There’s more than one pathway to becoming a UBC student.
Valeria knew she wanted to study outside of her home country of El Salvador, and always placed UBC at the top of her list. When she applied, she discovered her English skills didn’t quite meet UBC’s language requirement, but her excellent academic record was more than enough for her to be admitted. Valeria took the Vantage One program in her first year to strengthen her English skills, and moved on to her Psychology degree with fresh confidence in writing academic papers, close relationships with her professors, and a tight-knit group of international friends – all without adding any extra time to her studies.
Why did you choose UBC?
I was born and raised in El Salvador, and I’m always so proud to say that. However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to study abroad. I was fascinated about the idea of living in another country, being more independent, and living the ‘college experience’. Although my parents and I always knew this was the plan, we also knew that I had limited options to because tuition is pretty expensive. So in high school I was determined to get a scholarship that allowed me to study abroad.
I applied to a couple of other Canadian universities, and another one in Mexico. UBC was my dream school because I loved the Psychology program, and, of course, the beautiful Vancouver campus. After getting all the acceptance letters I ended up choosing UBC because I was awarded the prestigious Vantage Excellence Scholarship. This scholarship was far more than I could’ve ever imagined, and it allowed me to study in my dream university and more.
Why did you choose your UBC program?
When I applied to UBC I chose the Psychology program because I was fascinated by the courses, the professors, and the research that they conduct on campus. When I got my acceptance letter, I realized I had been accepted in a different program: Vantage One. I did my first year in Vantage, and then started the Psychology program in my second year.
What is Vantage College?
Basically, Vantage College is a UBC Faculty that offers an 11-month program for international students to take in first year. The main objective of the program is to strengthen your English skills by taking additional classes. There are different streams depending on what your interests are and also what you are planning to major in later on, so I was part of the Arts stream.
What was the best thing about being part of Vantage?
The friends I made!! The best thing about Vantage is the size of the classes. UBC is a huge university, and sometimes you take classes with up to 399 students. It can be difficult to make friends, or to participate in class, or reach out to profs. In Vantage, we had about 40 people in lectures, and about 15 in tutorials. This dynamic allowed me to make strong bonds with some of my classmates and my professors as well. I really miss this part of Vantage!
How do you feel Vantage helped improve your English language development and academic performance?
It helped me a lot! I still have the first paper I wrote in Vantage, and every now and then I go back and read it to remind myself where I started. I had never written academic papers in English and knew very little about citations as well. My profs in Vantage taught me step by step how to cite, how to look for academic sources, how to paraphrase, how to avoid plagiarism, and so many other wonderful tips that I still use now in my fourth-year courses. If I could measure how much my English improved with Vantage, I would say I started with a C+ and I finished the program at an A.
Can you talk about a particular prof or Vantage class that you found particularly helpful?
I could talk about many profs who were so helpful in my academic development! Jennifer Walsh Marr is one who’s difficult to forget. She is the type of teacher who puts heart and soul to every class. What was particularly helpful about her courses were the creativity she puts into every assignment. I liked the fact that we had oral presentations, discussions, written assignments, and other creative ways of grading our English level. I also remember Dr. Borys David; he was our History prof. I’m not a fan of history classes, but his lectures had a story-telling style that made them super interesting and entertaining.
What has your Vantage experience helped you achieve so far, and how?
I now feel much more confident about my English when I write academic papers. I think that if I hadn’t gone to Vantage before starting the Psychology program, I would’ve struggled way more. Time management is another skill I improved with this program. In Vantage, you take two to three more courses than in other non-Vantage programs, and that can be difficult to handle at some point! I learned to prioritize my tasks, study effectively, and to take care of my mental health as well.
Do you belong to any teams, groups or clubs on campus?
When I was in Vantage, I joined the synchronized swimming team, which is now called the artistic swimming team. This was by far my favourite club on campus and I wish I still had time to be part of it! I bonded really well with my teammates, and it was a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. With the novice team, we won Westerns that year, and we got a third place in Nationals after traveling to St Catherines, Ontario!
What would you want other students who are thinking of applying to Vantage to know about the experience?
Do it! Don’t think twice! It is a unique experience that will not only help you improve your English, but also create friendships that will last a lifetime. I would also like students to know that what you get out of the program depends on you, not the profs nor the advisors. Vantage is an excellent program, but it requires real commitment from everyone involved.
In your opinion, what makes UBC distinctive from other universities?
Whatever you are doing right now in high school, you will find it at UBC. Whatever you are dreaming to do one day, you will also find it at UBC. UBC has 350+ clubs that help students feel at home and connect with others that have similar interests. The academic excellence and prestige that we have as a university is great, but what it really makes it distinct from other universities is the endless opportunities to make your own pathway. No-one has the same university experience because there are so many options to make your pathway unique.