Category Archives: Commuting

Five Rules for UBC

As I pack my bags to leave campus this week, I think about the past five years at UBC and what I’ve learned.

Inspired by Five Rules for Life, a website that collects different people’s five “rules” or guidelines on how to live a life, I decided to try and sum up my own guidelines for making the most out of your time at UBC.

Everyone’s journey is different and this is not meant to be any kind of exhaustive list or dictum, but these are the principles that I wish I’d known to follow when I first got here. Some of these are principles that worked for me; others are what I wish I’d done. I’d be happy to hear what you think of these guidelines below, and any suggestions for what you think would make for a satisfying, memorable time at UBC.

1) Whenever possible, study a subject that you love.
This is one of the most amazing experiences and privileges that a university education has to offer, so take advantage. Even if you aren’t able to pursue your preferred subject as your major, do your best to at least take an elective that you like — when you enjoy your studies, you are more likely to do better in class, struggle less with the material, and feel more confident about your abilities.

  • Not sure what your options are? Take a look at your faculty’s page on the UBC Calendar and find a full list of degrees conferred.
  • Don’t know what you can do with a specific degree after graduation? Speak to Career Services and check out suggestions for what you can do with your major.

2) Get involved. Find your niche.
UBC is a big campus and it’s easy to feel lost and alone amidst a sea of thousands. Combat the temptation to stick solely to your books (especially for commuter students) and find out about engagement opportunities. Try these out until you find a community of like-minded people you are comfortable around. If you don’t find your niche on the first ten tries, keep trying until you get there.

3) Try one or two new things every year.
Whether it’s taking a class in an unknown subject, a new volunteer opportunity or an original project, make a point of trying to push yourself beyond your comfort zone at least once or twice a year. University is a rare time when you’re at liberty to try different things with little risk of consequence, so make the most of it. Give yourself the chance to have mind-expanding, ‘woah’ moments.

  • A program for your radar in second year and above: Student Directed Seminars (not mentioned in the CSI list).
  • If you can afford it, seriously consider going abroad for a part of your degree, whether for an academic exchange, research, or international service learning. Visit Go Global for travel and funding options.

4) Work, study and play in moderation.
Get work experience before you graduate — this is what counts most when you’re looking for a job. At the same time, don’t burn yourself out: after working almost non-stop for the last five years while a full-time student, I wish I’d given myself more breaks. If I could do it again, I’d either work full-time during the summer and study full-time during school with no part-time work, or worked part-time while at school full-time and taken the entire summer off.

  • The UBC Learning Commons gives good guidance on questions like time management, effective study methods and presentation skills.
  • Find out about co-op opportunities in Arts, Commerce, Engineering, Forestry, Kinesiology and Science at the UBC Co-op website.

5) Be good to yourself.
Your time at UBC will not be all rainbows and sunshine. Hard times happen. When they do, don’t be afraid to reach out and get the support you need, and don’t beat yourself up for it. Fellow Blog Squad member Miriam once wrote a letter to first-years that I think sums up everything I want to say.

  • Do you have concerns about your physical or mental health? A list of resources you can access is available here.
  • AMS Speakeasy is a confidential peer support service where trained student volunteers will listen to your concerns about anything and will point you to both on- and off-campus resources as needed.

To all new and returning students, I really hope you enjoy your time here. I’ve had the great good fortune of being part of the UBC Blog Squad since its inception in 2007 until now. As the Blog Squad moves in new directions and as I move on to the next chapter of my life post-graduation, I hope these last comments function as a useful closure to this blog. It’s been grand.

For those of you wondering what’s next for me: I’m moving off campus this weekend and am wrapping up my contract with the UBC Arts Co-op Program, which ends the first week of September. After that, I’m going to travel Western Europe for a few weeks and may visit Asia again before I come back to Vancouver to hunt for a more long-term job.

And with that — goodbye, good luck and have fun!

Open Letter to a Fellow Commuter

Composed Wednesday 29 July while in transit

Dear Lady on the Bus,

I understand that you feel very hot. The rest of us sweaty folks think so too. The 98 B-Line from downtown is always packed during rush hour traffic, and the fireworks and broken SkyTrain just compounded the problem. But I’m not sure that opening your umbrella inside the bus and jabbing three of us at the same time with the spokes was the best idea.



