sad to be back……..:(

So i’m back in Glasgow and into my second week of my final year – scary stuff.

They say you get reverse culture shock but i was always a sceptic, it’s just coming home i though. I was however most definitely wrong. It’s weird, very weird. It’s not that everything changes, you still have your friends, your clubs, your classes, but the little things adjust. Like Sommerfield to Waitrose, Antipasti to i think it’s Sophie (i could very well be mistaken), just little things but they seem really odd. I knew things would change but it’s still a little weird that they have.

The biggest change for me is the work load. In Canada i have 5 classes a term, with about 4 hours contact time for each of them a week and millions of readings. I’m now down to a few hours a week and although i know things will heat up it’s a drastic change from other last year.

Having said all this though, it is lovely to be back. I have my friends, my family, the hills (up at home), cheaper booze and sad but true – the petite section in topshop. I have also brought a lot back with me, not only in terms of physical objects like clothes and presents but also in terms of my personality. I am far more adept at being myself in a room full of strangers and i have a great deal more of what my mum calls ‘get up and go’, the drive to actually do things during my uni career as opposed to just coasting along. The heavy workload and constant stream of social events has improved my time management immensely and basically i think i’m far more adept at dealing with the big bad world I’m going to be thrown into in about 8 or 9 months time.

I am also incredibly jealous of all those who have just jetted off to UBC and are currently enjoying Longboat day, club open house and all the other start of the year fun.

Also on a more practical note to everyone thinking of going, feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions about going out there from the perspective of someone who is back. I’m more than happy to help if i can.

hope to hear from you at some point

Rachel

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The Rockies!!

The rockies!!!!

Right well there are several options on how you could go about this but all I’ll say is make sure you do.

Cat (the girl I went with) and I decided to rent a car. Not the cheapest option but certainly the easiest for getting around and it allows you the freedom to stop wherever you want, see the things the greyhound can’t take you to and avoid the god forsaken tourist busses that are the only other option for opening up the wonders of the Rockies.

Getting out of Vancouver, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, was terrifying!! Truly terrifying. However, over a week on and I am in love….with hybrid cars and automatic gear systems. Mmmmmm

Back to what we’ve done and seen. On the first day we headed up through the Okanagan past Kelowna and the Okanagan lake to a H.I hostel on the edge of Shuswap  Lake. It’s amazing… an abandoned train transformed into a hostel complete with pancake breakfast and free use of a canoe to explore the nearby beavers. The views on the way were amazing and the hostel transformed us back into kids. Ooh btw, I recommend taking the west route along the Okanagan Lake, it’s windy but the views are amazing.

From there we headed took a day heading up to Banff. First we stopped in at one of the many wineries on the way. Free tastings, yum yum. Next we stopped in at the Dutch Dairy for one of their well recommended ice-creams, they are huge!!! In an attempt to feel less like a dairy cow and more like humans again we went for a walk along the Blue lake in Revelstoke with fantastic scenery.

After traveling through the beautiful national parks of Glacier and Yoho we hit the Banff national park – amazing mountains throughout AND … our second bear encounter. Cute but obviously powerful. The last hour of driving was painful though, over an hour on a hideously large highway considering the surroundings. There was one selling point tho – the animal walkways over the highway – grass covered bridge like structured for the bears, moose and many other amazing critters who call Banff home.

In Banff we hiked up Sulphur Mountain – about a 2 hour grind but the view was well worth the snowy stomp. 360 degrees of mountain wonderland. What’s more, you can sneak onto the gondola for an easy ride down : )

Our next stop was a hostel at Lake Louise which was honestly amazing – one of the best I’ve ever been to. On the way over there we saw a moose in a river – a definite yaye we’re in Canada moment. From that hostel we went to see Lake Louise (amazing and well worth a hike round), Moraine  Lake (even more stunning but not as famous, we saw two skiers coming down the face – amazing!), and Johnston Canyon (really pretty, esp if you’re into waterfalls).

From here we drove up to Jasper – 3 hours of breathtaking scenery. The icefields were really impressive and a brief encounter with a baby black bear made my day – so cute!! The town of Jasper itself is definitely what I would call sleepy but the drive up here definitely made it worth a stop.

