candy bar type, stock up on them at the dollar store. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives, consider packing crackers, nuts, fruit, carrot sticks, granola bars and/or trail mix.
  • Walk to the UBC village food court (exercise + saving money = win!) instead of eating at more central areas around campus. In my experience, the food is both better and cheaper.
  • Eat a free lunch every Friday. Bring your own container to school and visit Sprouts (in the basement of the SUB) for a delicious vegetarian meal between 11:30-1:30. For more info: Sprouts Community Eats.
  • Follow free food UBC on twitter. Someone is always giving out something free on campus. Get the details sent directly to your phone.
  • Never pay for hot or cold water again. There is no reason to buy bottled water on campus when UBC offers free filtered water. For cold water, look for the big blue stations in the SUB, in the Buchanan A building, in Swing and in many other locations across campus. For hot water, the Arts lounge in Buchanan D has a water dispenser that dispenses both hot and cold water (use the red tap for hot), and I’m told that Abdul Ladha has a couple kettles in their lounge as well.


  • Do your research and shop online. Is your textbook mandatory? Is it available online (pdf)? Do websites like AbeBooks and carry it for way cheaper than the UBC bookstore? Ordering online has saved me anywhere from 10-40 dollars on textbooks in the past and can definitely be worth it. Everything adds up!
  • Have you checked the UBC used book store yet? They carry a lot of textbooks at discount prices. In my experience, their textbook prices have not been as good as online prices elsewhere, but they’re unbeatable in terms of lab coats and goggles!
  • Are your textbooks available in course reserves? If you spend a lot of time studying in the library, consider just using the library’s copy of your textbook instead of buying it. This method has literally saved me over $500 in textbooks over the years.
  • Buy used in “excellent condition”. This means no marks, dents, highlights or writing. If you buy used in excellent condition, you can often resell the textbook at the same price you bought it for. Check craigstlist and SaveOnBook.


  • Take the bus. You’d think this would be a given, but a lot of people drive to school even though they’re paying $120/semester for the UPass. Unless you live far away, it may not be worth it to drive. Aside from gas prices and parking, it’s also a loss of time – when you bus, you’re free to spend your commute studying for your classes or doing assigned reading instead of focusing on the road.
  • If you must drive, park smart. Parking at UBC is astronomical and often, you end up far from the majority of your classes anyways. Try parking anywhere just outside the UBC campus and taking the next bus in. It’s usually only a quick 15 min bus ride in, and the parking is free.
  • Carpool to school. If you know people in your area who also go to UBC and have similar class schedules, it can be worth it to carpool to school if you really don’t want to bus the whole way. Bonus points if you guys carpool + park just outside campus!

Do you have any tips for saving money while studying at UBC?

March 8, 2013   2 Comments

How to make the most of reading break

Congratulations on making it to The Week That Is Supposed To Make Up For That Time We Were Forced Back To School The Day After New Years Day, Instead Of A Week Later Like Everyone Else! If you’re hoping to do at least one productive thing this coming week, this list is for you.

For your health:

  • Regulate your sleep schedule.
    Take this time to start going to bed at a decent hour and catch up on those missed hours of sleep due to late night (or all night) exam cramming and paper writing.
  • Start an exercise habit.
    If you’re anything like me, the biggest barriers to exercising regularly are not just a lack of time and energy, but also the fact that it isn’t a regular occurrence to begin with. Challenge yourself to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day this week and start a habit of exercise.

For your sanity:

  • Do some pre-cooking.
    If you’re in the habit of bringing lunches to school, why not take this week to do some bulk cooking? You can separate your bulk cooking into meal-sized portions, pack them away in ziplock containers and freeze them until needed. Saves future time and money.
  • Clean your bedroom/dorm/apartment/house.
    Because you know you probably won’t have the time or the motivation to do it once classes are back in session.
  • Do one thing off your procrastination list every day.
    Maybe you have avoided updating your resume, looking for jobs, writing that email, paying those bills, bringing your car in for a tune up, clipping your dog’s nails, etc, etc. Whatever those things are, make a list to identify them, then do one item each day this week.

