Ask Pawan: I’m stuck in the UBC bubble this summer

From interviews to adverts, UBC students and administration alike love to talk about just how much of a “small city” the campus is, with a daytime population of close to 70,000. What isn’t as widely known is the distinctly different feeling campus takes on once April’s emigration ends. Study spaces hollow, Main Mall empty, Martha Piper Fountain woefully un-Instagrammed. It’s a weird vibe and it’s common to ask yourself “what do I even do between April and September?”

I’m embarrassed to say it but I miss school. Summer is so boring and I miss classes because it gave me something to do! Please help.

It seems you’ve found yourself in a spot similar to where our recent grads are — suddenly and intensely aware of a world outside of UBC and a lot of trepidation on how to jump in. Luckily for you, the mini-city you’ve snuggled safely within is itself ensconced in a lively, breathing metropolis! Big tasks are best done in small parts, so how about we start small.

Breaking Through Blanca

I know how you might be feeling: Vancouver is huge, teeming with people and feels like it’s catered to all residents, besides you. If that’s how you feel about the city, chances are you’ve felt that before and, if you think back far enough, it’s probably how you felt as you passed Blanca going west. Coming to a campus known for its expansive beauty only to be met with confusing streets, apathetic pedestrians and a penchant for getting honked at, your first few months placed you well on your way to becoming a regular Vancouverite! It’s just a matter of getting out there and putting your theories to work.

Viewing Vancouver’s Varieties

You zip up your brightly coloured rain slicker, you shoulder your heavily stocked backpack and you switch on Google Maps’ comforting blue line. Dismount the 99 — pausing to commend the driver for their good work — and you find yourself in the middle of a kinda-residential, maybe-commercial, definitely-gentrified area of town that promises you the world but only sells coffee. You’re on Main Street, kid, now hop along before someone shoulders you and murmurs an expletive… or was that an apology?

As you weave your way about the Lower Mainland, taking in the parks, the waterfront and the inexplicable smell, you’ll start noticing the things UBC fails to offer. A bar where the patrons look not as worn down as the wood-grain tabletops, a boutique’s aroma of a hundred fabric softeners and a barber shop run by a guy so sharp he up-sold you on the hot shave before you heard the bell chime. You won’t find experiences like that if you keep yourself caged to the few square kilometres we call a campus. Sure, UBC is comfortable and you’ve likely got a routine to your afternoons, but there’s no reason you can’t replace that local Starbucks with another indie rock-loving cafe, 10 minutes east from there.

There’s a bit of fun to be had when you walk into a shop or bar or diner and see a variety of people UBC doesn’t play host to. There are older folks, kids, parents and just about anyone not hovering around upper-middle class. That last bit is an important one to keep in mind, as gentrification is something that can sound fun and exciting for the affluent few, but has real consequences for a lot of folks who depend on those establishments you’re visiting. That shouldn’t stop you from wandering in to give an old diner some new clientele, but just stay mindful of the area’s goings-on and be respectful of the regulars and the community. Finding a neighbourhood you like and getting familiar with the residents, hotspots and points of interest that aren’t Yelp-certified is an undertaking, but it’s also a way to see things through a lens that varies a good bit from what yours used to be. It might take a while but the sun’s high and the weather’s warm, so give it a go and find a home away from home.

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