Adjusting to university is an awkward, bittersweet, frenzy-filled period of great good-days and terrible bad-days. Although only in my second semester of the overwhelming, stressful, and thrilling phenomenon that is first year, I’ve picked up on a few tips to keep the experience as freshmen at the University of British Columbia at a minimum on the craziness-meter.
1. Plan your schedule wisely.
First year is hectic enough without the possibility of getting lost or being late for classes. Use UBC’s Wayfinding website (www.maps.ubc.ca) to figure out exactly where your classes will be located BEFORE hitting submit on your registration page of the Student Service Centre website (SSC). The UBC campus is huge and you don’t want to be running from one side to the other in the short ten minute break between classes.
2. Location, Location, Location
As with the previous tip, always know where you’re going beforehand – whether it be for class or for meeting up with friends. Places are far and you want to allocate enough time to get from Point A. to Point B.
3. Start off strong.
The workload at UBC is insane no matter which faculty you’re in. Make your life a million times easier by taking notes and staying on top of your work at the beginning of the school term so you have less stress during midterm and finals seasons.
4. ALWAYS carry an umbrella.
They don’t call it Rain-couver for no reason. And if you don’t have an umbrella, check out the UmbraCity umbrella rental stations in Buchanan A, the Nest, the Fred Kaiser Building, and the Forestry Building.
5. Hang out with friends you meet in lectures.
University, especially first year, can be a very lonely time. Talking to people in your lectures and tutorials is a good start but actually fostering friendships with these people by getting their contact info and hanging out with them outside of class time is way more important. Again, UBC is a huge campus and it’s soooo unlikely to run into friends outside of lectures so make an effort to hang out outside of class-time.
6. Explore campus.
UBC’s campus has so many exciting places to go to take your mind off studying and school-work. Visit the Nitobe Memorial Garden, the UBC Botanical Garden, the Museum of Anthropology, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, and the Pacific Museum of the Earth – all free for UBC students.
7. Explore Vancouver.
Hop on a bus, go somewhere random. The city of Vancouver has so many things to offer.
8. Go to office hours.
Get to know your professors and T.As. As tempting as googling the answer to your questions may be, talking about what you’re learning with someone who specializes in that field is über helpful. Professors and T.As are there to help you so don’t be fearful of wasting their time or being a bother, they’re always supportive and pleased to see you during their office hours.
9. Get to know your T.As.
The T.As normally do most of your assignment and exam marking and since they’re usually closer to your age range than professors, it’s simple to converse with them. Talk to your T.As, they will support you and help you get through your classes without struggles.
10. Do the pre-reading and homework.
As time consuming as it may be, doing the pre-readings for your classes will help you understand what professors cover in classes. The key reason for falling behind in class is not completing pre-readings or falling behind in pre-readings.
11. Participate in class.
Ask questions, comment, reply. Engaging yourself in the class will allow you to A.) stay awake throughout the hour/hour and a half lecture and B.) understand the concepts more through openly talking about them.
12. Only visit Wreck Beach if you’re ready for a calf work out.
Hundreds of stairs…. ’nuff said.
13. With that being said, visit Wreck Beach.
There is nothing compared to joy and feeling of accomplishment once you make it down the stairs and take in the scenery and atmosphere.
14. With that also being said, keep in mind that Wreck is a nude beach.
Beware, you might see things you don’t want to see. But, if you’re looking for a place to show off your birthday suit, this is the place to be.
15. Set aside 15-30 minutes before heading to the libraries.
The libraries on campus are always busy but especially so during exam seasons. If you have a strict time-committed study schedule, plan out 15-30 minutes to find your perfect seat in the library because it might take a while – especially in the middle of the day at peak study hours.
16. If you’re with a large group of people, don’t expect to find anywhere to sit in the Nest between noon and 2pm.
17. Join a club, organization, or team.
Even if it doesn’t pertain to your faculty or field of study, join a club that interests you. The best way of spending your free time is by doing something that you thoroughly enjoy. Clubs and teams allow you to interact with people who have similar interests and passions. UBC is known for its sports teams, faculty undergraduate societies, and sororities and fraternities.
18. If you live on campus, talk to the people on your floor and in your residence building.
You’re going to be seeing these people all the time and you might even catch them doing some pretty absurd things (or vice versa). At the beginning of your freshman year, talk to the people who live on your floor and attend floor socials and meetings to get to know each other. If you’re lonely at any point, these will end up being the best people to keep you company.
19. Find your own personal study space.
There are “secret” study areas all over campus. Whether it may be the Starbucks on Agronomy or the Earth Sciences Building or the third floor of the H.R. MacMillan Building, find a space where you can go when you really need to be alone and study or even just sit and think. Being constantly surrounded by friends and other people can get overwhelming, especially for those students living on campus, and it’s okay if you need your alone time.
20. Explore the buildings on campus outside of class time.
Nobody will ever stop you from venturing into open buildings even if they’re designated for students in other faculties. To follow tip #19, explore the buildings on campus to find the place that suits your needs the best whether it be a place to nap, study, eat, or simply relax.
21. Nap on the bus.
Calling all commuters! Even if your bus ride is super short, use that time to catch some zzz’s. The bus ride to campus is usually too short (and bumpy) to focus on school-work and too long to do nothing at all, so sleep! (Just make sure not to miss your stop).
22. Stop buying bubbletea.
Think about the money. Think about the Freshman 15.
23. Stop buying Starbucks.
24. Stop buying McDonald’s.
See above above.
25. No seriously, food from the Village is not necessary.
It’s accessible, yes. But is it healthy? No. Is your wallet crying every time you swipe your debit card to buy another ten pack of chicken nuggets? Yes.
