From the land on which Vancouver is situated and the languages spoken in the city to the thriving arts and culture scene, there are many facets that contribute to its multicultural diversity. And, from the great outdoors to the many great coffee shops, there's something for everyone in Vancouver, as they say.
New to Canada
Vancouver is located on the traditional territories of three local First Nations: the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. We acknowledge that the UBC Point Grey campus is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. To learn more about the First Peoples in Canada and the city of Vancouver and its location on unceded Coast Salish territory, the First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers to Vancouver is a great resource.
Canada is a great place to live, work and study. If you have not visited Canada before, you may notice a few cultural differences. During your time at UBC, you’ll learn more about Canadian culture and understanding Canadians. For a few helpful tips to ease the cultural transition, visit UBC's guide to adjusting to life in Canada.
For international and newcomer Canadian students, we recommend the publication "Surviving and Thriving in Canadian Academia", a great overview of the norms of communication in Canada.
Canada has two official languages, English and French. British Columbia is home to 34 distinct Indigenous languages and seven Indigenous language families but the language most often spoken is English.
Vancouver is a multicultural city with a wealth of vibrant communities. You may hear many different languages spoken in different parts of the city, as many neighborhoods have an international focus.
If you are interested in improving your conversational fluency in another language, check out the UBC tandem Language Learning Program.
Arts & Culture
There is a thriving arts & culture scene in Vancouver and on campus. From museums and concert halls to food and film festivals, you're sure to find something to suits your fancy.Vancouver is also home to many festivals and civic events. It's worth noting that most ethnic, cultural, and religious communities have at least one civic event annually.
Visit the Arts & Culture District's website for a comprehensive overview of events, news, cultural spaces, discounts, and volunteer opportunities. In the meantime, here are a few highlights:
The Chan Centre is one of the world's great concert halls and shares its stages with performers from all over the world including musicians and actors from the UBC School of Music and Department of Theatre and Film.
Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver's natural history museum, is home to Canada's largest blue whale skeleton and a collection of over 2 million specimens. In addition to being an amazing learning destination for students, school children and the public alike, it's also a research centre bringing together world-class researchers. The Beaty is free for students.
The Museum of Anthropology has a world-renowned collection of First Nations art. They offer workshops that explore the art and techniques of making from different cultures. It's free for students and located on the north end of campus.
Holi: The UBC Indian Students' Association hosts an annual Holi event to celebrate the Hindu spring festival that signifies the victory of good over evil, and the arrival of spring, end of winter.
Kids Take Over UBC is an annual event to celebrate Family Day weekend. Kids take on adult-sized roles, working alongside staff and volunteers to participate and promote arts and culture at UBC. Various campus departments typically participate, including the Belkin Art Gallery, The Longhouse and Xwi7xwa Library, UBC Theatre and Film, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, the Museum of Anthropology, UBC School of Music, and more!
In the city
Visit the City of Vancouver's Arts and culture website for details on activities, events, spaces, and opportunities in the city. In the meantime, here are a few highlights:
The Eastside Culture Crawl is an annual visual arts, design, and crafts festival in November where artists on Vancouver's Eastside open their studios to the public.
The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is one of North America's biggest film festivals.
Vancouver Folk Music Festival is an annual folk music experience with over 40 international, national, and local performers, hosted at Jericho Beach Park.
Dine Out Vancouver is a great way to sample some of Vancouver's hottest restaurants. According to DOVF, events throughout the festival can include "guided dining adventures, brunch crawls, cocktail masterclasses, global guest-chef collaboration dinners, BC VQA wine and craft beer tastings, street food markets and more!"
The Vancouver Art Gallery is located downtown. On Tuesday evenings, admission is by donation, and every Sunday, the Art Gallery offers free admission for children 12 and under with a paid adult.
Places of Worship on Campus
The diversity of Vancouver means that many religions are well represented in the community. There is a great variety of places of worship, both in Vancouver and on the University campus too. The Chaplains' Association seeks to serve the University community. The Chaplains represent many different denominations and religious groups including:
Among Christian denominations you will find representatives from the Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite Brethren, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian (Korean), Roman Catholic, and United Churches.
For more information on religion and spirituality on campus, please visit the UBC Student Services website.
making friends and getting involved
There are many opportunities for you to meet new friends and make connections here at UBC. Here are just a few ways among many to get connected and involved.
Graduate Student online Community
If you haven’t already checked out the online Graduate Student Community, now is the time. Log in and introduce yourself to meet your peers!
The Graduate Student Community forums are a great starting point for meeting new people, posting inquiries for housing, finding job and volunteer postings, as well as workshop opportunities and other resources. You will need your CWL to log in, but once you do, you’ll see there are many different forum topics including Making Friends, International Students, Volunteering and more.
The Graduate Student Society (GSS)
The GSS is the voice of UBC’s 10,000 graduate students. They provide support, help you connect, and advocate for changes that are important to you. Through the GSS you can make new friends, implement new ideas, organize events, or work to improve the lives of graduate students at UBC. Join the GSS for a huge range of events throughout the year from hiking to healthy eating and from speed-friending to thought-provoking debates.
Meet and mingle with other like-minded graduate students at one of our regularly scheduled Connections Cafés. Dates get posted in the graduate student online community.
