Totem or Vanier?

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!


Filed under Residence

7 Responses to Totem or Vanier?

  1. Valeria

    Hi!! I’m a first-year student and just got assigned to həm’ləsəm’ in Totem Park. Like many other students I’ve been reading a lot on the web about Totem vs. Vanier and once I read that houses in Totem are really loud and that parties use to get out of control more easily (firetrucks and ambulances showing up, fire alarm pulling, etc.) than in Vanier. I’m not really into partying (partying meaning drinking all night long, making a lot of noise, etc.) and need silence while studying. I know that it depends a lot on how your floormates and housemates are but, from your experience in your floor/ house, is this really true? Also, are there quiet hours in Totem? Are doors closed during the night or are we able to arrive at our house at any time? Thanks in advance for all the info!

    • People will often say things like that, but the reality is that parties happen in both dorms, to more or less the same extent. I wouldn’t say that Totem parties “easily get out of control.” In fact, I was a resident in Totem and I’m not a partier either, and I also need silence when I study. My floor was very quiet nearly all the time; that said, other people on other floors, in other houses, and even in Vanier said that their floor was very loud all the time. It really depends on who your floormates are. I suggest being honest about your alcohol usage on your roommate request form, because it is taken into account when floors are made up. If your floor mates are being unreasonably loud, you can talk to your Residence Advisor or Residence Life Manager about it, and if you need a place to study there are study corrals, common quiet study spaces, and libraries that you can study in.

      All dorms have quiet hours, and during exams there are “silent hours,” which are even more strict, so residents can study in peace. You have access to your building through your ving card, which you use any time your enter the building, regardless of what time it is.

  2. Valeria

    Thank you so much for answering and for all the info :)

  3. Gabrielle

    Hey, i’m thinking of applying to UBC this year, and one of my concerns is the communal bathrooms – that just ISNT for me. I know that two houses in Totem have a shared bathroom option, but does Vanier have it too? And how would I give myself the best chance of getting the semi private bathroom?


    • I don’t believe Vanier has the shared bathroom option. The best way to end up in those rooms would probably be to request in in your roommate preferences when you apply for housing (it asks what kind of room you want in that section), but other than that it’s really just luck. However, I wouldn’t let the thought of communal bathrooms deter you from coming to UBC if otherwise you’d want to come here; there are so many amazing opportunities, academic and involvement wise, that it would just be a shame if you let bathrooms hold you back. And honestly, the communal bathrooms aren’t even that bad; half the time there isn’t even anyone else in there, and they’re cleaned every day.

  4. Jay


    I just got assigned a room in q’ələχən, but people are telling me that I should switch out because that house is anti-social because the rooms are single and washrooms aren’t communal.
    What do you think would be a better choice?

    • I don’t know anyone that lived in that house, but ALL houses have single rooms, and you will have a bathroom-mate you have to share with (I think). The new houses do still have floor lounges though, and ultimately how social your experience is is up to you. Switching to a different house probably wouldn’t really make that much of a difference.

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