Ferry ride to Vancouver Island
August 14, 2020
3 mins read

Staying in Vancouver in the time of COVID-19

This summer, COVID-19 and travel restrictions cut off my way home to my family in Ukraine. All of a sudden, I had to navigate life in a very different way.

I always saw Vancouver as the city I lived in to complete my undergrad at UBC—and not as much else. The past three years, I've headed home to Ukraine every summer and winter break. But this summer, with my way home cut off, I got the chance to experience Vancouver instead. And through the limitations and restrictions came many new experiences and reconnections.

Cooking up nostalgia

I found myself nostalgic for my mother’s dishes more and more often this summer, so the kitchen became a much more familiar space. Pictured below are one of many meals I cooked with my roommate, Kari, and the cupcakes we made for her birthday. 

A chance for reconnection

I’m sure many international students understand the longing to connect with childhood friends and the struggle of keeping in touch virtually. It became a common joke amongst me and my international friends that it only took a pandemic for us to finally allocate time to reconnect.

Appreciating the little things

I moved into my current home in September, when it was too cold to enjoy spending time in the backyard. But after social isolation began, we started keeping our back door wide open; it was our only window to the outside world from a dark basement suite. When the first sunny days arrived, I gained an immense appreciation for the small patch of grass I could study on and the curious neighbourhood pets that routinely visited us.

Empty morning beaches

This summer, I explored the beautiful area by Jericho Beach which I am so lucky to live in. I am a bit ashamed to admit that it took me 6 months to visit a beach that was only a 5-minute walk away. 

Exploring the neighbourhood

I tried to take in as much of the outside world as I could on my much-cherished walks to the grocery store. I started noticing how each week, different trees bloomed and withered, matching the colours of the houses they guarded. Later on, hidden empty beaches became my favourite reading spots.

Camping for the first time

As the province slowly started opening up, I was excited to safely travel as far as I possibly could from our cozy little suite. So my partner Nick, a few of his friends, and I embarked on a 4-day journey, 5 hours northeast of Vancouver. It was my first time camping and I loved every minute of it. 

First (and long-overdue) hikes

In my 6 years in BC, I, like many international students, hadn’t been on a single hike, always waiting for a time when I would be less busy. This socially isolated summer gave me the opportunity to experience the beauty of British Columbia outside of university halls and busy downtown streets.

A getaway to Victoria

I had visited Victoria many times before, but this time was different—from the ghostly ferry ride with seating areas taped off to the usually bustling streets empty of summer tourists. This Victoria trip became a beautiful, peaceful getaway. 

On March 16, the day classes and work moved online (and coincidentally also my birthday), I struggled to find a positive take on the situation. However, stories and experiences from my friends and family in Ukraine and other countries helped me put in perspective just how lucky and privileged I am to live and work in Vancouver during COVID-19.

It may not have been the summer I had planned for, but with some creativity and a change in thinking, it became a summer full of memories I now cherish.