For your social life:

  • Reconnect with friends and family.
    Take this time to catch up on quality time with the friends and family you haven’t seen in awhile. (Which is—let’s be honest—probably everyone who doesn’t go to UBC.)
  • Try something new.
    Hot yoga. Painting. Bike the seawall on a sunny day. Paper journalling. Knitting. Peruse the street carts downtown. Drop-in pottery class. Visit Vancouver Island. Roadtrip to Whistler. Day trip to Washington state. Go the aquarium or science world. Be more bold and get out of your comfort zone. Bonus points if you try something new with a friend, or make a new friend while trying something new!

For your academic life:

  • Get caught up on your readings.
    I don’t know a single person who isn’t behind on their readings going into reading week, so I guess they named this break well.
  • Get ahead of your readings.
    Imagine how great it would feel to be sitting in class, already familiar with the material your prof is about to lecture on. How much more would you learn in that class if you did your readings before coming to class, instead of after? Remember that feeling and use it to motivate yourself to read ahead for the week following reading break.
  • Do one thing that will set you ahead for next week.
    This can be anything from coming up with the thesis for your term paper or completing webwork that isn’t due until next Thursday. Whatever it is, getting a head start on future tasks will help ease your workload when you get there.

How are you planning to spend reading week?

February 17, 2013   1 Comment

How to dress like a UBC student: The “Athletic” Edition

Up next:
How to dress like a UBC student: The Arts Student Edition

January 15, 2013   5 Comments

Here we go again

Well, that was short.

It’s no secret that I love school and usually begin to miss it on day 3 or 4 of Christmas or summer break. Not this time – I had an awesome (albeit busy, and filled with studying) Christmas vacation, and I’d be lying if I said I looked forward to coming back to school the day after new years day. While we’re on the topic: Whose brilliant idea was that, anyways? (SFU, you win this one.)

Dec 19, 8AM: Day of my last final. Went hard on the cramming.

Dec 19, 11AM: Last final was cancelled due to snow. Studied anyways.

Dec 19: Wrote & sent 20 Christmas cards, mailed them 2 hours before the deadline. House cleaning, day 1.

Dec 20: House cleaning, day 2. Baked 5 vegan tropical cheesecakes.

Dec 21: Bought a Christmas tree. Hauled it home. Decorated it, part 1. Vespers with the crew.

Dec 22: Day of rest. Game night with the crew.

Dec 23: Studied for finals*. Christmas shopping + tree & house decorating.

Dec 24: More Christmas shopping. Celebrated brother’s birthday with dinner + cake. Sat by the fire and watched the nutcracker on VHS.

Dec 25: Made Christmas breakfast. Chilled out by the fireplace. Watched Santa Clause 1 & 2 while peeling potatoes and turnips. Made Christmas dinner. Ate 3x my body weight.

Dec 26: Studied for finals*. Went to one store for boxing day, remembered why I never go out on boxing day and returned home.

Dec 27: Studied for finals*. Packed for Seattle.

Dec 28-Jan 1: In Seattle for GYC. Saw tons of friends. Celebrated New Years at the Seattle Space needle. Went shopping. Wrote + finished + submitted my article for the CQ. Never ate because I was so excited, and thus, accidentally lost 4 pounds. Arrived home at 11:45pm.

Jan 2: First day of school.

* I actually have two finals and one midterm in the month of January. The two finals are for classes I took last semester that were rescheduled, and the one midterm is from a class starting this semester.

And so here we are. It still feels very foreign to be back on campus, but I know it’s only a matter of time before those longings of “seeing friends” and “having a social life” and “enjoying free time” give way to “hello my name is Chanel, and I live in the Irving K Barber Library, 3rd floor”.

Just kidding. Kind of.

January 3, 2013   No Comments

I may or may not have just caught a security guard trying to steal my phone.

So, something weird happened to me in the SUB today.

It started out the way it always does on Wednesdays: I bought my Wednesday’s Special burger (no pop, hold the mayo, sub for veg patty) at approximately 1:30 PM, then found a seat within earshot of The Burger Bar* so I could study for my calculus quiz while waiting for my food.

* Details provided just in case you wish to stalk me. Next week’s story could be about you!

