Navigating UBC: A Guide to Making the Most of Your First Year

Your first year at UBC can be overwhelming. Juggling a new way of learning, a newfound sense of independence, and clubs for just about everything is not the easiest of tasks.

While adjusting to university life may come with its challenges, UBC has so much to offer including a number of stunning outdoor spaces to explore, a wide array of delicious food options and plenty of unique, can’t-miss events.

Raunaq Nambiar, a fifth-year Natural Resource Conservation student, shares his top-10 must-see and do guide to navigating your first year at UBC in the Faculty of Forestry.

1. Visit every garden on campus

If it has the word “garden” in it, it’s a must-visit. UBC is one of Canada’s most walkable and well-planned, and the amount of green space on campus is one of those things you’ll learn to take for granted (as I did). Many of these spaces are free to enter for UBC Students.

The Nitobe Memorial Garden and UBC Botanical Gardens are highlights that must be checked out. The former’s Japanese design elements and koi ponds, and the latter immense plant biodiversity and outstanding reading spots make them excellent core first-year memories. Go along with your friends or relish in this new phase of your life on a solo adventure, you’ll be sure to have a good time regardless.

BONUS: Pacific Spirit Park, on the outskirts of campus, is a must-visit if you’re looking for a casual trail through the woods to walk through or bike through.

2. Places to grind the hardest for those finals

Asking university students what their favourite study spots are is like asking philosophers what the best way to salvation is. You’ll always get a different answer, people will change their answers all the time, and each one is convinced that they’re in the right. That being said, here’s my go to list of study spots which are objectively good and not totally skewed by my personal experiences and circumstances.

Forestry – you’ll soon find out that everyone thinks this, and the building often gets crowded very quickly with everyone vying to study under the trees. If you can nag a spot, relish it. We truly do have the best building on campus. Bonus points for sitting on the fourth floor under the sun.

Libraries Galore – UBC is home to a plethora of libraries, each one carrying their own unique charm that facilitates being as productive as lo-fi girl. Personal favourites include the upper floors of the Allard Law Library (north campus), the Ridington Room in the Irving K. Barber Library, the basement of Koerner’s library (if you’re feeling like being bunkered in a basement during a cold winter storm and want that closed in ultra-focussed feel), and the Education Library.

AMS Nest – Yes, I know, this place doesn’t need any more exposure, but the upper floors of the Nest have some lovely seating areas that face both campus and the MacInnes field and bus loop. These both make for therapeutic study spots as you see the motions of life pass you.

3. NYOM NYOM: Essential UBC Eats

Studying and potentially living on campus means you will have to come to terms with the food on campus. As you’ll soon come to know, campus eats are consistently two things – unpredictable in terms of quality and portion sizes, and predictable in its not-so-affordable pricing. $20 poke bowls will certainly eat into your wallet. Hence, I’ll let you in on the places that us seniors go to to find good food that still allows us to pay rent.

International Food Village – Located just below, this space is filled with cheap gems, the Crown Jewels which include My Home Cuisine (for cheap rice + 2 sides Chinese takeout) and Miyamae sushi (good value for sushi).

FreshSlice – This establishment near McDonald’s has the cheapest slices of pizza in the area. While certainly lacking the diversity of Pizza Garden or the Sesame Crust of Uncle Fatih’s, if all you’re looking for is some late night grease, this will get you to that goal with the fewest dollars.

Flavor Lab – Located in the Nest basement, this place isn’t that cheap, but for the amount it charges you get some absolutely outstanding food. The frybread Korean burger is a personal favourite, and their low-cost menu is sure to help when looking for quick bites (like their one-piece chicken and fries!)

ELITE TIP: In Forestry, you may be tempted to get your food and coffee fixes from the Tim’s in the building. However, across the street in the MacMillan building is one of the best-kept secrets of campus food – the one and only Agora Café. Run by the students of LFS on a volunteer basis, their chana masala, Thai curry, and chocolate chip muffins are delectable!

4. NYOM NYOM: Coffee Edition

No relationship is more toxic than an undergraduate student’s relationship with caffeine. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to get that caffeine in a somewhat flavourful cup of coffee. Forestry is surrounded by coffee shops, with Starbucks, Bean Around The World, and Tim Hortons all being located 30 seconds – 3 mins away from the building. That being said, explore other shops on campus!

