Ask Iman: How to break through Blanca with your Compass card

Dear Iman,

I want to explore Vancouver more but I don’t know where to start. What should I do?

Every single break, whether it’s in December or in April, I think about all the cool places I promised myself to go during the semester and how I didn’t go to any of them. It’s so easy to slip into the monotony of school and abandon your hopes and dreams of learning every bus line in Vancouver.

I relate to the feeling of being trapped on campus. I moved to UBC in the middle of my first year, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself confined to my room in Totem Park, the Forestry Tim Hortons and maybe The Nest if I was feeling adventurous and ready to trek through an unfamiliar campus. But as I spent the summer and this past academic year in Vancouver, I’ve pushed myself to explore the city and you should, too. Put that Compass card to good use!

Whether you’re “Vancity born-and-raised” or from a small town halfway across the world, Vancouver — or even the entire Lower Mainland — is a sprawling city filled with a million-and-one possible things to do during your downtime. Yeah, you have the touristy stuff like riding bikes on the Seawall, travelling to Granville Island for a rose quartz necklace so your POLI crush will fall in love with you or visiting Burnaby Village Museum (where this banger was filmed), but there are tons of super cool things to do in Vancouver that you haven't already done a million times.

Breaking through Blanca is hard, especially when you don’t need to. On (or near) campus, you can get a coffee, go grocery shopping and grab drinks with friends. But it sucks to be nearing the end of the school year thinking, “I’ve only left campus a handful of times this semester and the furthest I’ve gone is to the Breka on Alma.”

Vancouver appeals to many niches. There are so many people to see and places to go when there isn’t the looming threat of a global pandemic at the forefront of our minds (so maybe tuck this advice to the back of your head and save it for more precedented times). Though you must hear this almost a hundred times a day, the world really is your oyster. You can walk amongst the Lululemon culters in Kitsilano, explore the IKEAs in Coquitlam and Richmond or memorize the best bar at every 99 stop along Broadway. Not only will you have fun trying new things, but you’ll see that there is so much more to Vancouver and life as a student than hanging out at the Life Building and waiting for the 68.

You can also see the city on a budget. Tons of things in Vancouver are free. You can look at flowers at Queen Elizabeth Park, go to the many beaches, visit Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam, explore Chinatown or head to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Tuesday evenings, when admission is by donation (although the city has several free galleries.

Seeking out recommendations from friends, keeping an eye on off-campus happenings such as shows or events from student groups or even hopping on a bus and getting off at a random stop to walk around (gotta get those steps in) can force you off-campus and into a neighbourhood and community you may fall in love with. Grab a friend and get to walking!

Travelling off-campus opens up a whole new world within Vancouver, and learning the city you’ll live in for four or five years (at least) doesn't hurt either. Hey, maybe you’ll decide to switch it up and try the Breka on Fraser instead.

You’re doing great. Keep it up!

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