After about 30 minutes, my number was called, so I left my table to go get my burger and put the fixings on it. Except someone stole the vinegar bottle again, so I had to wait for a new bottle to be put out.

While this was going on, I kept glancing back at my table to make sure no one was stealing my stuff, comprised mostly of one netbook, my water-damaged calculus textbook and my iPhone 3G with the broken home button that runs so slow i’d probably have to pay someone to steal it from me—and that’s when I noticed the security guard.

At first I thought it may have been coincidental that he happened to be standing next to my table. Or perhaps he was hovering around my table to watch my stuff since it was obviously unattended. What a nice man! Except, after a couple minutes of looking at my table, he PICKED UP MY CELL PHONE AND STARTED EXAMINING IT.

Vinegar forgotten, I walked up to him. “Is there a problem?”

“This is your phone?” He asked me. Ummmmm… obviously. “Yes.”

“What’s the background photo?” Seriously? Ok, I’ll humor him. “Me and my dog?” Translation: WHO ARE YOU WHATS GOING ON WHY ARE YOU STILL HOLDING MY PHONE

(This is how I think: In caps. Run-on sentences. No punctuation.)

He presses the home button, obviously trying to turn on the screen to verify my story. JOKES ON YOU BUDDY! HOME BUTTON IS BROKEN!

“The home button is broken. You have to press the power button. No, not that button. Here, the one at the top. Yeah, that one.” Internet, I have a problem. I’d help a robber load my flatscreen TV onto his stolen truck in the middle of the night just because he was having trouble carrying it himself and the noise of him stumbling through my house and bumping into my walls was disturbing my sleep. Sick. So, so sick.

He finally manages to turn on the screen. It is indeed a photo of me and my dog because, as mentioned previously, IT’S MY PHONE.

“Ah, it is your phone. You know, you shouldn’t leave your stuff unattended. While one person is talking to you over there, another person might be taking all your stuff over here.”

Well, if I didn’t know that before, I certainly do now!

Moral of the story: Watch your stuff. Not particularly around other students, but especially around suspicious people hired to monitor suspicious activity.

October 24, 2012   1 Comment

Do you know what the rhombencephalon is?

Neither do I. But I would, if I were up to date with my readings.

Oh yes, it’s that time of year again. Despite the best laid plans of being up-to-date with my readings, I’m already behind in every class besides calculus and my chem lab. By my estimations, I have about roughly 80-120 pages of psychology to catch up on this weekend.

By the way, If you need to contact me in the next three days, I’ve moved. This is my new address:

Chanel Wood
Floor 2, 1961 East Mall,
Vancouver, BC
V6T 1Z1, Canada

If someone can periodically check in on me, maybe bring by some fresh pens and cookies, I’d highly appreciate that.

But enough about my new residence. What happened to Chanel today at UBC? Why, I’m so glad you asked!

6:30 AM: Woke up while it was still dark out.
This is a sick and twisted activity and I do not recommend anyone attempt it unless absolutely necessary.

6:40 AM: Almost went back to sleep, but was finally lured out of bed with the promise of meeting awesome people and getting free food.
And indeed, the food was free (and yummy!) and the people were awesome. The UBC blogsquad had its first meetup this morning and despite the ungodly hour, it was a lot of fun. The people were hilarious and charming and all very nice. An awesome group. Probably the wittiest, prettiest, funnies group of UBC Blogsquadders ever, in my totally unbiased opinion.

11:30 PM: We found the upside down tree.
After hanging out in the CST, A couple of us left together in search of the infamous upsidedown tree. Conclusion: It really does look like an upside down tree. BUT HOW DOES IT GROW?? We took pictures and probably got mistaken for tourists by fellow students.

1:10 PM: Didn’t eat lunch. Time since last meal: 4 hours.
Instead of eating, I spent my lunch hours agonizing over my upcoming organic chem lab.

3:10 PM: The exact moment I realized my TA probably thinks I’m an idiot for asking if you put the pipet bulb in water, and also the exact moment I was sure this chem lab would be the death of me.
In my defense, he misunderstood my question, but in his defense, I was making a bunch of stupid mistakes on the most basic things, so he had every right to assume i’d be stupid enough to think you could pipet water without using a pipet.

