Getting Ready for Grad School… Part 2: Housing.

Alright. So I have to get this application written and sent by tomorrow, and I can’t seem to concentrate.

I went to MEGA coffee for the first time in a while, talked with the epic MEGA members about the Whitecaps (which, I just found out is Vancouver’s soccer team), paintball, and how MEGA’s weekly coffee social (that’s right, there is such a thing as social life in grad school) snack now includes cookies AND apples. But still, that didn’t do the trick. I still haven’t finished my application… Bah~

Anywho, I’m hoping that writing another blog post will make me feel like doing something productive this evening.

So here goes the continued discussion of getting ready for grad school.

My Thunderbird studio unit on campus. Picture taken the day before moving in. 🙂

Well, I think I made a huge error when I thought that I could look for housing around August or something. I hadn’t received my acceptance letter until mid-summer, and I assumed that I should be applying for housing when I get the letter.


I naively assumed that, since I didn’t have any problem getting in to a residence at or housing near the University of Waterloo (UW), all universities must be equipped with enough residences on campus and nearby off-campus sites to accommodate all students. Turns out that getting into a residence at UBC is a lot more competitive than UW. I think the waiting list usually grows well above a couple of hundred. Since the housing applications are processed in first-come-first-serve basis, it’s wise for you to apply as soon as you can. And that means you should be hitting that ‘apply’ button now, if you haven’t already done so yet and plan to live on campus.

Some tricky housing contract rules apply at UBC as well. Once you get in, you need to make sure you read the  contract before you sign it. While places like the Thunderbird Residences allow you to give them a month or so of notice before you move out (should you happen to do so), that doesn’t really work for Marine Drive Residences. When you sign up to live at Marine Drive, you are signing up to live at the residence until August 15th of the following year, unless you renew your contract or notify them of your intention to move in April. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay fines and will not be able to get back hundreds of dollars of deposit you need to give them before you move in.

Tricky as it may sound, living in residences can have its benefits. Most residences feature a small gym, a music room, and a commons block where people can meet/hang out. If you are new to Vancouver, chances are you’d like to meet new people and make new friends. Residences can help you with that.

But then again, your idea of grad school may involve throwing away your lifestyle from residence-bound undergrad life. If that’s the case, you can get into studio or one bedroom units on campus (technically also residences) or go off campus.

The only trouble is that independence always comes at a price. If you have a significant other, or someone you don’t mind sharing a one-bedroom with, then living on campus can be quite affordable for you. Get into a one-bedroom Thunderbird Residence unit, and you’ll likely pay a bit more than $500 per person per month. But if you’re an independent (but not in a lonely way) person who values alone-time quite a lot, the cheapest studio unit on campus, I think, is about $850 per month. If you add up the $350 difference over 12 months, that’s quite a lot of money.

Prices for places off campus are quite similar I think. If you are looking for a studio or a one-bedroom unit on craigslist, you’re likely to come across a basement unit at someone’s house from $800/month and up. Of course, anything off campus requires you to either bike or bus to campus. And if you consider the geographical location of UBC, you’ll notice that you need to go through a large patch of green land (the Pacific Park or the University Endowment Lands) before coming across the first set of traffic lights on campus.

I’ve made a little area map to give you an idea of this.

Some creative affordable solution to the housing problem includes living on a boat, living far away but cheap and not coming in to the lab everyday, and house sitting and pet sitting long-term for someone in exchange for not paying rent. Mind you, these creative solutions are not imagined by me, but I pull them from what former UBC students have done.

My little garden. 😀

Now, that is not to say that you’re stuck with terrible housing options. One of the ‘thank god’ moments you’ll realize when you get here is that transit in Vancouver is really not that bad. And UBC happens to be the last stop for quite a number of buses, including three different buses that come from downtown (#44 – express, #14, and #4), two express buses (#99 and #84) that connects you to anywhere East of campus along Broadway or 4th Ave, and a few buses that take you East also, but along 33rd and 25th ave #33 and #25).

So, getting to an off-campus home could be a couple of express bus stops away, which is really not that bad.

Well, that’s it for my babbling about the housing situation at UBC. I guess the most important thing is to think about what’s most important to you.

If you’re more of a party/adventure kind of person, downtown living could be quite good as well. It’s about half an hour+ of bus ride depending on which part of downtown you’re coming from. But the hustle and and bustle of Vancouver downtown with almost 24hour access to pizza/sushi across the street can be quite tempting. 🙂

Now that I am really into gardening, I’ve decorated all of my windowsill with my plants. And I am so glad that I’m living in an upper level studio unit with lots of window space. I would not want it any other way — at least for the summer anyway. Apparently my lettuce plants wither quickly when it’s too hot and not watered twice a day. So I tend to go home for lunch (only two minute walk from my lab) and water them — and how could I do that if I was living off campus?

7 thoughts on “Getting Ready for Grad School… Part 2: Housing.

  1. jumoke A

    Hi,I’m a prospective student of UBC.I just applied for a graduate degree in UBC.I’m interested in knowing more about year round housing from a graduate perspective. I ticked ubc n marine drive studio units.2 bedroom n 4 bedroom units in marine n thunderbird respectively.
    As an international student,I would need advice on the cost of furnishing a studio unit in thunderbird.and any other expense you think I need to budget for before coming.n which is beta?thunderbird or marine drive studio unit.would to receive from you to enable me plan ahead.

  2. cal

    Hi! Was planning to move into a thunderbird studio as well, I’m just curious how noisy the environment is? ie. the people living next door, Friday nights, etc. I study best in a quieter environment. Thanks!! =)

    1. AJung Post author

      Hi Cal!
      Thunderbird is actually pretty spread across four or five blocks. So it the noise level really depends on the unit you get, an the block your unit is in.
      For example, I was living in the 5000 block, which is right next to the newly built Totem Park undergrad residence and my unit was quite close to the residence. So Friday night noise level was actually a bit of an issue. But not so much throughout the semester. It was more like end of term of beginning of term party night noise issues, and wasn’t really that bad when students were actually pretty busy during the term.
      But now I am at a unit in the 2000 block, which is only about a block away from where I used to live, and noise level is pretty much never a problem. It’s actually super quiet. Sound really doesn’t seem to travel that much between units either, as I play music at home all the time, sometimes quite late at night although not loudly, and never had anyone complain. So once you get your offer from Thunderbird, I suggest you take a walk to the unit and check out the surroundings because it is very much unit dependent. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. 🙂

  3. cal

    Hey AJung, that was super useful! Did you move blocks due to the noise? 😛
    I’m #100 on the waitlist for a studio there, hope I can get in for Sept!

  4. AJung Post author

    I’m glad to hear that you find the info useful. My move to the other block wasn’t really based on the noise issue, although moving to the quieter block was a nice addition to the move. I moved because of the rent. The first one I was in was a two storey one-bedroom, which was unnecessarily big for me to live by myself. The bachelor suite has plenty of space for me. So yeah.. 🙂

    Good luck with house hunting / wait list. Thunderbird studios usually take a while to clear up their wait list — usually about half a year — but a lot of people clear out after the graduation in May/June. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  5. cal

    Hehe hopefully the studios are mainly situated in the quieter block. 😛
    That’s a good point, I completely forgot about people waiting until grad to move out, I had assumed that they would leave right after exams.
    Thanks for all the help! =)


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