26. Find an ATM designed for your bank.
Quit paying $2-$3 in transaction fees and find your personal bank’s ATM on campus. BMO and TD Bank ATMs are located on the lower level of the Nest; CIBC, BMO, and Scotiabank full branches are located in the Village, and an RBC full branch is located in the Wesbrook Village.
27. Buildings are usually locked from the outside at night.
As long as you don’t make custodians upset, you can continue to study in the buildings on the UBC campus for as long as you wish.
28. Visit different lectures.
If you’re unhappy with the teaching style of your professor, visit other lectures to experience other professors. As long as you aren’t disruptive, you’re allowed to sit in on any of the lecture classes on campus. Just note that any participation marks must be completed within the lecture that you’re registered for.
29. CHECK CONNECT.
Even though it’s probably the most disorganized online database, leave a tab on your web browser open to connect at all times. Check it like you would check any other social media. Missing quizzes, readings, assignments, or important dates is not fun.
30. Create a study schedule.
This sounds cliche and tedious, but your schedule doesn’t have to look as nice as the ones you may find on Pinterest or Tumblr. Just write down exactly what you want to accomplish each day so you don’t end up staying up extremely late on Sunday nights cramming in the workload of the previous week.
31. Keep up to date with Facebook groups.
If you don’t have Facebook, I advise you to make an account right now – even if it’s under a pseudonym. Facebook is one of the simplest ways to connect with people in your classes and to find out exactly what’s happening on campus. Join all of the Facebook groups and then turn off the notifications so your phone’s not jumping in the air every five seconds updating you with the newest memes posted. BUT check the groups every now and then, and don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding literally anything you’re unsure of – administration, academics, involvement, etc.
32. Don’t forget your old friends.
When at UBC, it can feel like you’re isolated from everything off-campus, but don’t forget about your old friends from home (unless they were really crappy people, then forget about them… forget about them real fast). The workload and hustle-and-bustle of campus can twist you into a world of its own but make time to Skype, call, or send even a quick “hello” text to your friends who aren’t trapped within the world of UBC with you.
33. Check out Wednesday Night Dinners at Agora Cafe.
Each Wednesday night, the Faculty of Land and Food Systems hosts a healthy, vegetarian friendly dinner for $5 in the basement of the MacMillan building!
34. Check out UBC Improv shows.
So so so so good.
35. Nap in the bleachers at the Aquatic Centre.
Now, I haven’t exactly done this myself but apparently the bleachers in the Aquatic Centre are the perfect place to go to dreamland. Visit the Aquatic Centre to swim for free as well.
36. Sign up for a pass at the Birdcoop.
Staying fit is très très important. Gyms are also located within some residence buildings for free use.
37. Make upper year friends.
Talk to the oldies. They know best. They can help you with anything under the sun from academics and what classes to take to where the best food places on and off campus are. Don’t be shy to ask questions and make older friends.
38. For those living on campus, become friends with your Residence Advisor(s) (RAs).
RAs are there to support you and usually give really good advice, they’ve been through freshman year already and know the ins and outs to making it through first year at UBC alive.
39. Bring outdoorsy equipment.
Skis, snowboards, climbing gear, surfing gear, hiking gear… you name it. There are so many accessible outdoor activities around Vancouver and British Columbia to do in your free time.
40. Look at UBC’s Party Calendar for fun things to do in your free time.
Check out thecalendar.ca for a list of events and activities around campus.
41. Don’t get caught up with your midterm grades.
Beware, midterm grades may lead to pride and over-confidence. Don’t stop working hard just because your midterm grades go well. Professors and TAs design exams so that midterms are drastically easier than finals. Keep on the grind all throughout the year.
42. Don’t get distraught by your final grades.
Final grades are usually unexpected and depressing. Don’t give up simply because of a bad final mark or average. You have plenty of time in second semester to improve your overall average or switch your program. University is all a learning process; trying to determine what exactly you are capable of doing and achieving.
43. Take some time for yourself.
Get used to doing things alone. Go on walks. Visit coffee shops in Vancouver. Establish independence in order to give your mind a break from the opinions of others. You sometimes need alone time simply to re-evaluate yourself and your personal choices.
44. Deciding to stay in and study will always pay off.
45. Don’t be grasped by FOMO.
The “Fear of Missing Out” should not be a reason for you to tag along with something that you’re not completely comfortable doing. Nobody should be able to tell you exactly what you can or cannot do. You should be able and willing to create your own opinions and decisions especially throughout your freshman year.
46. Don’t knock frat parties until you try them.
Some people love the frats, others… not so much. Go once for the experience, if all fails simply don’t go again. Also, don’t base your judgement on Toga (usually the first frat party of the school year).
47. If you get sick, go to the doctor ASAP.
There are medical and dental clinics in the Village. If you even feel the slightest bit ill, the super friendly and understanding doctors will help you out. Even if you think you have a strong immune system, you’ll probably still get sick.
48. Don’t shop at Save-On Foods in Wesbrook.
Save-On in unbelievably overpriced. Instead, hop on the 14 or the 4 and take the five minute bus ride down to Safeway on West 10th where you can get much more, for less.
49. Avoid the Bookstore.
The UBC bookstore is nice and all but it has a magical way of making you purchase all the things you want but don’t need. The bookstore is insanely overpriced and although all those click-y pens look fancy and appealing, they last for exactly 3 days before running out of ink. And no, you don’t need 4 of the same UBC sweater in different colours. (Coming from someone who has 5…)
50. Take chances & listen to your instincts.
Yes, hella cheesy but hella important. Step out of your comfort zone, go nude on Wreck Beach! Okay… maybe don’t go nude on Wreck Beach.