From there we made our way home past Mt Robson and stayed a night in Valemount before one more stop in Shuswap and a long drive back to Vancouver…..

phew!!!! quite the week. One of the things that stands out most is that Canada has a tremendously diverse landscape. Well that and the fact that it’s stunning, completely stunning.

i miss the rockies already!!

however i do not miss our serious lack of car tunage. Definately bring CD’s or buy an i trip!

bye  ; )

Visit from the parentals

It had to be done….at some point i think every parent has been out here, a constant flow of exchange parents??????

So 14,000 words of rushed essay hell, frantic tidying and ‘grocery shopping’ later and the preparation was done, i was ready for relaxing week with mum. One problem however….she was stuck in Montreal. urgh!

Never fear though, a day late and she turns up. What’s more, it turns out that having visitors is definitely a good idea. I had a blast. Despite the fact that we had the worst week of weather i’ve had so far, it was still amazingly fun. We had wine, coffee and cake galore and between lectures managed to explore the city thoroughly. We went up to Squamish to see the Chief and toured the northshore to Horsehoe bay and beyond. We devoured food from the Naam and collected supplies from Granville Market – yum yum homemade salmon burgers. mmm…

Anyway, it’s just a wee note this time to say it’s lovely to have visitors, definitely a must do : )

So….. i forgot to post this. oops, better late than never

Weekends, the uni, what’ve been up to and things before you go. It’s a biggie!

hello again,

I know this post is straight after the last one but I’ve decided this list malarky might be the best way to share my conclusions from this year and hopefully help you prepare for yours.

Things to do at the weekends

The Chief – a huge granite block overlooking the town of Squamish about an hour from Vancouver, It’s about a 2 hour hike up and it’s well worth the view. It’s definitely worth the climb, the views are amazing and if you’re into rock climbing you could tackle the huge multi-pitch face. Definitely not for the faint hearted.

Tofino – A stunning coastal town on Vancouver island.  It’s a fair journey from Vancover but easily doable for the weekend and if you’re into surfing (or storm or whale watching) it’s definitely worth your while. Last time we went they were filming a movie in my flatmates grandmother’s place.  Owen Wilson and Jack Black were both kicking about but we didn’t see them, much to the detriment of my friends fantasies.

Whistler – I’ve said it before but get a whistler pass if you’re into anything snow related. It’s an amazing deal – cheaper than an annual Cairngorm pass. There is also a bus running from campus to whisler which makes a day on the slopes totally hassle free. There is also the UBC ski and board club who run trips to other Canadian resorts. From all reports they are some of the best trips going, but definitely go prepared for an aching liver on the bus back.

Victoria – This is the capital of British Columbia. It’s over on Vancouver island and is easily accessible on a ferry from either Tswassan (spelling questionable) or Horseshoe Bay (both about a hour bus from UBC). The ride is amazing on a clear day and there are Orca’s in the area so keep your eyes pealed. Victoria itself is really cute and incredibly British in its appearance, there are red double-decker busses and phone boxes – all very colonial.

Seattle – this is another weekend option. Things are so much cheaper so it’s a good option for Christmas shopping. You can get the bus from the Greyhound stations at Pacific Central and there are plenty of cheap hostels. Although I’ve never been the music museum is supposed to be a fun even if museums aren’t usually your thing.

all of you coming here must be pretty excited!! Therefore i’ve pulled together a few things about UBC

I know each person is different but some of these might be of use.

Things to know about UBC

1. Take full advantage of the gala intro sessions. They may seem like a pain at the time but the info they provide does pay off – well apart from the umbrella etiquette session, not exactly the most useful 20 mins of my life.

2. The library fines are not like Glasgow! It’s 2 dollars a book per day. I learnt this lesson the hard way when I had 16 books out for the mountain of papers (‘essays’) I developed, I renewed them 3 mins late and ended up with a horrifically large fine. Meugh!

