Tips and Tricks for the UBC Commuter

You may not believe it, but about two thirds of UBC’s population are commuter students! Though many of these students fork out the dough to live in the nearby Kitsilano or Point Grey neighbourhoods, some have to spend hours a day on public transit to get to school and back from as far as the North Shore, Surrey, or even Delta.

I spent last year (my 1st year at UBC, my second year of post-secondary), commuting from the high hills of North Vancouver to UBC five days a week. There is one bus that goes through my neighbourhood and luckily it travels straight downtown. From downtown I would transfer to the 44 and get to school about 1 hour and 10 minutes after I leave my house (on a good day).  After 8 months of commuting through the sun, rain, and snow, I had mastered the commute.

If you are new to UBC or this will be your first year commuting, pay attention to my tips on becoming a UBC Commuter Pro.

  1. Your UPass is like your underwear – don’t ever leave it in a random’s apartment and always have it on you. Never leave the house without it. (And now with the new UPass rules, same goes for your student ID)
  2. Dress in layers. The weather at your house might be extremely different than the weather at UBC. Often it is pouring at my house, and sunny at school. Or sometimes my house is dry and UBC has two feet of snow. If you’re unsure, text a friend who lives at UBC in the morning and ask what it’s like.
  3. Buy a pair of rubber boots and buy them now. The transfer station at UBC frequently floods (and so does most of UBC).  sitting on the bus for an hour after school with wet feet is the least comfortable situation you could be in.
  4. Make sure you have a good quality umbrella that won’t leave you high and drenched. Buy one. Buy two. You’ll most likely lose the first one anyway.
  5. In the winter, make sure you have plenty or warm things for your extremities. Gloves, tuques, wool socks… it gets very cold at night or in the early morning when you’re on a bus.
  6. Pack lots of food with you every day.  Food on campus is pretty expensive (for what you get) and you will get hungry. Bring fruit, granola bars, or basically anything you can munch on while on the go.
  7. Load money onto your Student card. Did you know you could do that? Through the Student Housing and Hospitality Services website, you can load money onto your student card and use it at many locations on campus, including Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, the cafeteria, and maybe even Blue Chip. Blue Chip, can anyone confirm that for me? It’s fast and you get a discount on food. You can even use it at the bookstore!
  8. Bring tea bags (if you like tea). Hot water on campus is 35 cents. Tea is $1.85. You do the math.
  9. Always charge your phone and ipod over night. And always download music onto your ipod. I can confirm that you will get bored of your music very fast, so always keep it fresh. A long bus ride when you can’t tune out the cell phone conversation behind you is THE WORST.
  10. Out of courtesy, don’t talk on your cell phone on the bus. Or do it quietly and quickly.  As said above, it is very irritating.
  11. Always keep your phone handy while commuting. Use it to keep track of how late your bus is and use it to text the bus stops for the bus schedule. Text the number at the top of the bus stop sign to 33333 and the schedule will be sent to your phone.
  12. Throw out your Apple headphones that came with your ipod and buy new ones. Just an FYI, everyone can hear everything you’re listening to. Techno at 7:45am is not the most pleasant thing to hear while on a bus ride.
  13. Buy a netbook or a very lightweight laptop. Many netbooks come with 10 hours of battery life that will last you the whole day. I bring mine. It weighs one pound, has never run out of battery, I don’t have to lug around the charge, and it fits in my backpack. It’s an Asus Eee PC. Don’t expect it to be super high speed or anything, but it will let you take notes and watch movies on your breaks.
  14. Download movies and TV shows to watch on your breaks. Most likely you will have a few hours a day with no classes. Be realistic, you won’t do your readings during these breaks (most of the time). You will, however, want to watch TV. So load up that netbook!
  15. Train yourself to read on the bus. At first, it might make you feel nauseous, but after several attempts at training yourself, your brain will get used to the feeling. Here is what you do: Read on the bus until you feel sick and can’t read anymore. Stop reading. Begin reading again once you feel better. Continue this pattern for your bus ride. Try this for a few days and you will be able to read on the bus with no difficulty after only 1 week!

Thinking of commuting to school every day can be daunting. Some hate it so much that they pay thousands of dollars a year to avoid it.

What are your best commuting tips?

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