Coffee Shops to check out:

Great Dane Coffee – Located on the north end of campus next to the Allard Law Library, this dog-themed cafe is well known for their “Jeremy” sandwich and offers a warm outdoor seating area complete with a fireplace!

Corner Store – Located next to the bookstore, this little grocery store isn’t anything special in the coffee world. Desperation, however, allows one to see the joy in everything, and if it is for you, they sell a cup of black coffee for $1 (!!!). It doesn’t get lower than that!

The Beanery – Located in Fairview Crescent, this little cafe is tucked away amongst some summer UBC residence areas and is a divine place to relax with a cup of coffee and either work or read. Located in the sleepier parts of campus, peace is found abundantly, and you’ll find that to be a rare commodity as your classes pick up in pace.

5. NYOM NYOM Shoutout: Blue Chip

Blue Chip Cafe is a must-visit. Located in the Nest, they serve coffee, and sandwiches, and even have some of their baked goods for a discounted price from the previous day. Their claim to fame, however, is their wide selection of cookies. From the ooey-gooey chocolate chunk to the ever-iconic Marbelous cookie, these sweet discs of joy will come to be reliable partners by your side throughout your time at UBC. At least one of them will become your go-to. It’s a cannon event I can’t help it.

6. Best Beach-Offs (any Barbie fans?)

Our campus is home to beaches (a statement that is, for the rest of the country, a dream).

You may have already heard of Wreck Beach, the most popular beach on campus (for reasons both innocent and not so).

There are many other beaches in and around campus worthy of your time! Tower Beach on the north end of campus is one such spot. While mostly rocky, it offers a skyline view of North and West Vancouver and is much quieter than Wreck.

Walk further eastwards and you’ll come across Spanish Banks, where low tide offers a vast expanse of freshly exposed intertidal zones for you to walk everywhere.

7. Feel the Burn!

UBC is home to a wide range of fitness options and opportunities, and many of these are either significantly discounted for students or, on certain occasions, are completely free! Gym memberships start at $40/term, and it’s completely free to use the aquatic centre to get a quick swim in!

From September 11th to 17th, UBC Recreation is hosting a Free Week, where normally paid services like Pilates and Power Cycling sessions are absolutely free to attend! Don’t forget to register for them beforehand.

Bonus tip: The faculty is home to a large number of climbers, and if you’re one (or are just curious), you’ll be happy to know that there are not one, but two climbing spaces on campus! Located on the upper floors of the AMS Nest is The Aviary, while the Recreation Centre has the BirdCoop Climbing Cave, located inside the BirdCoop Gym (hence requiring a gym membership to use).

8. UBC Special Events

UBC is host to a bunch of events that happen throughout the year that really crystallize what it means to be here, and you’re more than welcome to try how many ever you feel like! Some include:

Day of the Longboat – It’s just you and your friends on a boat in Jericho Beach fighting for your life trying to beat the other teams. What’s better than that?

Storm The Wall – Can you and a team get above a wooden wall erected in front of the Nest the fastest? That’s what this seeks to find out! If you’re feeling truly olympic you can also do the whole race and the climb by yourself!

UBC Triathalon – Swim, run, bike, celebrate!

Polar Bear Swim – It’s uncertain what possessed people to engage in this, but its status as a UBC staple is certain. Gather on the beach in the cold and run into the icy waters come December. That’s it. It’s fun though (trust).

Snowball Fight – Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like, and it is FUN. Hosted by the UBC Calendar (a party club), keep an eye out for their announcement and get ready for some sanctioned icy acts of war against your fellow students!

9. Museums

From the Beaty Biodiversity Museum’s massive blue whale skeleton to the innumerable number of rocks at the Pacific Museum of the Earth, UBC is host to immense knowledge (truly Alexandria in its scale if you ask me). You also get in for free as a UBC Student, what more of a reason do you need?

10. UBC Farm

That’s right, we have a farm! Not only that, but we have a farmer’s market (Saturdays from 10 AM – 2 PM). From produce to science experiments to cinnamon buns to hidden trails, this hidden gem is essential for the Forestry/LFS kind of person, and can be found in Wesbrook Village!