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English-language pathways to UBC - How Vantage One helped Maryo excel in his degree

Name: Maryo Wahba
From: Minya, Egypt
Program: BA in International Relations (via Vantage One)

[This story was originally posted on UBC's central admissions blog:]

Maryo came to UBC with the goal of studying how international governments can serve the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Originally from Egypt but completing his high school studies in Germany, Maryo didn’t quite meet UBC’s English language requirement, but his academic record and passion to help create global change helped him win a scholarship for UBC’s Vantage One program. The one-on-one support and additional English classes allowed him to transition seamlessly into his International Relations degree in his second year, all without adding any extra time to his studies. Maryo is now ready to graduate, after developing new leadership skills, networking with some of the brightest minds in the world, and spending a year in Mexico on exchange.

You have a very international background. Why did you choose to come UBC?

After finishing my International Baccalaureate in Germany, I wanted to equip myself with the knowledge needed to make a difference in the world. I wanted to go to a place where my mind could thrive, so when UBC offered me the Vantage One Excellence Award, it seemed like the perfect place to spend the next four years. And, of course, the stability that Canada provides made UBC even more appealing as a choice.

Can you describe how Vantage college works, and why you chose the Vantage pathway?

Vantage is an academic platform where curious minds from the non-English speaking world learn together in an enriching environment. Vantage students are those who didn’t meet UBC’s English language requirements when they applied. They join the program for their first year, and still graduate from UBC within only four years. In Vantage, professors understand if you are having difficulties adjusting to the new English-language learning environment and will go out of their way to help you.

What was the best thing about being part of Vantage?

The one-on-one support and attention from the teachers help you build a solid intellectual foundation and prepare you for the challenging nature of UBC’s classes. Vantage’s small class sizes means that professors can adjust their expectations to the performance of every single student, which definitely maximized my academic potential.

During my year at Vantage, I met a lot of people that I will never forget. But I also enjoyed experiencing a world-class education that really fostered my critical and independent thinking skills – especially since the faculty and staff did their best to create an intellectually nurturing environment. I also came to appreciate how Vantage had high standards for our academic performance, which always pushed me to do better.

Can you talk about a particular professor or Vantage class that you found particularly helpful?

Professor Simon Lolliot undoubtedly played a major role in my personal development. He was not only a brilliant lecturer who helped you to love his subject, but he was also a personal mentor who cared deeply about the well-being of his students. He was young and passionate, but he was also wise and knowledgeable. He was very unique, and I was truly honored to be introduced to UBC through him.

How did you find your transition into second year, and your Bachelor of Arts degree?

Personally, I had a smooth transition into second year, primarily because Vantage prepared me really well. I was excited to explore the wealth of courses offered by UBC and I enjoyed being able to pick the ones that interested me the most. Even when you leave Vantage, UBC’s resources and opportunities are endless. For some, it may be a little overwhelming at first, but hopefully it won’t take you long until you find your path and start creating your ideal university experience.

By encouraging students to closely interact with their professors, Vantage ingrained in me the value of attending office hours and actively participating in class. Now that I’m about to graduate in a few months, I can confidently say that those two habits helped me maintain a relatively high average. Even when I left Vantage, I have still been able to count on its support and resources until now.

UBC strikes a healthy balance between being a world-class academic institution that expects high-quality performance from its students and being a vibrant university environment that fosters a sense of belonging, engagement and initiative.

Do you belong to any teams, groups or clubs on campus? Did you find the time to pursue these interests while you were in Vantage, which has a heavier course-load than other programs?

While I was in Vantage, I was elected to become the Arts Undergraduate Society's first-year representative. This position immersed me into UBC’s larger community and was a needed booster for my self-confidence.

During my second year I was involved in the International Relations Students Association and I spend my third year on an exchange in Mexico. During my fourth year, I branched out off-campus to volunteer with the Canadian Center of the Responsibility to Protect. Throughout, extracurricular activities were almost as important as academics for my personal growth and experiential learning.

What would you want other students who are thinking of applying to Vantage to know about the experience?

If you are driven by your passion for knowledge, but English has always been the barrier between you and your desired level of education, then Vantage college is the best place to go to on the Canadian West Coast. It’s academically demanding but also very nurturing and rewarding. And the best thing about the program’s structure is that you improve your English while progressing through your university courses, so you can graduate in four years without wasting any time.