Category Archives: Orientation

Finding your way around UBC

dear life, today i want: to be found, to get lost, go crazy, make sense

Orientations, orientations, orientations. I never realised — physically — how many orientations we have. Jump Start. GALA. Graduate Students. Parents. IMAGINE, today. And I’ve been to almost all of them to table information booths this year.

There is something about working at Speakeasy that bestows a ‘come hither and ask for directions’ aura even when there isn’t a single sign around you saying ‘directions’ or ‘maps’. A good third of the questions I received at Grad Students Orientation, for example, were ‘I wasn’t here for orientation this morning — what do I do?’ and lost GALA students looking for International House.

Not that I mind the questions — for some reason, I like smiling and being helpful.

But I still think it’s a really good idea for people to carry their own campus maps, particularly when they are new to the area. Printable maps are readily available on UBC Wayfinding. It’s also the go-to site for looking up those mysterious building codes and impossibly tiny locations that can’t be spotted with the naked eye. Paper copies of these maps are also available in Brock Hall, the UBC Bookstore, and at the Speakeasy information desk in the SUB (when we haven’t run out).

If you’re new and have time today, go to all your classrooms before school really starts. Know where they are and how long it takes to get from one class to another, if you’ll be able to make it in ten minutes or if you’ll have to plan to leave early from one, arrive late to another, or find some speedier mode of transportation than rapid walking.

Also, have fun today! I’ll be one of those friendly Speakeasiers at either the SUB desk or the IMAGINE Day booth smiling and pointing you in the right direction.

Coming back to starts

How amazing is it that email these days can store everything you’ve been saying and receiving for the past several years? Not only that, but being able to search and rediscover things you’d forgotten you’d even done.

The other day, I found the exact date of The Ticket that brought me away from Hong Kong and dropped me in Vancouver to begin a new life. This week marks the fourth year since that landing date. I’m a little in wonder of it all: of how my parents were willing to let me go so far away from them, of how lucky I am that I could, of the growing space between that frightened, eager eighteen-year-old girl I was then and the (only fractionally) less frightened, less eager person I am now.

Rereading my panicked emails to my friends and family about the items I ultimately forgot to pack, I remember all those questions racing through my head. Will I be able to make friends? Will I succeed at university? Will I be able to take care of myself? After all, the only thing I’m confident of making for breakfast is cereal…

But also the hopes: I hope I meet great people. I hope I have classes that change how I think in whole new ways. I hope I get to travel and see even more of the world. I hope I love it all.

I want to turn to myself from four years ago and say: you will, you will, you will.

You’ll meet some of the most amazing, admirable individuals you’ve come across in your short life, as long as you put yourself out there. You’ll find those classes that blow your world away, as long as you keep challenging yourself. You’ll have more opportunities to do what you dream of than you’ll know what to do with, so choose the ones that speak most to you (and don’t try to do them all, because that’s not possible).

You’ll find real friends after your heart, with patience, effort and a little bit of luck. You’ll succeed at university when you follow your interests, when you put in the time and effort, and when you ask questions and seek advice for when you don’t get things right. And you’ll totally learn how to fry an egg. Never mind if it doesn’t look pretty.

You probably won’t love it all — that’s a little too much to ask. Life has its way of throwing bits of grief your way when you least expect it, after all, and the imperfections are what throw the better bits into appreciative relief. But I promise you will love your UBC life if you give it the best chance possible by coming with an open heart and an open mind.

View from Gage

The very first view I got from Walter Gage where I stayed for ASSIST (now Jump Start)

UBC Jump Start starts this week. A longer, more intensive orientation than GALA for students coming from abroad (and this year, also for aboriginal students), this was where I first threw myself into UBC and met some of the most awe-inspiring individuals you’ll still see all over the place on campus (those that haven’t graduated this year, anyway). Here is where I met one of my very good friends to this day, where I met another to whom I just said goodbye, and where my world began to open up just that little bit more.

Even if you aren’t going to Jump Start, their blog is a good resource for those of you who want to get a head start on understanding the great, mad adventure that UBC can be.

(Maybe it’s all the reminiscing I’ve been doing with friends since first-year, or maybe it’s the short hair I haven’t had since 2007, but I keep thinking of all the things and resources I wish I’d known about earlier, or did find useful when someone told me. In light of that, I’ll be mentioning at least one per week for the next few months. Like how to take a bus! — I remember how stressed I was over this activity most Vancouverites take for granted.)

My Imagine Day

Well, I managed to miss out on every single free meal and item Imagine Day had to offer, because I was busy with work assignments and preparing for an interview yesterday afternoon.

