A panoramic peek into UBC residences

A room in Place Vanier.

So you’ve applied, been accepted and now you’re wondering where to live. The UBC Housing website has fun descriptive words like “extraordinary experience” and “study-oriented atmosphere.” But what does that even mean? (The correct answer is nobody knows what it means, but it’s provocative — it gets the people going.)

The Ubyssey presents: the Good Ol’ One-Two on On-Campus Housing.

Totem Park and Place Vanier

If you’re a new student or straight out of high school, your choice is pretty easy, especially if you’re limited by age. In fact, chances are you’ll be placed into either Totem Park or Place Vanier. I know only a handful of people that didn’t get placed there in their first year. The differences between the two residences are very minor. Totem has Colour Wars, Vanier has Vanier Olympics. Totem has a touch football league, Vanier has an Ultimate Frisbee league. The only thing of real note is that Totem’s buildings all have elevators while only two do in Vanier — an important thing to note for the lazy.

Place Vanier residence room.
Place Vanier residence room.

Click, drag and zoom in and out on the photosphere below to get a better idea of what the room looks like:

There is some debate about the different cafeterias. But as someone who's eaten at both, they are equally bad. Not to say they are terrible, but they both get their food from the same UBC Food Services. After six months, you tend to get sick of having the same options every day.

As for the actual rooms, unless you’re in Totem’s həm̓ləsəm̓ or q̓ələχən houses — suite-style rooms with a two-room shared bathroom — they are the same in both residences.

Totem Park residence room.
Totem Park residence room.

Ritsumeikan-UBC House

If you don’t get placed into Totem or Vanier, then you will be put in a traditionally upper-year residence. Don’t worry about this. So many more first-years come in each year that Gage’s North Tower and Ritsumeikan-UBC House is entirely first-years now. You may not get the “classic” freshman experience, but it's possible if you want to — plus, you can cook your own food!

Much like other suite-style housing, "Rits" has four single bedrooms that share two bathrooms, a kitchen and living room. You share a Commonsblock with Totem and you should be able to join their events — in addition to your own — if you talk to your RA.

Ritsumeikan residence room.
Ritsumeikan residence room.

Walter Gage Towers

Walter Gage Towers are also an option for both first-years and upper-years. As I’ve said, North Tower is all first-years, living in six-bedroom suites with two bathrooms, a shared kitchen and living room. It’s actually a cool place, super close to central campus and Residence Advisors (RAs) try to get it as active as they can for the first-years. Upper-years have the choice of a studio, one-bedroom or six-bedroom for year-round accommodation. Because you are living with so many people, Gage can be more social than other housing options, especially if your roommates are good.

Walter Gage Towers residence room.
Walter Gage Towers residence room.

Marine Drive

Marine Drive Building 5 was also listed as an option for first-years, but this is mainly upper-year housing and you will likely not get the first-year experience. It is quiet, clean and much more of an apartment than anything else. I lived there for a year and I would recommend it for students who can afford to live on campus — especially for the big windows with nice views.

The rest of Marine is very similar. Marine has studios as well as two-, three- and four-bedroom suites for year-round and winter housing. As one of the newer buildings on campus, it’s quite nice and its elevators don’t seem to have the problem Pond’s does.

Marine Drive residence room.
Marine Drive residence room.

Ponderosa Commons

Speaking of Ponderosa Commons, this upper-year, year-round housing offers much more than free falls and expensive rent — and yes, I'm talking about the construction in the morning. I’m kidding, sort of. Pond offers furnished studios as well as two-bedroom and four-bedroom suites that are very much in apartment style. It’s really quite nice inside and like all upper-year residences, the social life is quieter. You will have an RA who will be required to run events — like every RA — so if you want a social life within your house, it is possible.

As a side note, UBC Housing claims that Pond is the home of “UBC's favourite pizzeria, Mercante” and I should set it straight that Pi R Squared has this reporter’s heart.

Ponderosa residence room
Ponderosa residence room

Fairview Crescent and Thunderbird

Fairview Crescent and Thunderbird, on the other hand, are more of a townhouse the anything else. One-, four-, or six-bedroom apartments are offered. Fairview is winter session housing while Thunderbird is year round, but both offer similar experiences — on-campus living without the hassle of the usual on-campus living. Chances are you’ll only meet your RA once or twice, unless they are especially keen.

Fairview Crescent residence room
Fairview Crescent residence room
Thunderbird residence room.
Thunderbird residence room.

Fraser Hall

Fraser Hall seems to be along the same threads as Fairview and Thunderbird as it's more or less unofficially reserved for graduate and mature students. There are only six-bedroom suites, though Fraser likes to pamper you with bi-weekly housekeeping. It’s much newer (as in nicer), but your experience – like most residences here – will be largely determined by your roommates.

Fraser Hall residence room
Fraser Hall residence room

Click here for a 360 degree view of the Fraser Hall room seen above!

Orchard Commons and Iona House

I'm afraid there are currently no photos available for these residences as they have yet to open. Iona House shares Gage’s facilities and is housed in the Old Vancouver School of Theology, so it gets points alone for being pretty like a medieval castle. Furnished studios, one- and two-bedroom suites are available, but there are only 23 spots, so chances are you will not get a place there.

Orchard Commons is opening up this year, so I do not know anything about it other than it being “home to Vantage College,” which means I’ll probably never step foot in it.

*UBC Housing Services will work with you if you are Trans*, gender fluid or otherwise non-binary.