Does the prospect of attending university in a new country intimidate you? You’re excited, but nervous at the same time. Maybe it’s the thought of leaving your family, or adjusting to a new culture. No matter your reason – you’re not alone.
We spoke to six current UBC students who came to Canada from six different countries, and everyone expressed the same sentiment: I was nervous at first, but I adjusted to life here and surprised myself. Watch each student’s video and read more below to find out what they found daunting, how they overcame their fears, and what advice they have for future UBC students.
Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Major in International Relations
Year: 1st year
Hometown: Moscow, Russia
“Adjusting to life in Canada can be quite complicated due to the differences in culture and mentality. However, UBC manages to help students from all over the world to adjust quite easily and pretty fast. I recommend students participate in Jump Start and join different clubs so that you can find people with the same interests and goals.
I’m coming from a big family, so I’m used to having a lot of people around me while I’m at home. Just being alone in my room can be hard. But I’m used to it now. Until I went back to Moscow for winter break, I was kind of stressed, a little bit depressed. But then after coming back from Moscow, I started enjoying it here. I live in residence, so a lot of people that live close to me are now my friends.”
Degree: Bachelor of Science, Major in Psychology
Year: 5th year
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
“My best advice is getting out of your comfort zone! The more involved you are in volunteer activities, workshops, clubs, and other events offered by the school, the more people you meet and the greater opportunities you will have overall. UBC Okanagan is known for its community feel – there is no better way to take advantage of that than getting out there and doing some networking.“
Degree: Bachelor of International Economics
Year: 4th year
Hometown: New Delhi, India
“The most intimidating part about moving here was not knowing what to expect – whether that was food, or how to dress, and the weather as well. I had never been to North America before. I was worried by the social aspects. I was really excited about the academics and the extracurriculars. It was interesting to be in a place where people were more relaxed, and really welcoming. That part of the culture shock worked in my favour.
Say hi! I found that most people in first year are open to engagement and friendship. Ask questions: What are Timbits? Who are the Canucks? What do expressions like ‘cheesed’ or ‘bunny hugs’ mean? Asking questions is a great way to learn about Canadian (or any other) culture and make friends. And be patient. Relationships and support systems don’t develop overnight.”
Patience Spinoza Okuku
Degree: Bachelor of Management; Minor in Sociology
Year: 4th year
Hometown: Gulu, Uganda
“Your admission to UBC is the university’s way of saying, ‘You belong here!’ – do not doubt yourself. Every other first-year student is in the same boat…new and lonely, away from home, for perhaps the first time. Through supporting one another, you will find family in the classmates and roommates around you.
Do not be worried…take it one day at a time. Take a moment to breathe and appreciate the mountains, the diverse climate, the diversity of cultures. Everything is going to be all right! You will meet others like you and you will find your place.”
Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science, Major in Chemical Engineering
Year: 3rd year
Hometown: Yaounde, Cameroon
“People are very welcoming and genuinely try to understand where you’re coming from. Ask questions – that’s how we help create global citizens. I know what you know about my country is only what the media lets you know, and I’m happy to tell you how I grew up and how it is being a kid from a [developing] country. We are not very different in one way or another. It was very good having those interactions with very different people, sparking these conversations I would have never had if I was back home.
Pack something in your bag that will help you remember home. It’s so easy to come here and have an identity crisis, and coming with things that remind you of what you have been through, your journey, and everything that helped you get to this point is so helpful.”
Degree: Bachelor of Commerce, Major in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources; Minor in International Relations
Year: 4th year
Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia
“I lived in the first-year dormitories – the RAs were so helpful, the community in Totem Park where I lived was so helpful, and so caring about what’s going on with your school life. The city itself is so nice, and the food here is amazing.
My biggest concern when leaving home was that, before coming to Canada, I had an international experience, and I was homesick a lot. But I researched a little bit about Vancouver and as soon as I came to UBC, I found my community. UBC has a lot of resources when you have problems like that. A lot of the time professors will talk to you about anything, not just about your classes. They’re really open in terms of getting to know their students.”