Vantage Student Check In: Alireza Gazor on physics, star gazing, and faculty support

Alireza Gazor (also known as Ali), moved from the capital city of Iran, Tehran, to join UBC’s Vantage One Science program. Now as he begins his final term in Vantage, he reflects on his growing interest in physics and appreciation for supportive faculty.

What motivated you to choose UBC's Vantage One program?

I did my schooling in Iran but I really wanted to study abroad because the education system is generally much better. After high school, I spent a year or so studying English before I started my university applications. I have an uncle and two cousins who already lived in Vancouver, who encouraged me to apply for UBC. I originally chose UBC’s direct-entry science program, but because of my IELTS results, was accepted into the Vantage One Science program instead. So, I did some research and it seemed like a good option because I really wanted to study at UBC, I’d heard so many positive things, but my English writing skills needed some extra work.

What have been the major benefits of doing this pathway program?

One of the benefits of the program I’d have to say is the course material. I’m not going to say it’s easier, if anything it’s harder than the direct-entry course content because we seem to study a lot harder. But it does make you understand the content more and gives you an advantage. I mean, by our Term 2 midterms, I was helping my direct-entry friends with their homework — they’re all jealous of how much support we get from our professors at Vantage.

That’s the other advantage — the professors in Vantage really are the best of the best. They are all so encouraging and helpful, and I love my TAs.
Like the night before my Chemistry midterm, I texted a question to my professor, assuming that it was way too late and I probably wouldn’t get a reply. But she actually answered. It’s amazing the support you get here, I’ve never had that in my life. I am very lucky to get to be in a program like this. 

The other advantage is the smaller class sizes and the class structure. I also like that we will have classes over different days — not just one two-hour lecture and then a tutorial right afterwards like they do in some direct-entry classes. Spreading classes across different days makes it easier to retain what you’ve learned because you’re not exhausted.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced here at UBC?

That’s a good question. I mean in Science most students seem to be Chinese, so it’s easier for them to communicate and socialise amongst themselves. But for me, because I don’t share their common language, it can be more challenging when making friends in class.

What has been the biggest surprise at Vantage?

I didn’t expect there to be so much coursework. When I compare my workload to my friends who are direct-entry students, they don’t seem to have as much. It is a good thing though, we learn so much more, but I didn’t expect it.

The other surprise I guess is my new interest in astronomy. I joined the UBC Astronomy Club and it’s the best group of people, they’re so knowledgeable. They have a lot of events off campus, I’ve learned a lot about the stars.

What are you planning on majoring in?

I want to major in Physics. My Physics and Maths has always been strong, but I have trouble memorizing things as opposed to working it out with an equation. I want to understand what’s really going on around us and find the reasons behind what happens every day in our daily lives.
My dream job is to make discoveries in Physics, like an observation research scientist or theorist. So, I have much more study ahead.

Are you looking forward to second year?

I think it’s going to be okay. I’m kind of nervous about picking up classes next year because I don’t know the instructors. I have been speaking to my TAs and they’ve been giving good advice, so I think it will be fine.

I’m going to move off campus, but not far because this is the best place, you have like everything here. I like living amongst a student population, we understand each other, we have common stuff to talk about like studying and our course content.

Where is your favourite place to study on campus?

I really like the UBC Rose Garden. There are awesome views from it, with the mountains and ocean and amazing sunsets. I also like that it’s easy to get to, unlike Wreck Beach, which is also beautiful, but there’s all those stairs to reach it.

Where is your favourite place to eat on campus?

I like Open Kitchen in Orchard Commons. I really love tacos from the Square Meal Kitchen there on Tuesdays.

In all of Vancouver, where is your favourite place to visit?

Vancouver is a beautiful city, especially Downtown because it reminds me of my hometown of Tehran, with lots of people around. I mean the population of Tehran’s city area is like 15 million, but then the whole population of Canada is only like 37 million, just over double that. So, when I go Downtown and it’s busy and crowded and lots of things happening, it kind of feels like home.

I also like bike riding around Stanley Park — there are beautiful views.

What advice would you give to new Vantage students?

I would study from the first day. There is a lot of work to get through.
Another really important thing to do is speak with your professors early. They really do care and can be friends. If they know you and your capability, they can help you.

Also, make sure you go to Jump Start, it’s a very good event and a great way to make lots of friends. Everyone is in the same position when they first arrive at Vantage, everyone is starting out with no friends, so it’s important to not miss Jump Start.