3. The echo circle, in front of the flagpole (an obvious point of reference once you get here) there is a strange looking statue, concrete, kind of ugly, with a large metal dome in the middle. If you stand on the dome and shout you do look ridiculous but….you also get this really weird echo/microphone effect which nobody else can hear. I  have no idea how it works but it’s definitely worth a look.

4. Courses. This one is a biggy that I found confusing before I left. Basically, if you are in the arts faculty at least, then the set up is completely different. You take five courses, and there is tremendous choice. Although you have to fill out the course selection form before you go don’t worry, it’s not set in stone by any means and there is actually a lot of flexibility. The first week is virtually a shopping week for courses, you can try them out, see if they suit and only have to decide a few weeks into term – a definite bonus if you are as indecisive as I am. One thing I would say is that you should make sure you run them by your faculty contact at Glasgow.

If you’re in geography I’d advise doing the compulsory research class in the second term. I did it in the first term but the second term course has a far better structure and the work you produce seems far more worthwhile.

Also, if you’re stronger in essays than exams you can find courses that have no final exam. If it fits with your requirements it’s an easy way to boost your grade and limit the end of term stress.

5. A bike is a really good investment. I didn’t get one but in hindsight I really should have. Craigslist or the bike co-op in the Student Union Building are good places to start.

6. Sprouts, the café in the bottom floor of the Student Union Building (SUB) is also amazing. It’s really cheap and eco friendly. More amazingly, on the last Friday of every month they have a fee lunch starting at 11.30 – so tasty! Remember to bring your own Tupperware as they don’t provide plates or cutlery.

7, floor 6 of koerner – my friend Cat’s favorite study spot. It has an amazing view of the city, the mountains and the uni buildings including the Buchanan tower which was used in the movie Wolverine. There is also the law library (opposite Buchanan) which is good if you need to get your head down. Although beware, if your studying turns to napping you might be snapped and posted on the facegroup group, sleepers of ubc.

8. Clubs – These are an amazing way to break out of the exchange students circle. This year I’ve found the Surf club amazing. Although I joined a few (swing dancing was also amazing – honestly it’s more fun than it sounds), the surf club were super friendly and the trips were some of the best memories I have. The club is anti clique if that makes sense and really welcoming if you were a beginner. Basically, do it – they are incredible.

9. The anthropology museum. It’s right on campus and free for UBC students, The exhibits change throughout the year but some of the first nations artifacts are permanent. Basically it’s well worth a look.

Ok, so enough of lists.

What i’ve been up to in the last few weeks

The last few weeks were full on. My mum came out to visit tho so I have a couple of weeks of escaping ‘homework’ and exploring the city and the surroundings.  She also brought Scottish cheese – once you get here the joy this brought will make perfect sense. Unfortunately the Canadian weather woman up high was clearly P.M.Sing and it poured for a large proportion of her trip but it was still amazing to see her.

All through the year there are geography beer gardens put on by the GSA (geography students association). Even if you’re not a geog major you’ll be more than welcome. Go see Sam, she’s in geog and I’m sure she’ll be there (she’s sitting opposite me blushing right now). Anyway the last few were fun, live bands, kegs stands, trivia, BBQ’s and sunshine. Mmmmmmm

Continuing the geography theme we also had Geo Gala (an annual formal dinner). It’s a perfect excuse to get glammed up and again you don’t have to be a geography major. I had a smile plastered across my face for the whole evening, I’m definitely going to miss the geography department here.

After that came the end of term party, a whole day event before exam leave. The liquor store lines were round the block – sad times. They hold block party (a kind of festival on campus) every year. Last year the Roots headlined and this year they had The Bare Naked Ladies. Unfortunately it rained this year so we ended up elsewhere but don’t let that put you off, from all accounts it’s worth it.

After that came leaving do’s and multiple birthdays. So fun but so sad at the same time. I’ve had an amazing year and I’m certainly going to miss the place and the people way too much to not come back. I’ve already looked into doing my masters over here – eugh I don’t want to leave!! – dam student debt : (

Argh, I can never remember what I’ve done when I come to write this but hopefully you get the jist that the end of term was fun.

Since finishing I’ve been staying in my flatmates place down in Kits. It’s lovely, in walking distance from the beach and Granville island.

