Yes, you didn’t misread that, and no, you are not having a stroke. The overpriced school merchandise and textbook mega-store is one of my favourite spots on campus.
Surely, you must be scratching your head and contemplating closing this tab on your browser and continuing your noble quest for cheap, used textbooks on burnthebookstore.com. I wholeheartedly apologize if my remorseless love of the Bookstore has offended you in any way. Moving on.
I arrived on UBC’s gorgeous, sprawling campus this January as a transfer student from Sciences Po in Reims, France. Immediately, I was lured into the Bookstore by the large crowd of students picking up their textbooks and the large displays of UBC spirit everywhere I looked. I wandered through the store, clutching each sweater I passed, and felt a sense of belonging to the institution I would soon be able to call home. After $83.83 and a 30-minute lineup later, I left with a sweater, some miscellaneous trinkets and the satisfaction that I had begun the process of assimilating into the UBC student mould.
While studying in France, school merchandise and sweaters were scarce. All I wanted to do was scream my allegiance to my school from the rooftops or at least the text emblazoned on my sweater. As an international student, I felt a sense of anonymity from the lack of school spirit. My university experience overseas was not branded and as such, it was another subtle way that made me feel like I didn’t belong. In North America, university bookstores feed the desire for students to associate themselves with their education. Although we know we are all students of UBC, the plethora of student merchandise sported daily allows us to visualize our 51,447-strong community.
While I’d like to say I have a pretty good sense of self, it’s easy to forget how important a sense of community is. Although this can be achieved through different measures like making friends and joining clubs, the UBC community as a whole is much bigger than the interactions we have on a daily basis.
So yes, I will buy the overpriced merchandise. The high price tag may cover the fair trade 80/20 cotton blend twill embroidered sweater, but ultimately, it’s a subconscious ticket into a sense of belonging in this huge school. When you decide to wear your UBC merchandise, you’re representing more than three letters on a sweater. You’re representing your community and it’s your goddamn right to be proud of it.
Julia Burnham is a first-year Arts student.