Student clubs aren’t just for undergrads! UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) is home to over 350 clubs, so whether you are looking to connect with other students from the same culture or religion, are a billiards expert, or are hoping to brush up on your bicycle maintenance skills, there’s a club for you. Graduate school is at once rigorous and fulfilling. Be sure to create balance in your life and make time for friends and activities outside your research and coursework.
A great way to meet people is in university housing. Our two graduate colleges, Green College and St. John’s College, offer great opportunities to live in a community with other students and make new friends. In addition to the graduate colleges, UBC Student Housing also offers other campus residence options with both winter session and year-round options.
Film, concert or fundraiser? It’s easy to make friends at an event you enjoy. See what is on right now at UBC Events and have fun.
Sports & Recreation
Keep fit and socialize at the same time. UBC Athletics & Recreation and UBC Rec offer a variety of classes, intramurals, and clubs to suit your fancy and abilities, including soccer, ultimate, hockey, volleyball, martial arts, yoga, and dance. If you’re more of a spectator, how about taking in a game or two? Ice hockey is a favorite Canadian pastime, and the Vancouver Canucks are a well-loved home team favorite. Don’t forget about our very own UBC Thunderbirds. No matter what time of year it is there’s always a game or match to take in with friends.
Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people and help a cause that is important to you at the same time. There are many volunteer opportunities right here on campus, including a number of ambassador programs on campus. Check out the Volunteering forum in the Graduate Student Online Community, and for other long-term and short-term opportunities, visit the govolunteer website.
Communities of Interest
Community websites can help you to arrange meeting people with similar interests. Some of these communities are:
Please note: Use common sense when using sites like these and do not meet strangers alone or in remote places or similar. Always make sure you meet in a public place or with a group and that someone else knows where you are going and what time you plan to return.
things to do in BC
Vancouver has a lot to offer, but the surrounding areas make great day trips too! Here are just some of the nearby attractions:
Vancouver Island and Victoria
Vancouver Island is one of the best places in the world to look for whales. It’s a beautiful ferry ride from Vancouver too. Find out more about the island on the Hellobc website.
Whistler is famous for its snowy peaks and skiing opportunities. Two hours' drive from Vancouver; it can also be accessed easily by bus and train. Find out more by visiting the Whistler tourism website.
A short ferry ride from Vancouver, Bowen Island offers rainforest and ocean in one visit. Find out more by visiting the Bowen Island Wikipedia website. From Waterfront and Granville Island some small ferry services connect you directly to Snug Cove on Bowen Island in less than an hour's boat ride.
The town of Squamish is located between Vancouver and Whistler. It's home to the Stawamus Chief, the second-tallest freestanding granite monolith in the world. There are many hiking opportunities to one of its three peaks, with breathtaking views over the ocean. Find out more by visiting the Squamish tourism website.
A visit to the valley could include wine touring, fruit orchards, mountain biking, swimming or boating on Lake Okanagan, skiing and golfing opportunities. Find out more at the Hellobc website. UBC has a campus in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley.
The city of Vancouver is surrounded by national parks so there is a huge array of hiking opportunities. These include:
- Local mountains (Cypress, Seymour, and Grouse Mountain)
- Lynn Valley and Lynn Canyon
- Capilano Pacific trail
- The Lions
- Baden Powell Trail
- Howe Sound Crest Trail
- Stawamus Chief in Squamish
Find out more on the Vancouver trails website.
If you love skiing, Vancouver is the right place for you! As well as skiing on the local mountains, Whistler and Mount Baker also have great slopes. Whistler Blackcomb has some good deals for UBC students including:
- Ski passes at significantly reduced prices
- Edge cards 1, 5, 10 days
- Rental equipment
- Greyhound bus connection from UBC
If you need a place to stay, check out the UBC Whistler Lodge.
You may also want to join the UBC Ski and Board club.
There is always something going on in Vancouver. Here are some annual festivals worth celebrating:
- September - Fringe Festival
- October - Vancouver International Film Festival
- April - Cherry Blossom Festival
- May - ExplorASIAN Festival
- July - Celebration of Light Fireworks Competition
See also our Arts and Culture page for more things to do!
Vancouver is home to many beautiful parks. Worth visiting are:
- Pacific Spirit Park / Endowment Lands which includes 50km of forested walking, cycling and horseback riding trails
- UBC Botanical Gardens
- Van Dusen Botanical Gardens
- Stanley Park which includes1000 acres of second-growth forest, Pitch and Putt golf course, beaches, restaurants, and a beautiful walk along the seawall.
Find other parks in BC on the BC Parks website.
Vancouver has several mountains around the city which are great for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. The local mountains are a great place to visit year-round but offer super fun winter sports opportunities so if you ski, snowboard, or snowshoe, there are at least 3 mountains within about a 30-45 minute drive of the city, and Whistler-Blackcomb is about 2 hours away. Off-season you can still visit the mountains for gondola rides, ziplining, hiking, and the famous Grouse Grind on Grouse Mountain where you essentially hike up to the top and then take the gondola back down.
As well as the huge variety of sports on campus, there are lots of activities to try in the city too. Some you might like to consider are:
- Vancouver Ultimate League (VUL)
- Urban Rec (Volleyball, Soccer, Softball)
- Vancouver Rowing Club
- Dragon Boating at False Creek
- Jericho Sailing Centre
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies does not recommend any commercial enterprises but provides this list of local services for information only.