Category Archives: Go Global

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!

Halfway Through, Halfway There

No doubt this is partially the influence of my UK and Hong Kong friends who are doing three-year undergraduate degrees and will be graduating in the spring and summer of 2010  — now that I am midway through my own university career, I find myself frequently assessing what I’m doing here and what I’m going to be doing from now on.

Or, of course, I can blame UBC for my mid-university crisis. Has anyone else noticed those giant squares painted in seemingly random spots? “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” the ground assertively philosophically asks me. “Getting the books that you told me are on my reading list, UBC!” was my mental answer at the time. But I decided it warranted a better one.

In terms of my degree requirements, after this year, I will be pretty much done, minus a thesis paper, a seminar or two, and the odd course here and there which I plan on fulfilling through distance ed. My English courses this term look to be quite spectacular (James Joyce at 9 am in the mornings, First Nations literature, and the Victorian novel? Yes, please!). I’m just struggling to decide whether I want to keep the seminar I’m signed up for or not — I just found a distance ed Sociology course that looks promising and I wonder if I really want to be doing Freud in-depth or whether I just think I should (the latter, actually). I won’t say which course I want, because there’s only one spot left and I’m afraid you might take it. Oh course-shopping, how I love thee occasionally. I probably ought to keep that seminar because I’m only doing one this year, but then again, I’m not graduating yet…

…because I still have eight to twelve months of co-op to complete. I finished my first co-op term this summer working as a Customer Service Representative for the YMCA Camps, YMCA of Greater Vancouver. It was a really good experience for me as I’d never worked in Vancouver before or in an office environment. (My part-time job is very comfortably done alone at home.) I needed a chance to gain some basic skills and familiarise myself with Canadian working culture, and I got it. Now that I’m feeling more confident, I’m excited about the challenges that will come in my next co-op placement, which I’ll begin looking for in January. (Ha. Ha. I say I’m excited now, but I bet I’ll be stressed out like crazy when searching for said job.)

The UBC Arts Co-op Program just emailed us recently telling us that we only need to complete three four-month work terms in order to complete the program, instead of the traditional four four-month work terms. While this means I could graduate in May 2011 (on time, in other words), I found out that I don’t want to. I want to do another four-month work term just to be able to compare the experiences, and then an eight-month term because I think that’s quite a different experience altogether. Of course, it probably won’t happen all that neatly, depending on what job I’m able to find and so on and so forth (or whether I find one, period). Still, even if I do decide to just do two more work terms, I’d rather use the extra time to

Go Volunteer Abroad!
I was going to do something like that in the summer before I graduate, but hey, now the possibility for going for a whole term is opening up for me! I haven’t broken the news to my mother yet, since the fulfilment of this wish of mine is still light years away and I don’t want to prematurely break her heart. But I want very, very badly to go.

I realise there’s some controversy surrounding people’s motives for volunteering internationally. What’s wrong with volunteering at home? Don’t you see how many problems there are here your local community too? Are you going because you want to spread some of your generosity and make people’s lives “better”? Is this just something else to put on your resume? These are genuine, valid concerns, and maybe I’ll put forth my own detailed viewpoint some other day, but for now:

I went on a volunteer trip to a home for former street kids in Cebu, the Philippines, when I was sixteen.  I’m not sure that I did as much for the children I met there as they did for me. I remain so grateful for my experience there, and what I learned: that there are problems everywhere in the world and you can always do something about them. It made me look at my own home and see what I could do in my own surroundings. It remains my most valuable experience to date, but 2005 was a while back (and getting further every year) — what’s important is what I do now. So I’d like to be of some small service somewhere in the next couple of years.

And, of course, there’s always

Grad School
to think about. Over the summer I concluded that no matter how I scrimp and save, I will never save a significant enough amount of money to make a difference to my grad school fund. Therefore, I permit myself to enjoy life as much as I can now before I go out into the wild, wild world to seek funding from someone else to pay for my studies. Well, there are some info sessions coming up on just such a problem, so perhaps I will discover my solution without having to resort to buying lottery tickets. Maybe I’ll also convince someone else to give me more money to study all these extra undergraduate courses I’ve always wanted to do, but never could fit into my schedule while I’m at it…

Oh, the possibilities.

My British Classes

On my computer desktop is a post-it note reminding me to submit my Course Request Forms which I should have done while I was in the UK, but oh well now. While I’m looking at that, I might as well talk about my classes!

Economics 111: Introduction to Microeconomics
The class that everyone who knows me stops to say, “What?” And then, “You?” Indeed. I’ve never been particularly interested in Economics, perhaps because my brother did it in high school and the textbooks were huge and boring to my eight- or nine-year-old eyes, and mostly because I was just interested in other things. Macroeconomics did crop up in one of my Anthropology 100 lectures last term though and I found myself wanting to know more about it. Unfortunately, macroeconomics wasn’t on offer at Herstmonceux, so I thought I’d go with microeconomics. I figured that since I’m in a different place I should try something I wouldn’t normally do at UBC. It’s good to know some basics anyway.

Much to my relief, this course was mostly theoretical comprehension and didn’t involve much maths. It’s definitely got to be my most succinct class of all — each class “block” is usually 1 1/2 hours long and most classes have 2 blocks put together so you’re in class for 3 straight hours. Our prof condensed it into a single block, though, and since there were only 3 people in the class — that’s right, just 3 — we managed to move the class up from 7:00 pm to 6:30 pm, so we could leave earlier too. (The original schedule had us in there from 7:00 to 10:20 pm. A bit brutal.)

