There and Back Again: A UBC Grad’s Tale


Ready to join these friends as UBC alumni! Photo Source: Tina Gao

When I think about graduation quickly approaching, one word comes into mind: uncertainty.

Maybe anxious. And precarious.
Insecure too?
Okay, many words cross my mind, but you get the idea. Many of you soon-to-be grads are surely feeling the same to a degree, and if you’re not, you may in the next couple of years. It’s almost inevitable because for the first time in 17 years (more or less), many of us will relinquish our student status.


I learned to love two things as a Residence Advisor: my residents, and mud. Photo Source: Tina Gao

As I look back on the last five years of my life, I can recount a basketful of memories that truly define why these five years were the best years. From playing sports in intramural leagues to the late night dorm room chats, to Block Parties, and from up and down the Wreck Beach stairs, I was able to pursue the hobbies that I already loved at UBC, and had the best time doing so! But these are not the memories that come to mind first when I think about my entire undergrad experience.


Never a dull moment with Live Active Outreach at UBC Intramurals. Photo Source: Austin Kretzschmar

The memories that I hold closest and dearest all contain moments of difficulty, doubt, and obstacles. These moments were rarely comfortable, unlike pursuing all the hobbies that I was familiar with. I successfully campaigned to be House President as a first year student, with no previous knowledge of the position or life in residence. I became a Residence Advisor in second year amidst a time of overwhelming personal and mental health challenges. But both of these moments brought upon irreplaceable and unconditional friendships, laying the relational foundation for the rest of my UBC journey. Through International Service Learning, I worked on HIV projects in Swaziland for three months and lived with a host family, all while situated alone. With no prior experience of solo traveling or cross-cultural navigation, I doubted that my grit and resilience could overcome precarious situations. But this experience was the moment in my undergrad when I discovered my true passions, and it paved the direction of my degree. When I accepted my first Co-op placement in cancer research, I was insecure about my skills and feared incompetency. And indeed, I made many mistakes but I also had the opportunity to contribute to healthcare research aimed to improve cancer prognosis. When I signed up for Storm the Wall Ironwoman this past year, I wasn’t certain I could even swim any laps. But when I got over the wall, I realized that the friends I had made over these 5 years would always be with me, every leg of life’s race to help me achieve my goals.


Colour Wars, the best day in first year residence. Photo Source: Tina Gao


My host brother and I making our way down to the stream in Mbabane, Swaziland. Photo Source: Tina Gao

Climbing the mountain of challenges and breaking my comfort bubble produced the most rewarding, meaningful, and gratifying memories. In fact, these moments in my five years at UBC made me a risk taker, an adventurer, a scholar, and a pathfinder. Graduation is simply another one of these moments. So alongside all the uncertainty, I’m also beyond ecstatic to see mine and every grad’s growth and potential in the next chapter.

As Bilbo would say, “I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.”



Completing Storm the Wall Ironwoman – height is not a barrier! Photo Source: Rachel von Hahn

-Written and prepared by Tina Gao, graduating Bachelor of Science student.