Culture Clink

I was sitting on the bus today when someone made a movement and I suddenly remembered what it was like to be new and foreign to Canada.

May 2007 was a nervous month. IB exams came and went with all the fears that had built up for two years, and the complete and utter exhiliration of sitting my last exam. (My last paper was for Philosophy HL and I was definitely having trouble concentrating on answering the last question when all I could think was soon I would be done.) Graduation came and went. Personal troubles came and went. And suddenly it was August and I was taking a Vancouver bus on my own — not for the very first time in my life, but for the first time since my first time the year before.

For the worried non-Vancouerite student-to-be, busses here are quite easy to take. Before setting out on any new journey, I always check up my route through the Translink website, which tells you how to get from Point A to Point B and back again. I draw little maps and prompts for myself to see when I should get ready to get off. When I first came to Vancouver, busses didn’t announce the next stop, so you had to keep an eye out for yourself. These days, most of the busses I take do have a voice announcing the upcoming stop, as well as a dashboard at the front of the vehicle that tells you the name. You still need to keep an eye out, especially when it’s a bus that doesn’t have the new system installed, but it’s not as scary to take a new bus anymore.

Armed and prepared with my knowledge of Translink and my routes, I got onto my first bus of August 2007 and sat down, relieved that I was doing okay in this new home, and hoping I didn’t look too new and lost and alone. I was handling the important stuff just fine.

And then the woman next to me made a movement to get off. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. In Hong Kong, people typically swivel their legs to the side and let the person next to them pass by without ever bothering to get up. My foreign teachers were often complaining about this apparent rudeness of Hong Kong people. Perhaps it is rude — I was just used to it. This time, however, I was in Vancouver and I didn’t know if this tactic which had always served me well in the past would just appear plain rude to the people around me as well. In my panic, I got up, stood to the side and let the woman pass before I sat back down to worry about whether this was excessively polite.

These days I can tell you that both ways — standing up to let the person get by, or swivelling your legs to the side — are perfectly fine and acceptable. Standing up is the more common way, but if there just isn’t much room to get up and stand in a packed bus, swivelling your legs to let the person squeeze by isn’t a crime.

It’s little things like these that always threw me off and remind me that I grew up in a completely different place. Not quite a jarring cultural clash; more of a slight clink.

This, at least, is now one little thing that you won’t need to worry about not knowing when you come to Vancouver yourself.

On Bus Driver Punctuality

Everyone who takes public transit in Vancouver is familiar with this sight: someone is running madly to catch the bus at the stop, only to have the door slam in their face two seconds before they reach it, and the luckless person is left tapping at the door to no avail — the bus goes anyway. It’s probably even happened to you.

Translink bus drivers are notorious for their punctuality. Maybe it’s in their contract: Leave at an exact time or there will be dire consequences. Like Jove throwing a lightning bolt.

The other day, I was sitting in my bus and we were leaving the UBC bus loop when the bus paused, and the driver spoke out the window: “Do you want to get on? Okay, I’ll just do another round.”

And he did go back just to pick up a few straggling people. 🙂


Is the worst. I’ve been up since 1 am (after sleeping for two hours) because I just can’t fall back to sleep even though my head is throbbing and sleep is all I want right now.

Once upon a time, when I was not living in Vancouver, I could fly over here and switch timezones on the way so that I had absolutely no jetlag when I arrived. This lasted until September of 2008 when I came back for my second year of study and ended up being awake at 2 am, unable to sleep until 5 when I got hungry and got up. I did, however, have a week to adjust. I absolutely refuse to come back to Vancouver more than two days early during the winter break, though — winter break is short enough as it is so I guess I’ll live with the jetlag.

I am going to go discover food. And then I am going to try and go back to bed, before getting back up at 6 am. Last night, when my brother was trying to send my friend back to UBC, we circled around the same ten blocks or so because Translink busses and many cars were either crashing or getting stuck in snow. No idea when the bus will come tomorrow morning and I’ve got to be on campus by 9. My my.

Lesson learned? Please don’t scrimp on snow tyres if you plan on driving through the snow — a car is never meant to be a “saving” or “investment” anyway, so you might as well invest in your own life and safety.