Category Archives: Orientation

The UBC Farm

Farming brings to mind the beginnings of human settlements. Ancient, in other words. “Common”. Waking up at 4 am. Hard work. Dirt. Lots of it.  And if, like me, you studied history at any point in your life, lots of half-starved, ignorant peasants.

In my mind, there were only two kinds of farms: the traditional, subsistence farms, and industrial ones.

One of the best things UBC has done for me is to have the UBC Farm. That was my first experience of learning outside the classroom, here. I went to visit it last August as part of my ASSIST (now Jump Start) orientation. For anyone who has ever thought like me, or who just wants a new experience, I really encourage you to go to the Farm.

It’s not in the least bit dirty or foul-smelling, two of my initial fears. The only animals there are chickens and they are very well-behaved. Legend has it that the manager of the farm knows all the chickens by their birthdates. The chickens are there to remove grubs; they’re an organic solution to pest problems. The entire Farm is organic and it’s wonderfully green in the summer.

There is also a Mayan garden, tragically called “Mayans in Exile”. It’s run by two Mayans who left their home. They talked to us about their history and their garden. It’s a grievous story, and you come to admire them so much.

We had different “stations” when we visited and had people talk not just about the Farm, but also of politics and the environment and all the wider issues. The manager, in particular, seems to be on top of everything. My complete ignorance on these topics made me realise how completely naive I was to think that farming isn’t as “intelligent” as other white-collar jobs. The only thing I was right about is that it takes a lot of hard work to be a good farmer — but so does everything. I learned more by going to the Farm than anything I’d learned in “class” at the orientation. Even now, none of my classes draw across so many disciplines to talk about real-world problems and possible solutions as the staff at the Farm did.

The UBC Farm is the only one of its kind in the city of Vancouver. In the summer, there are fresh-produce markets. There are volunteer programmes available, and educational classes for the young. Some courses at UBC are designed to include the hands-on experience and work that you can only get from going to a farm. It is very much a student-driven initiative to maintain the valuable experiences you get from going there, and it’s also a part of the community.

Were the UBC Farm to disappear, there will really be no other opportunity to create a new one again, yet that’s the very real possibility right now. Basically the university is considering to have housing built there. I don’t even know if it’s the university building housing there, or if they’re planning on selling it to a redevelopment company. Although I would like to have housing, I’m not willing to sacrifice the Farm for it.

Before you decide to go along with having housing built there, or even before you decide to side with me and keep the Farm, find out more about it yourself. Visit their website. Get in contact with Friends of the Farm. Most of all, go there in person. Go without expectations. It’s winter; I haven’t seen it and I daresay it’s not as green and lush as the height of summer. Don’t listen to my raving or you might be disappointed. I come from a very non-farming community and the only farms I’d been to before really were the subsistence onces I talk about with so much distaste. Go for a field trip. It’s definitely something different to do on a weekday.

Two Truths, One Lie

I went to the Reading Week orientation and a group interview for UBC Orientations (which I am sworn to secrecy, by the way, but suffice to say I don’t think it went well).

Anyway, we played a game in both of them that I really like: Two Truths, One Lie. Basically you tell two truths and say one lie, and people have to guess which one is true, so let’s play it!

First person* who correctly guesses which of the statements below is the lie gets a cookie or other small snack of their choice:

1. I have never read King Lear.

2. I collect ornamental eggs, Faberge-style.

3. I got my first rabbit when I was twelve.

*Some people cannot play this game because they know me too well. This list composes of my friends from high school, but since none of them came, anyone at UBC will probably be able to do this. 🙂

A life in a day

So we’re now a quarter of the way into the academic year, with three more to go. It’s also application season for high school senior students, so I thought it would be a good idea to write about what a typical day is like for me.

My day actually began yesterday. I stayed up until 1:30 am to write an essay that is, ironically, due on Friday. Academic staff recommend students to write their essays ahead of time so there is time to revise and make a good job of them. I don’t think they meant for us to lose sleep over them ahead of time as well, though… However, I really enjoyed writing it and couldn’t stop once I got started. It’s so much more fun to choose your own titles on a subject you actually care about.

It’s quite hard to sleep early when living in rez. There is always something going on — tonight is obviously Hallowe’en. I went to the Haunted House at Hamber with some friends, and had a great time. I’m impressed by how much they managed to do in such a small space. I wish I’d screamed, but I was laughing too hard. It’s the first time in ages since I’ve got out of my room properly. Even though I’m exhausted tonight, I’m still not going to be able to go to bed for another hour. I hope we don’t have a fire alarm tonight — we had one two Fridays ago, and we all had to troop out to the commonsblock at two in the morning. The alarms here are piercingly high and painful, so you have to get out just to save your eardrums, even if you don’t want to leave your bed. Unfortunately, the alarm at the commonsblock went off too, so we got chucked out into the field, and then it began to drizzle while the firemen sauntered around. We all went back twenty to thirty minutes later, but not before one of the RAs yelled, “Who was watching porn on the big screen?” Our new big screen TV in the house lounge has obviously been put to use…

These many late nights, coupled with the later sunrises, mean that I get up late as well and don’t have time to eat breakfast before I go to class. I almost wish that someone would take my milk from our floor’s fridge, just so it won’t be wasted. (I buy giant jugs of them each time.) Our floor is pretty good about not taking other people’s food. But I don’t really wish it. In fact, I’d be pretty peeved if anyone took my milk, so please don’t take it. It’s mine. Hiss.

