As it seems to be a question on everyone’s minds, I’m going to do a post on Totem vs. Vanier. First of all, I want to make it clear that I have only lived in Totem Park, so my knowledge on Place Vanier is limited.
So the first thing people seem to ask is this: do I get to pick which one I live in? No! You don’t get to pick. As it stands, you say you’re in first year and they put you in whichever ones works out the best for their system, taking into account your roommate preferences, etc. to a certain extent. You get to live with whatever they decide. (That said, I think there have been a few cases of people moving during the year, but you’re gonna need a better reason than “that one’s cooler” or “I don’t wanna walk as far.”)
Next inevitable question: Pros and cons? Again, let me reiterate: I have only lived in Totem. But here goes!
Pros of Totem Park:
- It’s smaller, which can be nice because then you have more of a chance to get to know people more.
- More of the buildings have elevators.
- həm’ləsəm’ and q’ələχən houses – very new and pretty, and the rooms have the shared bathrooms.
- Magda’s convenience store has a grill open past dining hall hours.
- Dining hall food serving area is nicer (in my opinion).
- Every floor has an RA, whereas many buildings in PV have one RA per two floors (Totem floors are a bit bigger).
- Close to the Botanical Gardens.
- Outdoor eating area.
Cons of Totem Park:
- Pretty far from pretty much everything, unless you’re in engineering or forestry. Seriously though, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s maaaaybe a fifteen minute walk to the bus loop, which isn’t even that bad. No freshman fifteen for Totemites!
- Dining area isn’t as pretty.
- The cooking in some cases isn’t as good as Vanier – not that I ate at Vanier a whole lot, but apparently to Totem, a veggie quesadilla means a cheese and two and a half inch long strips of green and red peppers. Seriously? (Mostly the cooking is about the same for the two dorms, though.)
- Commonsblock area isn’t as nice.
Pros of Place Vanier:
- It’s bigger, so if you like a bigger community that’s good.
- Pretty pretty dining area.
- More food stations than Totem (in reality though, pretty much the same amount of different types of food gets served.)
- Close to the Nitobe Memorial Garden, and pretty much the whole north campus, home to arts and science.
- Nice looking commonsblock.
- More study spaces, both for groups and for silent study.
Cons of Place Vanier:
- More stairs, less elevators. Have fun on move-in day!
- No hot food available after the dining hall closes.
- In some houses, one RA per two floors.
It seems to me that the things on this list are fairly small things. The bottom line is, the two dorms are more or less the same. Both have sports leagues (football and ultimate), both put on a musical, both have formal dinners, both have dances, both don’t allow parties (sorry), both have various committees such as global citizenship and environmental awareness, both have rec’n’rez events, both have awesome RA’s, both have much the same food, both have people to listen to you if you need it, both have a 24-hour front desk service, both have houses that will plan their own individual events, both have a big year-opener event (Colour Wars or Vanier Olympics), both have charity drives, both have nice grounds and bike locks, both are filled with people who will become your family for the year.
So if that massively run-on sentence didn’t sum it up for you: no, you can’t pick where you go, but you’re gonna have an awesome year regardless of where you end up!
In the months before moving in, you’re dying to see what your new room looks like. I know that feel. So, here’s a picture of a typical first-year dorm room:
This is a single room in Totem Park. Large singles, doubles, and rooms with connecting bathrooms will looks a little different.
Also, I made a video of a tour of my room last year after I moved in for my friends at home to see, so you can check that out as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWFeWKMsKpk.
(Please forgive my terrible vlogging skills in this video, it was my first one.)
Move-in day is fast approaching (it’s September 1st this year) and the question remains: what should you bring with you to your dorm room? How much space are you going to have, exactly? Well sit back friend, and let this ex-resident tell you a few things you might want to consider.
- Check the list that UBC made. Student Housing & Hospitality Services has already made a packing list for you, and it’s a pretty good place to start. You can find it here.
- Twin XL sheets. UBC dorms have extra-long beds, so make sure you bring the right size of sheets! If you bring just regular twin size sheets you’re gonna run into problems.
- Computer and security lock. I didn’t have any issues with theft, but having a security cable for your expensive new laptop is always a good idea.
- Printer. If you can get one cheap, having a printer is going to be mega-useful for you. Print at your leisure, for cheaper, and without the hassle of figuring out the library system and copy-cards. (That said, if you do have to use the library, the librarians can help you!)
- Ethernet cord! Without it you won’t have internet. Some people also like to bring wireless routers so they don’t have to be plugged in all the time, and you can take your laptop into your floor lounge.
- Photos and posters. When you first arrive, your room is bare. This’ll make it feel more yours and keep the homesickness at bay.
- Clothes. Obviously. Just make sure you don’t bring, like, an entire department store with you. Your room has quite a lot of storage space, but just don’t over do it. You can leave most of your summer stuff at home, but do bring a few pieces of warm weather clothing – September can be very warm. And bring a swimsuit – you get free entry to the pool!
- Rain gear. Rain boots are a must – walking around the huge campus with soggy feet is not fun. I managed to get through the year without a proper rain jacket, but make sure you at least have something that’s water-resistant. Umbrellas are good at times, but if you get one make sure it’s sturdy, because it can get veeeery windy. I recommend the brand Totes.
- A good pair of walking shoes. Going to school at UBC means you are going to be walking. A lot. Like seriously, it is a HUGE campus! Get a good, comfy pair of shoes to walk in, and try to break them in before you get here. (Lesson learned the hard way on my part.)
- Bathrobe. Some people are brave enough to dash to the bathroom in a towel, but I’m sure not. A bathrobe keeps you comfy and cozy.
- Shower flip-flops. The bathrooms are typically pretty clean, but no one likes that just-showered-in feel on their feet. A shower tote is also good so you can carry all you soaps and shampoos to the bathroom easily.
- Drying rack. Let’s face it, the dryers in some residences aren’t the best. A drying rack will save you some money (and energy, too!).
- Advil and Tums. No one feels good all the time, and when you’re in res, your mom isn’t there to look after you. Having Advil and Tums on hand will be so much better than having to run to shoppers when you feel crappy.
What not to bring:
- Microwave. You’re not allowed to have one in your room, and there’s a shared one on your floor anyway.
- Mini-fridge. I personally would recommend against it; you have a shared fridge on your floor anyway, they take up a lot of space, and they cost money. I definitely lived happily without one. That said, if you still want one, you can buy or rent one on move-in day.
- Pets. Again, not allowed, sorry.
Got more questions? Leave them in comments and I’ll get back to you.
Picture it: It’s the first day of second year registration, less than two hours in. I sit eagerly at my computer, waiting for the clock to strike 10:45 so that A+ average will pay off and I can get into all the classes I want and enjoy a nice, convenient schedule.
Now picture this: I press the ‘Register All’ button, expecting all my worries to be over, when no fewer than three of my courses show red print telling me I cannot register. “What. What?! NOOOOOOOOOOO! How is this possible! MUSC 119 all the remaining seats are reserved for first years, and MUSC 220 and 221 don’t recognize my intensive theory as pre-requisites?? Why must I pay for being smart? AGGGGGGGGGH!” is pretty much what went through my head.
What happened next was I sent out a flurry of emails, to the instructors of my courses and to the music advisor. By the end of the day, I had worked everything out and I got into the courses I needed, but I didn’t get into the tutorial in the time slot I wanted because of the delay. So much for getting into all my first choices with my early registration time.
If I had been smart, I would have pressed the ‘Test Registration’ button long before my actual registration date. But no, I had to be lazy and leave it til the last minute and then freak out for nothing and not get the class I wanted. Lesson learned.