English 262: Modern British Poetry & Drama
And of course I took an English class. I’m not that unpredictable. I’m not sure what I will do when I graduate and no longer take English classes. It seems impossible.

But this class was very good. We covered a whole range of poetry from World War I and T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (which, by the by, I still do not like all that much even after doing it in English 221 as well), and finished off with W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939”. We also read Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Ernest, performed some Samuel Beckett, and watched a screen version of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane, a rather upsetting play if there is one. I found it very discomforting, anyway. I really encourage you all to look up “Ping” by Beckett and see what you think of it: that’s the play we had to perform and I had the honour of saying “ping!”

Our field trips were truly excellent and I am going to dedicate a whole new post to it later on this week. Our prof is the nicest guy: one of our blocks was a late night one from 9 to 10:20 pm, and he always brought cakes and/or cookies for us to munch on out of his own pocket. It was the sweetest gesture.

INTS 301: “The Mirror Class”
That’s not what it’s really called; the actual name is much longer, but this is what it became known as throughout the Castle (i.e. the students at the Castle). INTS stands for International Studies and should cover various European countries, but I think this class comes closer to Women’s and Gender Studies than anything else. It was my favourite class of all: the study of the mirror as a cultural symbol in art, literature, film, psychology, philosophy…

Oh, there are so many things about the mirror that we covered: the history of people’s perceptions of it, the duality of the mirror, self-portraits, the mirror as a border between two worlds… We read myths, fairy tales, a chapter from Harry Potter (guess which one!), The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, studied mirrors in art, watched an array of movies including snippets from Fight Club — my class consisted of six girls and we gathered together one night to watch one of the movies together (Dangerous Liaisons). We also went out to dinner together on the day of our last class at this really excellent Indian restaurant in the local village. Such a lot of amazing and admirable women. I think the world of them, and of our amazing prof, who is this lovely, kind-hearted soul.

I think I grew the most in this class — for example, I hate public speaking of all kinds (actually, I hate being in the spotlight in general; having a public blog makes perfect sense), but I managed to pull of two presentations, one 30 minutes long and the other about 60-70. Neat, eh? This class really brought out the feminist side of me — out of all of us, I think. (We ate a bar of chocolate together; the packaging says, “Not for girls!”, which outraged us and is a marketing ploy to outrage us to buy it, I daresay. Which worked the first time but not anymore since it was just chocolate and there was nothing good about it.)

And if you ever want to know if you are looking at a double-sided mirror where the people on the other side can see you, here is a trick: if you put your finger to the mirror and there is a gap between your finger and its reflection, then it’s one-sided; if you put your finger up and it’s directly touching the reflection without there being any sort of gap, then the person on the other side can see you.

There, now you will know when not to flex your muscles!

Canadians in Dieppe

We just got back from France a few hours ago and I finished writing a lengthy email to one of my friends.

I want to write a little bit more about Dieppe later, but the part I wanted to mention more than anything else was the Canadian War Cemetery there.

Three busses brought students to Dieppe. About half of the total student population wanted to go visit the cemetery but only one bus was available, so not everyone could go. The profs hadn’t expected that many to want to go.

I lost count of how many gravestones were there but managed to walk up and down each line. It was an emotionally exhausting experience to see all the names of all the people who had died. And the stones without any names, of people who couldn’t be identified and are remembered as a soldier in the infantry, or the air force, or the navy.

Most poignant of all, perhaps, were the inscriptions. “Known Unto God” was the most common one, but there were many personalised inscriptions that made them all the more human — “Remembered by Father and Mother”; “Devoted Wife and Children”; “Broken-hearted Brothers and Sisters”. I cannot remember the other inscriptions, but many ran something like this, “Loved Too Well To Be Forgotten”, or “When the dawn breaks and the shadows flee, I shall know thee again”, or “To remain in memory after death is to live on”. Names that meant nothing personal to me was everything to someone else — “G.P. Chesterton” becomes “my George”. All these people, a vast majority 19, 20, 21, 22 — men who were not older than the people we call boys in university these days. And there were the 30-odds and the 40-odds who left behind their wives and children…

No matter what we think of war, I think when we consider the human factor, the grief of the parents and brothers and sisters and wives and children of these men, it is enough to make us grieve with them.

Unexpected Housing Assignment

I am quite surprised with the amount of people who have turned down housing this year. My original waitlist position was 1132, a position which really isn’t supposed to get housing, and here I am with my first choice of Vanier again (although I suppose the other accommodations are more popular with older students anyway).

I’ve been turning it over in my mind whether to accept or reject it since 1:30 this morning when I received the email. I have until June 9th to decide, but I’m already leaning quite strongly in one direction…

On an unrelated note, I went to bed at 4 this morning, or maybe later. The birds were chirping, anyway, which was a psychological obstacle for me since my bright orange alarm clock is the sound of birds chirping. I still managed to get in 6 hours though. How ironic to think that on Friday I will be getting up at 4 (or earlier) to go to Dieppe for our “mid-term trip” (more like end-of-term). The workload in the last two weeks is a little insane. I had an essay due today, and still have an oral presentation and a drama performance for tomorrow, an essay due Sunday (but which I will work on all Thursday because we’re in Dieppe Friday and Saturday), an Economics portfolio and an exam on Tuesday (the portfolio I will work on Sunday, revising for the exam on Monday), and another essay on Wednesday which I think we must beg for an extension to Thursday if only for some breathing space. Well, that’s what the work is like at the end of term — most people had very little work the first three to four weeks they were here.

I shall sing praises about the trips we’ve been having at some later date.