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Explore Your Campus: UBC Edition

By Raven Nyman

The University of British Columbia. (Getty)

The University of British Columbia. (Getty)

As far as university campuses go, we’re pretty lucky at the University of British Columbia here in Vancouver. Surrounded by lush forest on three sides, and ocean on the fourth, UBC is the epitome of picturesque. A typical walk down Main Mall leads you through beautiful architecture, bustling crowds of students on their way to class, a good chance of spotting an eagle, and a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean from our Rose Garden. Let’s not forget this campus is enormous; UBC’s sister university in the Okanagan boasts nearly 8,500 students, while UBC Vancouver educates just under 53,000 students per year, per their website’s 2015/16 overview.

Typically, the number of people in UBC’s Student Union Building alone eclipses the total population of the small town I grew up in. Understandably then, exploring campus can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. At a university this large, you can discover new things on campus every day. Here are eight awesome things to do on campus; perfect for the first-time visitor, the Vancity local, or even the student just looking to learn a bit more about their school.

The Modified Maltese Labyrinth outside of the Vancouver School of Theology, Iona Building. The School of Theology is a beautiful building to visit itself if you’re a fan of old cathedrals and castles (it’s not quite a castle, but it sure looks like one). Though small, this stone labyrinth allows for self-reflection and meditation amidst the Iona Building’s garden. If you’re wondering what in the world I’m on about, you may be confusing a labyrinth with a maze. A maze is designed as a walk-through puzzle, and can often be a bit frightening, especially if you get lost and you’ve seen the Shining. But a labyrinth is different; it serves a more meditative purpose and is said to be reflective of life’s journey, providing a singular path that leads you to the center then back out again.

Rare Books and Special Collections on the first floor of Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. This is somewhat of an English student’s heaven, but worth the visit for anyone with an appreciation for literature and history. The card catalogue system brings you back to the non-digitized age, and there’s something here for everyone. From first edition texts to period dress, you name it. The current exhibit marks the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death, with first editions of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion on display, as well as gorgeous period gowns, and much more.

Foucault’s pendulum behind the Abdul Ladha Science Student Centre. For the more science inclined, a visit to Foucault’s pendulum is certainly worth a quick trip. Housed within a glass room of ALSSC, this clever device displays the rotation of the earth. It’s love at first sight for a scientist, and still cool whether you’re interested in science or not.

Wreck Beach. Clothing is optional, fireworks and bon fires are frequent. Ocean view, gorgeous sunsets, sea-otters, a breath-taking descent and a thigh-burning hike back up. No crowds, and all this just across the street from UBC’s Vanier residences. Need I say more?

Riddington Room in Irving K. Barber (aka the Harry Potter Room). This used to be one of my favorite study spots, because what’s better than studying somewhere that resembles Hogwarts? We’re talking spiral staircase, insane glass chandelier, huge portraits all over the walls of UBC founders and faculty in their best robes, a great view of Buchanan Tower, huge wooden desks, and absolute silence. I’m not kidding about that last part, you don’t want to be the person snacking on carrots—or anything actually—when you stop by the Riddington Room. And come on, Riddington… Tom Riddle! Ringing any bells?

The big whale at Beaty Biodiversity Museum. The 26-metre blue whale skeleton is enough to stop you in your tracks on a walk past the museum. Who doesn’t want to check out a skeleton of the largest animal on Earth? Not only is this Canada’s largest blue whale skeleton, but it came a long way to get here. The skeleton was transported all the way from PEI in 2008, though the whale was originally found and buried there in 1987. Don’t let the main attraction fool you, there’s a ton more inside worth exploring.

Pacific Museum of the Earth. This is the perfect stop for anyone interested in rocks, minerals, or fossils, but you’ll have to visit during the week, as they aren’t currently open on weekends. The PME has so much to discover, including a seismograph, a tornado machine, ocean and atmospheric exhibits, and a skeleton of the Lambeosaurus dinosaur! If you’re planning a trip to UBC, add this to your itinerary, and don’t forget to visit the enchanting Museum of Anthropology either, for a rich culture-focused experience.

Nitobe Memorial Garden beside the Vanier residences. This Japanese garden is considered among the top five Japanese gardens outside of Japan itself, and is one of the most authentic in North America. Curated by expert Ryo Sugiyama, this intricate garden boasts maple and cherry trees—even azaleas and iris plants—brought directly from Japan to create an immersive experience complete with koi ponds, streams, waterfalls, traditional stone lanterns, and its own teahouse. The garden alone is worth a trip to campus.