Coming to UBC from a different country is made easier when you have a welcoming community ready to receive you. Third-year engineering student Joses Akampurira found that getting involved was the best path to success and happiness at UBC.
Joses Akampurira was driven to study civil engineering so that he could use his education to help developing countries on his home continent, Africa. After receiving multiple offers from other universities, he decided on the School of Engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “The intimate campus, the diverse international community, and the phenomenal School of Engineering were an irresistible package,” says Joses.
Since beginning his studies at UBC, Joses has found a welcoming community on campus by participating in clubs, taking part in the JumpStart Orientation, and seizing academic opportunities such as co-operative education. Read on to see what Joses says about his time so far in the School of Engineering and what it’s like to study on the Okanagan campus.
What made you choose UBC?
I was accepted to other universities, but UBC was my dream education institution. I learned about UBC from my high school career guidance counsellor. She had toured Canadian universities and was awed by the resemblance between the Okanagan and Kabale. That, plus the intimate campus, the diverse international community, and the phenomenal School of Engineering were an irresistible package.
How did you choose your campus and program?
My interest in civil engineering emanated from the need to provide affordable solutions to the infrastructural constraints in developing African countries, particularly the less privileged members of society. With a prestigious civil engineering program, UBC Okanagan is the best fit to achieve this dream.
“I am proud to belong to UBC – the institution and the community. UBC is like family.” – Joses Akampurira, 3rd year, Civil Engineering
Did you have a career in mind when you chose your program?
When I joined the School of Engineering, I was unaware of the several branches affiliated with the Civil Engineering discipline. Now, I am aiming at acquainting myself with as many skills from the entire package. Like Terry Goodkind said, “Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed.”
What’s the best part about your program?
The School of Engineering is fantastic! The two foundation years are a perfect opportunity to learn about the numerous disciplines. The professors are down-to-earth and extremely friendly, and their open-door policy makes them available at any time of day. The laboratories possess the latest state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Each academic year has a team-based project that enables students to practise what they learn in lectures. The amazing co-op program presents students with an opportunity to work with professionals, developing technical skills and fostering pertinent connections.
What’s the best part about the Okanagan campus?
The campus’s small size and vibrant international community make it very easy to connect with people not only from other programs, but also different parts of the world. There are innumerable ways to get involved with an abundance of student-run clubs and extracurricular activities. The spectacular atrium and cozy collegia are my favourite places.
You completed a co-op with the City of Surrey. Tell us about your experience.
Working with the City of Surrey’s engineering department has exposed me to the vast world of transportation and urban city planning. The staff is very amicable and the engineers see to it that co-op students get involved in all the technical projects right from their commencement. I have been able to develop more practical skills than one can ever get from a classroom environment. With this acquired knowledge, I believe that my classroom experience is going to be even more exciting. It will be much easier to correlate the theory to the practice.
What other opportunities have you pursued outside the classroom?
I was an orientation leader for the international student JumpStart Orientation. We coordinated a weeklong series of orientation programs for 180 new incoming international students from 47 different countries, which involved information sessions and workshops to enable them adjust to university life. I also provided mentorship by sharing my positive university experience with them.
I volunteered to organize the Student Leadership Conference and collaborated with the organizers by performing event logistics, including checking in student delegates from other universities and local high schools.
I also participated in Destination UBC, a program for prospective undergraduate students organized by the International Student Initiative. My role was a student engineering assistant and tutor. I helped with organizing and implementing the various educative programs that the School of Engineering conducted. These included mechatronics projects, concrete labs, 3D printing, and formal presentation workshops.
What groups or clubs do you belong to on campus?
I set up and headed the UBC Okanagan Global Engineering Community (GEC), a professional community that was specifically established to support international engineering students. We meet bi-weekly in the International Collegium so that international engineering students and faculty can interact freely.
I am also involved with the African Caribbean Students Club, International Student Club, Canadian Society for Civil Engineers’ UBCO branch, Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers’ UBCO branch, and Golden Key International Honour Society. I hope to join the Latin Dance Club in the Fall.
How did the JumpStart Orientation help you ease into UBC life?
As an international student who was new to Canada, JumpStart helped me adjust to the new environment. I was able to amply prepare for the BC winters, adjust to the food, and, better still, make friends with people from all corners of the world.
The weeklong program involves tours of the Okanagan picturesque scenery, and fun games and activities. The International Programs and Services staff are most easygoing and coolest people on campus!
What are your favourite things to do on campus and in Kelowna?
On campus, when it is nice and sunny, I hang out in the courtyard or the Commons with friends playing frisbee. When it is cold, I can be found in the International Programs and Services lounge, Aboriginal Collegium, or International Collegium.
In Kelowna, I enjoy the sun at any of the many sandy beaches, play basketball at City Park, and catch movies at Grand 10 Cinema. There are countless hiking trails and irresistible mountain bike routes. In the winter, skiing has become another hobby, with the amazing student deals at the local ski resorts.