4:50 PM: The moment I realized I might be OK, and that this semester might not be a disaster after all.
Also, the end of my chem lab. Coincidence? Hardly. All disasters successfully avoided.

4:59 PM: Scurried like a man woman across campus because it only just occurred to me that chem labs do not account for the 10 minutes it takes to get to your next class.
Bumped into a friend from Langara, but couldn’t stop because I was late for class. Time since last meal: 8 hours.

5:05 PM: Made five new people hate my guts by being “that person” who comes into lecture late and squeezes their way past a row full of people attempting to take notes on their itty-bitty sized tables.
One guy even had to put his notes on his lap and pull up his table so I could get by. Meanwhile, I was the picture of grace and finesse with my sweaty forehead, messy hair and lack of breath as I unobtrusively squeezed through the tiny row with my bulging backpack.

6:30 PM: It finally occurs to me that maybe I need something more than just intellectual nourishment. Time since last meal: 9.5 hours.
The food at Buchanan B is overpriced and mediocre at best, by the way.

7:30 PM: Finally leave campus.
The sun is setting. I am exhausted.

7:40 PM: Dead asleep on the bus.

12:04 AM: Finally done writing this post, but there is a bee trapped in my room (?!) so I probably will spend the next hour devising non-confrontational techniques to get him out.
There goes all hopes of going to bed ‘earlier’.

First class tomorrow: 3pm. Here’s to sleeping in!

September 21, 2012   2 Comments

02/13: Expectation v.s. Reality

Two weeks into school already! Seriously, where does the time go?

As a nod to research methods, I am going to do a self-report measure and create a baseline for my first year at UBC—a pre-survey of sorts. It’s a bit long (clearly I talk too much, even when I’m not, err, talking) but I’m going presume that at some point to some person, this will become useful when trying to figure out what to expect from these courses—even if that person is me, at the end of this semester, crying into a carton of ice cream, mumbling “If only I knew!!”.

Just kidding. That’s horribly negative.

So, without further ado, first edition of Expectation vs Reality:

Let’s start with the event that kicked it all off…

Imagine Day

Expectations: I’d heard a lot of things about imagine day before actually going to imagine day—mostly from my jaded, twenty-something 3rd and 4th year friends who claimed it was pretty much the last place they wanted to be at 10AM on September the 4th. I was forewarned: lots of naive 17 year olds, cheesy UBC optimism, school pride and rampant consumerism.

Reality: Unlike those downers, I actually love the cheesy UBC optimism and school pride. And yes, there was lots of that. If I had to choose a word to describe imagine day, it would be “surreal”. There was a lot of naive 17 years olds and rampant consumerism, yes (although I never gave the latter any thought until it was brought to my attention later), but the one thing I loved the most was the school and faculty pride. The pep rally was so much fun (nothing like yelling your faculty cheer while wearing war paint in your faculty’s colors and waving your faculty’s towel! – see here if that last part totally lost you.) The speeches could have had a bit more depth. The whole experience was just fascinating, really. Pep rallies? Sororities? Fraternities? Sports Mascots? Cheerleaders? These things actually exist at a Canadian university? Indeed they do.

Some photos from Imagine Day:

My purple Arts nails for Imagine Day!

Me and my friend Sandra (also a 3rd yr transfer) with our faculty war paint. I met her in FREN 1115 on my first day of college – 2 years later we’re still friends!

Our MUG group – Squad 22 – for transfer students.

Me and Sandra at the pep rally.

MATH 184: Differential Calculus for Social Science and Commerce

Expectations: I was definitely most worried for this class, and by ‘worried’ I mean DOWNRIGHT TERRIFIED. There is one degree of separation between me and four other smart people who actually failed this class. You have to do math without a calculator and I don’t even know my multiplication tables by heart! There is a workshop where you have to WORK OUT PROBLEMS on the BLACKBOARD and get graded on your PARTICIPATION! Panic mode!!!1!

