I had a rough time when I came to UBC three years ago as an international student from China.
Language was my biggest barrier. I couldn’t understand the professors during class or share my opinions. On top of that, I was lonely. I didn’t have the courage to speak with my classmates because I couldn’t keep up with how quickly they spoke.
I felt so isolated that I decided to make some changes.
I volunteered for Let’s Talk Science, hoping to improve my English. In this year-long volunteer program, I was paired with a UBC Ph.D. student who, by the end of the year, became my best friend in Vancouver. She invited me to my first hike ever, at Lighthouse Park. This experience made me fall in love with hiking and, two months later, I found myself committed to a two-day hike through the Grand Canyon.
I also learned how to swim at the UBC Aquatic Centre and often swam with my new friend. Our friendship helped me grow from an indoor person to an active outdoor person.
Through my volunteer experience I gained a great friendship and new hobbies. This experience led me to more volunteer opportunities and finally a job. As I met and got to know new people, my English also improved. I learned more about Canadian culture and developed a sense of belonging in the community I was building for myself. Most importantly, I enjoyed volunteering because I could help other people.
When I look back at the two years I spent as an international student at UBC, I can see how much I have grown.
For many international students it can be challenging to be in a new environment and culture, but there are always ways to become more familiar with your surroundings. Once you start getting involved, adjusting to life at UBC often becomes easier and easier.
If you do find yourself struggling with the transition to UBC, you’re not alone. Thrive week is just around the corner, and it's a great place to try new things and maybe meet some people.
Here are some other useful resources that can help with your transition:
AMS Clubs: Join a club based on your interests, or start a new club. This is a great way to make connections and new friends.
International Student Advising: Speak with friendly International Student Advisors who understand the challenges of adjusting to a new country and are here to support your transition to university life. They’re certified to provide immigration advice and have prepared the comprehensive International Student Guide to help you navigate life as a student from abroad.
Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication: A free service providing support to all writers at UBC. You can book one-on-one appointments through their website.