On Monday, I started seeing some high school age students walking around campus. Given the time of year, I thought I knew who they were, but a quick look at the badges around their neck confirmed my suspicions. They were UBC Connect participants.

High school students, from grades ten and eleven, from mostly around BC are invited each year to sample a taste of university life at UBC for about a week.

They show up on a Sunday and are put in a first-year residence. During the week, they attend a plethora of seminars which aims to expose them to as many different departments as possible. The participants eat residence food and in the evenings are given time to explore campus facilities.

Over ten years ago, I myself was one of those high school students in the UBC Connect program. The week I spent at UBC had a big influence on my choice of university after high school. In grade twelve, I discovered that a lot of my classmates were going to SFU. It would have been closer, easier, and cheaper to go there myself, but I remembered how nice the UBC campus was. Also, being so far away from my parents’ home, I would have needed to move out. I guess I wanted a big change in my life.

In retrospect, the UBC Connect program is fairly good representation of what a first-year student faces when they get to UBC. You’re dropped off in res with all these new people that you don’t know. If you’re from out of town, then Vancouver is totally new to you, and on top of that, you have this big campus to deal with. As well, you live in this tiny room now, and you probably have a roommate. No more living with Mom and Dad. You start eating your meals off a tray now too. I won’t even start with the communal bathrooms. In the day, you’re rushing around to these seminars and I bet they put them all over the place so these poor kids have to hoof it on foot or else be late. In the evenings, there are dozens of social activities that try to pull their interest in different directions. And to top it off, they have to get to bed in a reasonable hour so they can attend the morning seminars.

I imagine the whole week might be a bit overwhelming for some, but it’s the reality of university life. The first year is really about rushing around, learning the ropes, and surviving.

What’s cool is that the one week they spend here might affect the rest of their lives. He or she might attend a seminar about trees and decide, “I thought forestry was interesting, but it’s just not my cup of tea, I’m glad I found that out.” Later on, they might go to a seminar about greek drama and find out that really interests them. They might not become experts in greek drama, but at least they have a starting point in their higher education.

Every year, they need to hire supervisors to make sure the kids don’t go crazy while away from the folks. I couldn’t apply this year because I already had a job, but maybe next year!

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