When my brother gave me a ride home last night, however, I did get to open the car door next to my res building to find a raccoon staring warily back at me.

It’s not every day that happens.

How was your Imagine Day?

It was a cold 20 degrees

The weather forecast said it would be 20°C, so naturally, I went running out to work in a short-sleeved top and open-toe sandals, only to be greeted by a sharp, biting chill in the air I haven’t felt for months. Autumn is definitely here and our last day of summer was probably on Saturday, when the skies were blue and the air still held caresses of warmth.

Fortunately for me, I had the best ending to my summer spending it at Lonsdale Market, eating a beavertail and watching people dancing on the quayside. My friend and I ended the day with delicious Afghan food at The Afghan Horsemen by Granville Island and just having a good heart-to-heart. One of those perfect days (marred only when my sunglasses dropped into a toilet bowl that luckily had nothing else in it).

Goodbye summer, hello autumn.

Despite the fact that I’m moving stuff into res in a couple of days, it still came as a shock to me when someone said, ‘So, do you want to meet up this week or when school starts next week?’

Ohemgee. What do you mean, when school starts — ohemgee, school starts next week!

And suddenly there is a lot more to be done in a lot less time. Things must be moved, my home must be cleaned, training retreat must be attended, books acquired and read, work to be done (x2), a steady job to be found, and the list goes on.

But there are also a dozen things to look forward to on Imagine Day:

  • A free pancake breakfast.
  • Free highlighter pens and lip balm (SPF 15!).
  • A free barbeque lunch.
  • Apparently also free cacti plants, if last year is any clue to go by.
  • Free things, in general.
  • The fact that we don’t have to go to school until Wednesday. (Although apparently University of Toronto gives their students the whole first week off. Boo to us not having the same.)

If you don’t know what’s going on that day, check out the UBC Events page. One of my favourite resources, it’s the most comprehensive site of events going on at UBC at any time of the year. Currently it’s exhibiting a fantastic makeover courtesy of UBC Orientations. I am really proud of them for doing such a brilliant job last year — although I had no interest in Imagine Day besides the fact that we didn’t have to start school straight away, I loved the atmosphere far more than I expected. Result? I have every intention of signing up for as few shifts at the Speakeasy booth as possible this year, and do other equally important things, like getting cotton candy. Free cotton candy!

Also worth checking out is AMS First Week’s calendar of events. While I never get the wristband because I never have the time to go to enough events to make it worthwhile, I definitely recommend going to watch at least one UBC Improv show! Those guys are fantastic.

If you’ve got any other suggestions for things to check out and/or do during next week, let me know! Especially if there’s food involved. Free food. ♥

Retracing, Remaking

It’s been almost three years since I moved to Vancouver and started at UBC. After two years of living off-campus, I’ve taken the offer to live in Marine Drive in my last full year at school, and will be returning to residence life come September 1st.

This prospective move back on campus has got me reflecting upon all that has passed since first year; I feel like I’m retracing the steps of the past—with differences, of course.

When I first went to UBC, I attended the ASSIST—now Jump Start—international students orientation and stayed at Gage while we learned to familiarise ourselves with the campus. Back then, the campus felt So Big—walking from Gage to the Shoppers drugstore on campus was an adventure, and I was one of those people who had to stop at the Rec Centre to ask where the Student Union Building was (right next door). I remember one rainy night I got lost with another student on the way from International House to Gage, and thought, ‘I wonder when I’ll ever know all the shortcuts on this campus.’

In a few weeks, would be my answer to my first-year self. For anyone who’s going to UBC, there’s nothing like the Wayfinding at UBC site to help you wend your way around campus. Print off two of their maps and keep them on you at all times in separate places, so that you’ll still have something even if you lose one. Learn where the Student Union Building (commonly referred to as the SUB) is), so that you can also pick up another map from the Speakeasy Peer Support and Information desk on the north side of the ground floor if you manage to lose both of your own and have no idea how to get to your next class. Take the time to explore campus during your free hours, particularly in the first couple of weeks before school gets busy. You’ll find your favourite spots and routes before a month has passed.

On another note, I’ve decided to blog about my UBC experiences here instead of on my UBC blog because that one was getting far too many spam comments, and I was getting increasingly tired of sorting them out. In addition, has more themes and features than the UBC version, so it won me over.

I’m also probably going to be moving some of my projects (e.g. Day Zero, Resident Tourist) over from my other blog, as I want to give my blogs a tighter focus. I haven’t quite decided what the other one will look like, but this is definitely going to be my new place for living and studying in what I truly think is one of the most beautiful places on earth.