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Vantage Student Check-in: Youyou Li on engineering, sailing, and community involvement

Youyou Li (also known as Yvette to her friends), moved from the province of Hubei in central China to join the Vantage Applied Science program. Now in her second term at UBC, she’s the Vantage representative for UBC’s Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), and has discovered a new love for skateboarding and sailing.

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

In the beginning, I didn’t actually apply for Vantage, I applied for direct entry into Mechanical Engineering at UBC — the first program of its kind in Canada. I also liked how multicultural Canada is, making it a great place for international students to study, work, and even immigrate in the future.

But I didn’t have the English for direct entry so was recommended for Vantage instead. I was a bit unhappy at first but now I am very glad I went through Vantage, I’ve made many good friends and have had so many unexpected opportunities.

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

Most of all the English language courses — it has been very useful in helping me settle in and fully understand my Applied Science classes. I’ve also found it very interesting to learn. It’s a little bit interesting that I came here to study Engineering but one of my favourite professors so far has been John Pringle, my English professor in Term 1. I learned a lot from him about linguistics and composing English sentences, which was all very new and useful to me.

The other great benefit is being in a smaller cohort of students with more opportunities, like when running for student councils. Through being elected as the Vantage representative for the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), I’ve learned from very impressive leadership styles, and new skills in language.

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

I think the biggest challenge for me has been the language barrier, especially when socializing with native English speakers.

Time management has also been difficult at times. My schedule in Term 1 was especially challenging because I over committed and joined three different student clubs, which all required quite a bit of time commitment.

What has been the biggest surprise at Vantage?

There have been a lot of surprises, like the English language courses. At first my skills were alright, my IELTS score was okay, I didn’t think I needed extra classes, but later I discovered that the linguistic aspect of our course content turned out to be very useful, my English has improved a lot.

Another surprise has been the opportunity to run for student councils, and become the Vantage representative for the EUS. If I wasn’t in Vantage, I’d be just a regular first-year student and probably wouldn’t be on the council because direct-entry students are usually local, already have friends here from high school, and are native English speakers so it’s very competitive to get a position on council. Whereas as the Vantage rep, it was much easier to get voted in.

What are you planning on majoring in?

I hope I can get into Computer Engineering, which is offered here at UBC Vancouver. My dream job is to be a software programmer.

How do you feel about going to UBC Okanagan for Term 3?

I think it will be quite interesting. We just returned from an excursion to UBCO, the professors are good, but I guess I will find out when I get there.

I’m actually really looking forward to the Capstone Conference at the end of Term 3. We already have a group but we don’t know our concept yet — we're just trying to prepare. I’m excited to present in front of our peers and faculty.

Are you looking forward to second year?

First year has gone so quickly! But I have some goals for the next year — I want to get my drivers’ license, I’d also love to get a co-op position, and I want to get a part-time job as an interpreter when I’m not studying. I’d also like to try a few more different club at UBC before I graduate — I’m interested in the UBC Brewing Club and I want to learn how to cook, especially Chinese food.

Where is your favourite place to study on campus?

I love the silent study room in the library. It’s so peaceful some people fall asleep there, but I just need somewhere quiet to listen to music and think.

Where is your favourite place to eat on campus?

We often order takeout, I miss Chinese food a lot. I think I would cry if I didn’t have proper Chinese food from time to time. But Open Kitchen in Orchard Commons is really good, it’s probably my favourite. I love the chicken breast from the burger station.

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

Last semester I joined the UBC Sailing Club at Jericho Sailing Centre, which I just love. The burgers there are amazing and the sailing is pretty amazing. Especially since my home city is in the middle of China, we don’t have ocean or any watersports like sailing or diving. But I love how close we are at UBC, the ocean views, and watersports in general.

I also love all the big trees around Vancouver, even in Downtown, you don’t get that back in China. The environment is very beautiful and I like all the animals it attracts.

I have also just learned how to skateboard, I started at the beginning of Term 1, so I’m still getting used to it and practicing but I really like skateboarding around campus. It’s also quicker between classes.

What advice would you give to new Vantage students?

Study hard, play hard, and remember to schedule and manage your time.

You really need to set your own deadlines, which is an adjustment from high school when you usually have teachers to remind you what to do every day. Here you are an adult, it’s up to you to work out your own schedule.

I would probably only join two clubs and spend more time studying course content. I didn’t do a good job in my first term.

But it’s also important to get involved with community and clubs and have time away from study. I’ve learned skills in leadership and language from the EUS, and gained courage and learned about teamwork and how to play with nature from the Sailing Club.

I would also suggest making foreign friends, not just socializing with people from your own culture. I think a lot of Vantage students feel shy about speaking to native English speakers or other international students because they’re worried they are incompetent. But it’s okay, go slow, and just try to have a conversation, it can be about anything! We’re all human beings and you can always find a common interest.