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April 16, 2019
4 mins read

Deciding between UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan

From campus life to life in the city, my time at UBC Okanagan (UBCO) and UBC Vancouver (UBCV) has really transformed me as a university student.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve studied at both UBC campuses and gotten to know them quite well.

At UBCO, I had a chance to grow and establish a community of friends. I loved the campus vibe and thought the small community helped me focus on my learning. It was also great checking out local farms in Kelowna, and the short commute to the beach was spectacular.

What drew me to transfer to UBCV, however, was that I wanted the opportunity to attend a bigger campus to expand my university experience. Moving to Vancouver and living in a metropolitan city had always been a goal of mine.

Whether you’re a current UBC student thinking of a change or a new student starting university in the fall, here are some of the key differences between the 2 campuses that can help you decide which one’s right for you!

The Martha Piper Plaza at sunset at UBCV

The Martha Piper Plaza at UBCV. Photo: Don Erhardt

Navigating & exploring campus

At UBCO, you can make it across campus from Engineering to the Arts and Science building in no time. It’s generally easy to navigate, but if you get lost, ask anyone for directions and they will confidently point you in the right direction. You can peacefully study in the Arts and Science Atrium or do some readings next to the central fountain, while enjoying the lack of rain in the spring to fall.

Figuring out a tight class schedule at UBCV is like trying to crack the Da Vinci code. One of the biggests shocks to me was that I could not make it to my classes in less than 5 minutes. I foolishly registered for back-to-back courses in second year, with one in Buchanan A, the next in Forestry, and the third back at Buchanan. Without a bike or scooter, I immediately dropped my Forestry classes due to my short legs and general lack of stamina.

What I do love about UBCV is the vast number of places on campus to decompress, and getting to know shortcuts and lesser-known study spots. There’s always somewhere to explore and you literally never have to leave campus with all its food and health services.

Take a tour of either campus and see for yourself!

Students ordering lunch from a food truck at UBC Vancouver

Students grabbing lunch at one of the many food trucks at the UBCV campus. Photo: Paul Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing.

Class sizes

Generally, class sizes are small starting from your first year at UBCO. With more intimate classroom settings, it’s easier to approach professors and make friends with familiar faces. Throughout your university years, you’ll get to know your profs and people in your faculty really well.

Lower-year classes at UBCV will be filled with hundreds of students. However, you can still get to know your profs. While you’re more likely to only know the people you sit near, you’ll also have more opportunities to create big study groups.

In your upper years at UBCV, you can get into more intimate discussions and connect more easily with peers in your major. Remember: no matter what year you’re in, don’t let class size discourage you from getting to know other students and approaching your profs.

Course selection & scheduling

I found it much easier at UBCO to pick and schedule my courses than at UBCV, including adding and dropping courses that worked better for my degree and time. Both first-year and degree requirements are more straightforward, which made choosing my courses a lot simpler.

At UBCV, there are a lot more types of courses available and they’re offered at a wider variety of times, giving you scheduling flexibility and the chance to study a variety of topics. With guest lecturers and hundreds of faculty, you can take a class on virtually any academic topic—from wine to children’s literature to gender in Asia.

Requirements for your degree are different for both campuses so make sure you pay attention to what you’re getting credit for.

Whichever campus you choose, both will provide you with a plethora of opportunities to develop your research skills, take on leadership roles, and expand your learning—both inside and outside of the classroom.

Aerial shot of UBCO

Aerial shot of the UBCO campus. Photo: Hover Collective

City life & what to do

Kelowna offers that quieter, small-city kind of lifestyle where you can really get to know the best spots in town right away. You’ll quickly find the best place on the lakefront to do readings or the ideal spot to indulge in a plate of signature pachos—crispy waffle fries with various toppings—on Friday nights with your friends.

The campus is tucked away on the edge of Kelowna but the buses headed into the city are fast and stop at major points in the city. Enjoy scenic wineries or visit the Kangaroo farm on the weekends, and in the winter you can hit up Big White Ski Resort if you ski or snowboard!

Vancouver runs at a much faster pace and even though I’ve been here for 3 years I easily get lost if I’m not paying attention. The city life is dynamic—there are so many different food places to try, parks to visit, and neighbourhoods to explore. Thankfully, there is an extensive transit system that will help you get across town easily.

Choose what’s best for you

Both campuses have so much to offer and can contribute to an enriching university experience. Take time to reflect on what kind of learning environment works for you. Each campus has a multitude of opportunities to help you develop and add depth to your learning.

If you’re a current student and feel like a change in campus is right for you, make sure to double check your eligibility and requirements in order to have a smooth transfer experience.

Two students talking outside on the UBCO campus

The main courtyard of the UBCO campus. Photo: Martin Dee / UBC Brand & Marketing

And remember: no matter which campus you choose, you’re still earning a UBC degree at the end of the day—wherever your university journey takes you.