Last week we went for a road trip to Vancouver Island to stay at a roommate’s place near Duncan. We hiked a bit, took a cider tour and generally got merry. After picking up the rest of 2660 Fairview (our flat) we headed up to Tofino and camped in a sweet spot in Bellapacifica Campground. Schmores, baked potatoes and campfire ‘weaners’ all round. The vibe in that place is so chilled, it literally sucks the exam stress out of you – me gusta!

You can rent surf gear pretty cheap from town (we got stuff from Long Beach Surf Shop which seemed to have the best deals at the time) and headed out for the day. 4 hours, one burnt nose and several waves later, 3 very pleased girls emerged from the water, headed to the campsite to change and then joined the others down in Ucluelet to watch the Canucks get unfortunately thrashed by Chicago – although I’m not usually a sports fan I’m getting sucked into the world of ice hockey – I blame you Brit ; )

Those 4 days were amazing fun, 80’s car, the odd Disney tune, my first bear sighting and constant sunshine = a love of Canada.

Since then I’ve been back in Van for a few days trying desperately to sort my life out and plan the next few weeks of travel. I’ve sorted getting stuff home (selling skis on craigs list and shipping the rest – about 100 quid per box) and got car rental sorted for a 10 day blast into the rockies with Cat (a Scottish girl on exchange from Aberdeen). We also climbed the chief yesterday (a serious must do). It’s apparently the second largest granite monolith in the world and it’s only about an hour’s drive from van. I think I’ve said this in one of the ‘to do ‘ lists. It’s in the ……………… provincial park which is easily accessible by car but I’m sure you could bus to Squamish and walk down the road back to it. The hike is really clearly marked and could be done by anyone in trainers despite the amusing tour groups in their hard soled boots, poles and gaiters. You start off through the woods and eventually – a few ladders and chain assisted sections later – emerge on the top of a truly huge cliff with an absolutely stunning view. One word of warning tho – keep an eye on your lunch, the chipmonks have no shame!!

Having clocked the word limit I think it’s definitely time for me to lay down the laptop and head to bed. Tomorrow = white rock (a cute seaside town and the home of Lizzy – yaye).

Before I go tho…………..

Tips for before you head out here.

Think wisely about what you bring with you. Rain boots aka wellies are an essential but all other things should be kept to a minimal. You will acquire stuff throughout the year and it makes packing up horrendous!

If you’re feeling nervous run with it. The nerves are understandable and just show you’re excited. Remember everyone else on exchange is in the same boat.

Next, remember to get insurance for your stuff. You are abroad and chances are your house insurance won’t cover it.

Finally, save and save hard. Exchange is more expensive than you anticipate. This by no means me trying to put you off or worry you, I’m just saying the more funds you have the more fun you can have. There are limitless places to go and things to see over here so all the cash you can earn will be worth the summer slog back home.

it’s creeping to a close so here’s a few insights into Vancouver

Hello again,

Uni is done, I can’t believe it went by so fast.

So, my time at UBC post midterms has flown by….6 weeks,10,000 words of paper and four exams later I’ve emerged like some kind of bear out of hibernation begging for sunshine.

Before I go on to talk about the last bit of UBC and post exam funsies I thought it might be worth sharing a few pointers from what I’ve found in Vancouver.

1, sushi is big over here, I’m not a big fan but if you’re not mad for raw fish variety then tempura (a kind of deep fried sushi) is an easy beginners option. From my friends who are fans I’ve heard that the eatery is a must and brown rice sushi are both worth a look.

2.  Although both countries speak English the words are surprisingly different and I’m still met with completely blank expressions on occasion – 8 months in.

3. Wreck beach sunsets are a must, If you’re in Vanier it’s easy (about a 5 mins walk) but if you’re in Gage or Fairview then it’s still worth the trek.

4. I may have said this before but Stanley park is a definite must. You can go cycle through it, hang out on the beach, check out the aquarium or just go for a walk. It gives you a fantastic view of the city and is basically a relaxing day out. Ps bikes can be hired really cheap on Pender st.

