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International Exchange

Settling in- My First Week at UBC!

7 September 2019


I left Vancouver Airport at 3pm on Saturday. It didn’t take much more than half an hour to get to UBC and I was checked in my room by 4. I quickly unpacked and decorated my room as much as I could before I met my new flatmates; then, we got some Korean food before calling it a night.


After very little sleep we adventured to Ikea- we were there for 5 hours… even for me that was too much! We got home, quickly sorted the kitchen and my new décor items then headed back out to visit the biggest supermarket on campus, we didn’t leave there until gone 10pm. I was exhausted.

First shock: $12 for some deodorant!


I spent most of Monday morning making up for my severe lack of sleep! I didn’t leave my room until around midday when I grabbed some breakfast and headed back to bed- I watched a lot of Friends, drifting in and out of sleep! In the evening the residence put on a BBQ so we grabbed a (veggie!) hotdog and got to know the many others staying at Fairview.


The first day it hit me I was away, although there wasn’t much time to dwell on it as I had my UBC orientation; including a campus tour, various talks on life at UBC and the equivalent of a Freshers Fair. Afterwards I got home, and won’t lie, I got a little (a lot) homesick.

Shock: Canadian Freshers Fairs are SO much more intense than British ones, The University Main Mall was crammed full of people in Navy and Gold, screaming at you to join their incredibly niche society.

A very, very busy Freshers Fair- it was quite overwhelming.


The complete opposite to Tuesday- the best so far! My first lecture was scheduled at 12am so at 11:15 I set off- extremely early considering maps told me it was a 15-minute walk- only to walk around the Earth building 6 times trying to find any signs directing me to my room. I walked in and out through hundreds of doors- becoming more and more panicked. Eventually at 11:50 I found a room with an open door; I peeked my head in and very awkwardly told a confused lecturer I was very lost, could they point me in the right direction. Luckily, she led me through a maze of corridors, eventually finding my room at 11:59. After profusely thanking her I turned to go into the room.


A Canadian guy who was also waiting told me that often lectures were cancelled in the first couple of days. We waited until about 12:15 and after no sign of the lecturer or other students we gave up. I headed home deflated, but my flatmates cheered me up, we had lunch, went to a different supermarket (much cheaper- deodorant $6 here) and cooked tea together chatting for a couple of hours before bed.


Thursday ended up being my first day of lectures, I started the day with Volcanology- this time I half knew where I was going so found my room much quicker. I then had an hour break so went to Starbucks with another exchange student from Volcanology who was lovely. At 11 I had Computer Methods in Earth and Ocean sciences- not what I expected- essentially a programming course, I knew straight away it wasn’t for me. After uni I headed to the post office to buy some stamps and ended up with a new moose.

Shock: Volcanology was so different to any lecture I’ve had before. It was more like a High School class where my professor handed round specimens and interacted with us instead of talking at us for an hour, it was refreshing.


Today was dominated by lots of admin- all plans of exploring the city abandoned after hating my computer module- I spent the day sorting my finances and sending off emails to lecturers asking if I could move courses, luckily this was successful and I am now enrolled on an Igneous Petrology course- much more me!

Lets face it, the highlight of my week was when my kettle arrived so I could have my first Canadian cup of tea!

My week featured some highs and a good few lows but has improved steadily as I have settled in, Uni helped to take my mind off things and I’m excited to really get stuck into my courses.

My plans for the weekend include exploring Vancouver and tackling a washing machine for the first time over here so I’ll be sure to keep you updated!


  1. Sam Mordey-Jones

    Sounds like an action packed week! Keep us updated x (big fan of the moose!)

  2. Sheila O'Reilly

    Enjoyed reading this blog ….you will get into a routine once the ‘newness’ has worn off … must seem bewildering at times – but you can do it. Lectures all sound very interesting and look forward to reading your next update. (I suggested to Grandad that I do you a ‘shoe box’ of necessary items i.e. Deodorant etc.,and post out to you – I was joking but he thinks I am serious). Enjoy your weekend of down-time. …..Love xx Nan ‘n’ Grandad xxx

  3. Donya O'Reilly

    Cannot believe it is a week already! So glad you are finally settling in and sorting things out so that they work for you. Have an amazing time discovering Vancouver can’t wait to find out all about it. So proud of you Mumxx

  4. Marie Frascina

    Fantastic account of first week at UBC !
    Niamh lovely to read all about your experiences, enjoy exploring Vancouver xxx

  5. Paul O'Reilly

    Good reading. It will become “the norm” quick enough. If you need stuff to “make you feel at home”, ask. Hit home for me tonight – watching Strictly without you here was wierd. As was F1 qualy (which was farcical) and the innings of Joe Root (which was even more so !). Get your creature comforts sorted and it will be a doddle !. Dad xx

  6. Joe O'Reilly

    Sorry for not being as prompt as usual. As you know today has been very busy! Good to know you are settling in. Don’t think it will hit most people you are gone until after the international break!

  7. Chrys

    Hiya Niamh, nice to read your blog. Like ” Canadai”, love your make up. Looks a lovely campus. Been keeping Sam busy for you. Please keep us posted about your experience wish I was there, love always Chrys and Stephen ❤️ xxx from Caerphilly

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