I will admit that I have a special attachment to my Alma Mater, just like almost everyone else. With this bias in mind, I believe UBC has one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. UBC is located at the western tip of a peninsula surrounded by the University Endowment Lands, outside of the city of Vancouver. I was fortunate to have lived on campus for two years.
Let’s be clear about one thing first; what sets UBC’s campus apart is definitely not its buildings. In fact, Vancouver is a city very much devoid of architectural beauty. The buildings of the university doesn’t enjoy many different styles – they are mostly just plain dull. There are some rare brick or stone buildings at UBC that faintly resemble other prestigious institutions, but the majority of buildings fall into two major groups of tedium.
The first group, the concrete blocks, seem to have been directly relocated from the former Soviet Union. A recent building spree of glass and steel buildings make up of the second group.
But what I am fond of is not of the buildings themselves, but what happened inside. The classes, the students, the space, and the atmosphere.
Vancouver has four seasons that are distinctive from each other. Spring is when flowers like tulips and cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The city enjoys seventeen hours of sunlight in the summer. Cool gale and red leaves are the staple of the fall. Winter is the dreaded season when the rain falls nonstop with the occasional snow storm.
Since I live near campus, these seasonal characteristics seem to be an especially vivid part of my memory of UBC. The location of UBC is also a factor – our campus “enjoys” the strongest wind in the Lower Mainland. A walk to another building between classes in the winter is often an endurance battle of harsh wind blowing pea-size rain drops into my face.
The winter does not last forever, fortunately, and when the flowers bloom everywhere, or every single piece of leaf is changing colour, studying in this setting becomes even bigger a privilege.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I miss Vancouver’s beaches since moving back to Hong Kong. UBC is especially blessed by being surrounded by some of the city’s best beaches – there is the rocky Wreck Beach, famous for being one of the few clothing optional public spaces in Vancouver, or Spanish Banks, one of the most popular gathering places for UBC’s students.
Spanish Banks is my favorite place in UBC. There is always something to do year-round. In the spring, I like to jog along its seaside path and look at the snow-capped peaks of the local mountains in the North Shore. Summer’s Spanish Banks is abuzz with activities. There are people who fly kites, barbeque, play drums, play beach volleyball, party…
In the winter, the beach is empty because of the incessant rain. Few nights each week I would make the drive there and just spend some quiet time for reflection in the pitch dark night. I can’t see the water in front of me, but I can hear the wave. It is cold, and often windy, but the air also smells the freshest.
UBC is isolated from Vancouver by the 763 hectares Pacific Spirit Regional Park. I miss how a five-minute walk from my home are is a trail with towering evergreen trees in all directions. Again, the forest reveals something different in all four seasons. For example, the smell is different in fall from the summer. Living so close to a forest, a living ecosystem, allow me to develop an attachment to nature that I never will be able to in Hong Kong.
The Last Week
How will you spend your last week in a city you have called home for more than a decade? Certainly there is the mandatory gatherings with friends and family. But what else?
Well, as anyone who has moved away from home before will know, there is no time and energy for anything but to pack up and to finish the most tedious but important tasks like cutting the utilities. Also there is a car to sell.
After a short vacation in Hawaii, at seven in the morning on Christmas Eve our plane landed in a completely snow-covered Vancouver. I immediately started missing the sun of the Big Island (covered in this entry). We took a taxi back to UBC. Never in more than a decade that I lived here had I seen such terrible road condition in Vancouver, but I was not glad at all to experience this during my last week in town. Quite amazingly, because nobody else was driving on the road, the fare for the ride was only $30 CND, the same as any other day.
The day had just begun. I took the bus with my girlfriend to Oakridge Mall, where a friend picked her up, then I headed back home and began to pack up. That’s how I spent the rest of my Christmas Eve, snowbound inside a mess of a studio.
I never got around to drive my car again, since without snow tires it could never get out of the driveway. With much help from my family and friends, I got almost everything done before I left, and some leftover errands that they had to complete for me. I wish I could leave my hometown under better weather condition, but it doesn’t really matter at the end, as my memory of Vancouver will always be the many years I have spent in this most beautiful city in the world.