5. I feel I have definitely ranted about this before but the Naam (a restaurant) is a definite must – 10 dollars a meal, really cheap, huge portions and super healthy.

6. Kayaking at deep cove (over on the north shore) is a really nice morning or afternoon out. You can bus there for free with your U-pass (the bus pass you receive when you get here. If you head out to the right of the bay and round the corner you can go ashore on the first island (round at the far side) and picnic on the beach. Technically you may not be supposed to but there are no trespassing signs so I’d say take full advantage of the amazing views.

for some reason this won’t upload straight….

7. The grouse grind is also a good day out. It’s about an hour of sheer hell (I know I’m really selling it here), endless stairs and buckets of sweat. However, the view from the top is, in my Canadian flatmates words, ‘insane’.

8, English bay, Kitsilano beach and Jericho Beach are all good places to watch the sunsets or take a walk.

9. If you want to get off campus to study then Bennies Bagels is a really good place. Amazing bagels, cakes and drinks (inc 3.50 corona’s – surprisingly helpful for studying) with free wireless and it’s open until 2 am. It’s just a 20 min bus ride on the number 99 bus, get off at larch. I’m writing this in Bennies, it’s chilled and lovely.

ok so i know post is a bit random but i hope it sheds some insights into life over here.

i love vancouver – just thought i’d let you know


campsite funsies….


So much to tell……


……….but i’ll stick to the main points

Firstly – BURNS NIGHT : )

There are loads of new exchange students so it’s been lovely meeting them – french, spanish, mexican’s – amazing food and dancing. So….back to burns – we had multiple burns nights that week but unfortunately haggis was hard to come by. Ally (a new guy from glasgow) did manage to find iron bru to add a touch of scottish class….i’m not a fan at home but here (where i can’t have it) it was surprisingly tasty.

Secondly – WHISTLER

So many trips to the slopes!! If you buy a pass in first semester it’s amazing. i thoroughly recommend it. If you can find a friend with a car then it’s cheap as chips to get up there too. A handy money saving tip is to take a microwavable lunch as there is a microwave etc available for general use in the cafe on the hill. Also, if it’s gotten to that inevitable in the minus point in the bank balance (all to easy to do over here with so much to do) then you can even take your own tea bag (scottish cheapness all the way). My flatmate is the queen of minimal spending and it’s definitely rubbing off on me. So yeah – go skiing/boarding, even if you’ve never done it before its great fun. ps – snowsports club do free lessons in the morning.

that’s my flatmate and her friend fixing a tire on the way to whistler – many girls make wheel change. Sorry it’s the wrong way round.


Thirdly – OLYMPICS!!!!!!

Lizzy - a lovely lass : )

The madness most certainly hit – 2 weeks of free concerts, street parties, red and white and ‘oh canada’ (sooooo much ‘oh canada’ – the national anthem). I got to see a bunch of Canadian and American bands and Matisyahu was amazing!! The atmosphere here is amazing. The streets were continually buzzing at all – 24/7 – i’d never seen anything like it. The free stuff (not only concerts but food tasting, zip wires in downtown, extra ice rinks etc too) has all been amazing to my sad looking bank balance. The atmosphere was also unbelievable, especially after the final hockey match victory (extra time, first point wins – you could feeeeeeeeel the tension) – the public transport system turned into a party bus network and the streets were a mass of red and white bodies topped with the word’s widest smiles.

I waited in ‘line’ for 3 hours for a pair of olympic mitts. Some would call it dedication, others stupidity – either way they’re cozy.

This is the Art gallery – all desked out for olympic maddness

I could go on for ages but you get my gist – incredible!

Fourthly – HAWAII !!!….. aloha


I got to go to Hawaii! – a bus to seattle and a cheap internal flight later and i’m there, surfing with the turtles. I know there is loads to do around here, but it was definitely worth heading out there while i was in this neck of the woods. Ten of us went out during reading break and we hiked up to get panoramic views a couple of days, sunbathed on the beach, swam in waterfalls, and surfed in one of the best sports in the world. Although Hawaii is home to some of the biggest waves in the world alone the north shore there are various ones for every ability with some perfect waves breaking at the beach right by our campsite. The friends of Malakahana campsite is literally right on the beach and it was only $8 a night. There was a lovely surf instructor who hung out there during the day and you could rent boards off him pretty cheap. There are also really cute beach shacks to stay in and outdoor showers – very back to nature esk.