Reality: Surprise, surprise: It’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be—so far. I won’t go as far as to say that it’s been easy, because it hasn’t been, but I think after the stressfully overwhelming experience that was the first week of CHEM 233 this past summer, I was actually underwhelmed by the amount of information I was expected to know in the first two weeks of calculus. Thank God. On the other hand, I feel like I’m being lulled into a fall sense of security because everything makes sense and I’m actually able to do the problems…

PSYC 319: Applied Developmental Psychology

Expectations: I’ll be honest: This was my “filler” class this semester. It wasn’t my first choice, mostly because it’s outside the area of psychology that I am generally interested in. I didn’t really have any great expectations for this class—mostly, I hadn’t really given it much thought at all.

Reality: It was a slow start, but we’re finally getting into the “meat” of the textbook (instead of all the preliminary stuff) and this is where it is starting to get interesting for me. The prof is funny and relatable, which is a huge bonus. All in all, an optimistic start!

PSYC 304: Brain and Behaviour (Biopsychology)

Expectations: I didn’t really know what to expect from this class, other than knowing that it was a subject I would be interested in (the more biology-based psychology classes usually are to me).

Reality: The first couple classes have totally blown me away. The prof seems well-balanced, very approachable and understanding to students, as well as conscientious and a critical thinker. As we went through the subjects that would be covered in this course, I was pretty much on the edge of my seat. All of the subjects were ones I’d read about in my own spare time, just for kicks. The first “real” class used multimedia (video clips, including one TED talk and other relevant images) in way that really enhanced the learning experience.

PSYC 300A: Behaviour Disorders

Expectations: I have always been fascinated by deviations from the norm (good or bad, and most especially concerning areas of personality) so I knew beforehand I’d automatically find this class interesting. I also vividly remember being fascinating by this area when it was covered in intro psych, way back when.

Reality: So far, my expectations have been right on. It is definitely very, very interesting. The prof is actually not a faculty professor, but an actual clinical psychologist, which is a huge plus for me. (I really like the idea of learning from someone is isn’t just taught to teach this stuff, but works with it on a daily basis!) She’s very clear about what will be on exams v.s. what won’t be when she presents her lectures and has me captivated for the entire 2.5 hours! Also, the textbook is actually a Canadian edition which, surprisingly, makes a difference in terms of how relevant the info is to Canadians (like mental health care approaches in Canada, for example.)

CHEM 235: Laboratory Techniques in Organic Chemistry

Expectations: Labs always make me nervous, even when they’re really easy. That, and CHEM 233 (The course this lab is for) was a killer. On the flip side, I’ve had many people tell me this was a fun and (comparatively) easy lab course.

Reality: We haven’t had our first lab yet, so there isn’t much to say yet. We did have our orientation, however, where I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how a combination lock worked. (Thank god there were directions in the lab manual…) The TAs seem cool, which is important since they’ll be grading us every lab. Dana (the lab instructor) seems rather strict, but I’m not really phased by this because my last two lab instructors also had the persona of being downright terrifying, and both were actually quite helpful and friendly if you weren’t that dumbass who never came prepared and almost set yourself on fire every lab. So here’s to hoping she’s something like that!

Well, that’s a wrap. Now onto Week 3!

September 18, 2012   No Comments

New Year’s Eve

Mark the date: September 3rd, 2012—The eve of my first day as an official UBC student.

Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. The truth is, I’ve already had six weeks of being a UBC student; When I transferred to UBC back in May 2012, I made the completely brilliant* decision to take CHEM 233 (organic chemistry) in the 6-week summer session.

* It wasn’t a brilliant decision at all.

Did I mention that I did a full-semester organic chemistry course in six weeks? And that I’m not in any way, shape or form a chemistry major, or even a science major?

That experience could be summed up in eight words: What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.

Or maybe just two: I passed.

(I’ll write a survival guide on it sometime, I promise.)

But, I digress. Tomorrow is my real first day, and I am STOKED! Sure, there’s a bit of trepidation—my first two years at Langara were pretty amazing, and thus, are going to be pretty hard to top—but mostly, I’m just really excited for this next chapter in my life; A chapter I’ve waited many years to finally get to.

So, here’s to the New Year: Here’s new adventures, new friends, new knowledge, new challenges and new opportunities. Here’s to taking risks and finding rewards. But most of all, here’s to an experience we will never forget.

September 3, 2012   No Comments