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The Jump Start Student Experience

Post by Katrina Dan Zhao, UBC Vantage College Orientation Assistant

It is nerve-racking to start a new journey in another country. When I first landed in Canada two years ago, I was nervous yet excited at the same time. Being able to attend UBC was literally like a dream come true to me (especially after the long application and admission process)! My heart was pumping and I was so eager to live a life surrounded by multicultural friends. What I didn’t know was this: my journey at UBC wouldn’t go exactly as I planned, and that I would go through some twists and turns on my way to friendship.

Upon arriving in Canada, I was picked up by UBC Chinese Students & Scholars Association (UBC CSSA), who will also be working together with UBC Vantage College to provide airport pickup services this year. On my way to UBC, the bus driver kindly introduced Vancouver to us, but I was too jetlagged to pay attention. I was completely lost, and the next thing I knew I had arrived safely in in my little room in Place Vanier.

Next morning, I met my Jump Start leader Lizzie, a third-year student in psychology who transferred from UBC Okanagan, and other students in my orientation group. Contrary to what you thought I would be writing about, I didn’t make friends with them immediately. Before I arrived, I had always imagined that I would just automatically blend in with the local culture and make friends with everyone I see. It wasn’t the case here. I found out that in my group, some students already met each other awhile from Facebook, some students even went to the same high school, and some simply don't seem to want to talk to anyone. So in conclusion, it didn’t go as I planned!

However, I was never someone to stay in her comfort zone, and you can only start making new friends and make the most out of your experience when you start making an effort. So when Lizzie started her icebreaker games, I took the initiative. I talked to everyone in my group and tried to remember their names. Talking to others is scarier than I thought! If English is your second language like me, talking to people is basically like a constant exam where you have to be conscious of not making any mistakes so people don’t make fun of you; but as I talked to more and more people, I realized that other students are just as scared as I am. After a few rounds of socialising, I completely changed my mind on my groupmates. They aren’t exclusive, they are just scared too, and our Jump Start leader was there to help us break the ice.

The following two weeks was a complete orientation package on adopting the UBC life: socially, academically and logistically. Through Jump Start, I met some faculty members, made friends, and set up my bank accounts. From getting lost in the Buchanan building (you’ll see what I mean when you get here!) to guiding other students, we started to build bond with UBC and start making it our place. We also got time to explore Vancouver in general, and see what a beautiful city it is.  I made friends from different places where I never thought it would happen. When the school year started, our friendship continued, even though we were not in the same classes. This year, I applied to become a Jump Start leader myself, because I truly wanted students to be able to benefit as much as I did, and this shall be my part of my legacy at UBC!