If you do go, whatever you do, don’t spend the whole time over in honolulu. As blue crush etc should show you, the north shore is definitely where it’s at – the shrimp, the sunsets, the music, the views – it really has it all. I wish i could live there.


We went to Pearl Harbour, as a history student it was really interesting hearing the American version of WW2 – it’s erm ‘different’.

Remember tho, if you do leave canada you need to tke your UBC acceptance letter to make sure you get back in!


last thing,

FOOD….. a wee bit of Vancouver info

for those coming out here, here’s a heads up on food. Firstly, for anyone veggie there are plenty of cheap tasty places to go out…..the naam being one of the best – yum yum.

In terms of ‘groceries’, the closest place to campus (if you are in the fairview residence at least) is Save on Foods. For there make sure you get a loyalty card, it’s free and it saves you loads. If not then there is ‘no frills’ – a bulk buy place on forth avenue that is much cheaper  and just a shortride on the number 4 bus. There are a couple of safeways too, also a bus ride away and pretty pricey.

if there is anything specific you want me to write about then just let me know…

: ) Rachel

housing and course selection

I’ve been getting lots of questions regarding housing so i thought i’d post a note here. Basically there are loads of options here.

Firstly, you could choose off campus. Although this would be nicer accommodation probably, from what my friends have said it’s just as expensive as lining in residence and it’s a lot further away – bit of a bummer but if there are a bunch of you it could be fun. Tricky if you’re only one semester tho.

In terms of on campus options there is still loads of choice,

There’s Fairview – the townhouse style res. This is the one i choose and i don’t regret it for a second. It is further away from most classes (esp arts ones) but it’s still only a 15 min walk from the furthest building and only 10mins from the gym and the pool. There is a cafe (the beanery) right here and it’s really social. I’ve been lucky getting amazing flatmates (room-mates over here even though you have your own room) which has definitely had an effect on my bias towards this res. I would warn you though, the small rooms are truly tiny – if you like your space, avoid them.

Then there is gage. Although this one looks horrific from the outside it’s alright inside and it gets truly amazing views if you’re lucky enough to get an upper floor. It’s seen as more of a party option and it’s definiely more central but it is a tower block so has a much less personal feel.

There are totem and vanier. These are the first year residences so you can get people under 19 in them although technically anyone can stay here. These places are far more controlled but they do organise amazing events and they are certainly social. These are the catered options so if you’re not up for handling a kitchen these are a good option and the food is very tasty – much better than catered at home. However, if you are over 19 you will definitely be among the oldest there which you could find an issue when you have a million midterms in relation to the average first year. However all this said, Cat (a scottish girl in second year on exchange from Aberdeen) loves it. So it definitely depends on you.

There also marine drive. I’ve only been here once so i don’t know all that much about it but it seemed nice – again self catered. I’m sorry i don’t know more.

All of the on campus residences have a 24 hr manned desk so you always have someone to go to if you need help – ie a spare key when you’ve locked yours in……and you’ve just had a shower…and you’re in your towel…and you have to walk over in the snow bare foot!!! – not fun.

I hope this is of some help when you decide. : )

ok next thing – courses.

Although you get pre assigned courses based on the form you send to the go global office you can change them easily when you get here. The system over here is very easy to use and allows for lots of taster course adding/dropping at the start of term. Also, as an exchange student you can more often than not get into courses that are ‘full’ by going to see the professor in charge, if you give a valid reason (ie. ‘i’m on exchange and i need this course to fill the requirements from my home university’, or  ‘i’m on exchange and i’d love to have the opportunity to take your course as it is not offered at home and the topic fascinates me’) then you should have no problems. Note the shameless us of the exchange card – trust me it’s priceless and useful in more ways than you’d imagine.

i hope this helps,

but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop me a mail and i’ll get back to you as soon as i can.

good luck ! x