Expat-terns at a Glance

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

UBC's Jumpstart: Confessions as an American UBC Student

Yay! Blurry Imagine Day (first day of classes)! (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

I am currently in the scenic city of Vancouver and have started my studies with orientation as an "international" student at the University of British Columbia. I use the quotation marks because, well, I am from the United States and do not feel that foreign here yet. If one is to generalise, many Americans (or at least the ones I know) patronise most aspects of Canadian life, culture, government, and even at times its sovereignty as a nation. "What even is Canada?," is a common statement on the matter. For this reason, I am vanilla if I were to be a flavour of ice-cream in this thirty-odd flavour assemble of nationalities. A fraction of UBC's incoming freshmen classes attends the institution's annual acclimation sessions, and participants come from all around the world: Canadians from secondary schools abroad, the quintessential third culture kids, and teenagers who have never left their home towns. And then, there is me. The American. I mean, there is more to me, but I am a proud American and I'll say it. I am simply not the eagle holding, flag waving type. Immigrant parent. Naturalized citizen. I was just happy to be there ...

Anyway, Jumpstart, UBC's international orientation, ebbs and flows schedule-wise, giving for most of its participants, no matter what the background, the first tastes of autonomy as an adult. This makes it useful if you want to sleep in at times or show up a little late to a session with some Tim Horton's. Of course, sense the mood of the meeting and manage your time wisely.

The beginning few days of Jumpstart are both overwhelming and rather mellow. Swimming through a sea of new faces, there is the collection of workshops to assist with phone plans and bank accounts and scheduled meetings about safety, alcohol, and drugs, consisting of multiple, identical sessions. This allows students to seize the day at their own paces before orientation truly begins and meetings with assigned learning communities, around thirty of one's peers (in the same faculty). In these groups, students are introduced to collegiate academia and UBC in general with the assistance of leaders and a faculty member.

My LC (learning community) was friendly, active, musical (at least some of us), and came to Canada from all over: Saudi Arabia, Chicago, Illinois, Switzerland, Uyghur sovereign China. LC sessions last for about a week, and some groups are more academic than others. It is the luck of the draw if it will be more relaxed vs rigid when it comes to attendance, participation, and activity. On that note, Arts 06 for life! Our group analysed a short fable, an instructive essay about free writing, and a poem, which though required homework, were helpful introductions back into school work. And, the added preparation hopefully will pay off in the first few weeks.

UBC's Jumpstart was a great two week introduction into Canada and UBC. Sure, some of the seminars were prolonged, but the majority were invaluably useful if not mildly entertaining. I have already been to the academic advising office and am awaiting my MSP (medical service plan) card to come in the mail ... I have been productive.

I have met interesting, hilarious, and charming people during this time. Though the likelihood of remaining close with everyone I encountered is slim to none, I think I have made some supportive relationships here at UBC. In the beginning at least, isn't that all you need? And, now that the Canadians have arrived and Imagine Day (the first day of classes including campus tours, a pep rally, and a club fair) is over, actual schooling begins ...

If you are an international student coming to UBC, I highly recommend Jumpstart. It is everything one would expect from a group of 1.6K international teenagers with two weeks (more or less) of relative freedom. Long days, longer nights. It is also truly useful beyond the social aspects! Understand the document process, try living on your own for a little while, and learn the campus before anyone else! Just make sure your visas are all in order! There were many who could not attend the event because of documentation kerfuffles. Not everyone has such a smooth legal transition into Canada as Americans, so be prudent of your time! Huh. I guess that is one perk of being from where I am from ...

So, classes start soon, like, Wednesday (9/9)! I have my fullest schedule Wednesday, so let's see how that goes. Wish me luck. More to come about food trucks, First Nations studies, starting German ... here we go! University! Ah (in a good way)!

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