My meals have been rather atypical today. Some friends told me that there is a caf in Buchanan A. I was astounded. We have food in Buchanan? And I didn’t know about this? What is the world coming to? I’ve been hunting out feeding-grounds to satisfy my appetite, which has been increasing exponentially ever since I came to UBC and had to start walking around. Oh, for hyper-convenient public transport again! Vancouver’s transport system isn’t actually too bad, and Translink is a great trip planner for the newcomer — it did, however, once get me stranded in the middle of nowhere, so I don’t entirely trust it anymore. The best part of it all, of course, is that we have our UPasses, transport tickets that basically give us free reign of the public transport system, covered for in our school fees. Yay, free transport! Especially wonderful for commuters.

Returning to the topic of food, though, Vanier’s caf food is not too bad. Totem tent people might say something different about theirs. I actually still quite like the food here — everything except the Asian food. Those are just all wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. (People tell me the quesadillas here are fake and disgusting, but I’ve never known otherwise, so I’m able to continue eating them in perfect bliss.) And there are other yummy places to get food — Suga Sushi down in the Village is my best suggestion for sushi on campus, if you insist on it. I’m heartbroken that Cafe Crepe isn’t open anymore, though. I love their crepes beyond anything else containing an egg.

For someone who almost fell asleep swing dancing — I feel so sorry for my partners for my completely slow reactions; I can’t even remember how to do that new dance we learned today, and that was basically just walking in a straight line — I am horrendously verbose. Actually, that is probably why I am rambling away in the first place.


One of those awful summaries I write to make up for not updating more often

Somehow or other, time has flown by and I’ve been at UBC for over a month.

I’ve sorted out most of my ‘official stuff’: what I like to call tedious, but necessary, matters such as paying my tuition, opening my bank account, buying necessities, and so forth. I went down to East Van — a rather sketchy place, it feels — last week to get my Social Insurance Number (as a Canadian citizen, I need one to open a savings account and I never had one before). My savings account is now open, I’ve been down to the dollar store to buy random things, and I’ve eaten way too many bananas in the past week.

For the record, I’m really glad that I came for ASSIST. Although I left earlier than most of my friends and shortened my golden summer, it gave me a head start on getting used to UBC and has helped me make a fairly smooth transition so far. I’m way more familiar with the resources and the campus layout than if I had just come for IMAGINE, or even GALA, but most importantly, it was a great way of meeting people, particularly since I didn’t really know (m)any people coming to UBC. (My own set of secondary school friends are mostly split between the UK and Toronto.)

So to any prospective students out there, I do recommend coming early to UBC. I count as a domestic student, but I’ve lived outside of Canada for as long as I can remember, so I felt more like an international student than anything else when I first came.

Returning to the topic of meeting people, I find it somewhat more difficult to make friends with people in my classes. This is mostly because when you’re in a lecture hall or even a smaller class, you don’t really get to chat with the person next to you and have lots of deep conversations. The person next to you may also change each time you go to class. Then, of course, people are rushing to and from their previous or next classes so conversations are limited to a hurried ‘Hello!’ and ‘Goodbye!’ Making friends in classes is, for me, slow going.

Which is why I’m looking forward to Clubs Week next week. I think everyone should go. As I’m only doing four courses this term, I seem to have a lot of free time on my hands. (This is bad for my studying as I procrastinate when there is very little to do. Classes go at a slightly faster pace than the IB, but I don’t yet feel as challenged. Yet.) There are a lot of clubs that I’m interested in and I want to join about three, give or take. Is it sad that I’m mentally categorizing clubs in terms of CAS (Creativity, Action, Service)? It is. Curse you, vestiges of the IB. You’ve changed me irrevocably.

Tuum Est

We’ve all heard this phrase before, and we’re going to hear it a whole lot more, but I thought it was worth repeating.

The school motto — “It’s Yours” and/or “It’s Up to You” — is generally used in conjunction with describing our university education. UBC has a lot to offer its students to those who take the opportunities, and I totally agree. I’ve only had two days of classes and already I’m despairing about how I’ll ever take all the classes I want (the answer is I won’t, not within my limited time here). I’m also despairing about how to fit in all the activities I want to do around classes and reading without my grades dropping (I’m in denial about this one here, and am convincing myself that I can indeed do ten things — don’t burst my bubble, please).

But we don’t just have the opportunities at the UBC campus to pick and choose from: we have the whole of Vancouver, and heck, perhaps even Canada and the world. I’ll just stick with Vancouver for now, though.

On Tuesdays, the Vancouver Art Gallery is entry-by-donation. There’s a Monet to Dali exhibition going on at the minute on the ground floor, and the weirdest Asian art I have ever seen in my life on the second floor. I went with ASSIST a couple of weeks ago and it was great.

If I’ve got this right, Theatresports has a two-for-the-price-of-one special on Wednesday comedy nights over in Granville Island.

A fortnight ago, there were free ballroom/salsa (I can’t tell) dancing lessons in Robson Square on Friday evening, and then a competitive dancing show. I’ve never seen ballroom dancing in person so it was an amazing experience, and permit me a very girly squeal over those beautiful dresses the ladies were wearing! This free dancing apparently goes on every week in the summer but might have ended now.

On the same night we went to watch the ballroom dancing, we went to Kino Cafe and watched a flamenco show. The nachos there are the best I have ever tasted by the way. I used to hate nachos; now I might be addicted.

And I haven’t even started looking at all the shows, performances, activities, and what-not there are. I stumbled upon all these things through other people or through the ASSIST orientation, so I can’t imagine just how much more there will be when I actually start exploring. I could not go to school, have something to do every single day, and still not get to do everything I want to do.

So now I’m also despairing as to how to fit in exploring Vancouver into my already overflowing schedule.

Tuum est. Not just for our university education, but for everything we do all the time, even or perhaps especially after we graduate.

It totally is.