UBC Vancouver usually feels like a small metropolis, as its 65,000 students and 16,000 faculty and staff keep campus thoroughfares and walkways bustling with activity.
But over the winter break, which this year runs Dec. 20 – Jan. 3, the campus population thins out dramatically. Tranquility descends upon the UBC landscape, as the majority of students are spending time with their families and loved ones, and much of the administration and student services take a pause.
Still, the campus doesn’t completely clear out: a significant number of the 11,800 students living in residence will remain on campus over the break, and the university is taking steps to ensure they aren’t left out in the cold over the holiday season.
“Our residence advisors organize a series of events for students that are open to everyone in residence,” said Sean Ryan, associate director for residence life at UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services.
“Even though campus operations are reduced, we make sure that we continue to have residence advisors throughout the holiday break. They’re there to answer our duty phones for urgent calls, do rounds, and to make themselves available to residents. They also contribute to programming and activities over the break.”
“From my family to yours: a joyful holiday season and a happy new year to all!”
– UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono
As in previous years, students can take part in a series of events across the Marine Drive, Ponderosa Commons, Thunderbird, Fairview, Walter Gage and Ritsumeikan residences that include movie nights, a Christmas potluck, cookie decorating events, games night—and, naturally, a New Year’s Eve party. (For a full list of events, students can consult holiday programs posted in their residence commonsblock, or check with their residence advisor.)
Due to safety concerns about the small numbers of students remaining in the first-year Totem Park, Place Vanier and Orchard Commons residences, those complexes will be closed Dec. 20 – Jan. 1, and residents must find alternative accommodation for that period.
Residence Life managers help any first-year student who needs to find alternative accommodation over this period. Options include staying in shared accommodation in the Commuter Student Hostel, West Coast Suites in Walter Gage Residences, or Ponderosa Commons Studios.
Alternatively, students can also stay in an upper-level room whose occupant will be away and who has chosen to help out. Typically, less than 20 first-year students have needed the shared-accommodation option.
Zahra Karim, a fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce student at the Sauder School of Business, has spent the last three winters in year-round campus housing. In addition to the cozy cookie-decorating and hot chocolate days arranged by residence advisors, Karim, originally from Pakistan, appreciated opportunities to explore the city of Vancouver and its surroundings. “They had events that included arranging tour buses to take you to places like Whistler or other big mountains for the day, and that was really nice. It was a combined effort by all the residences, and everyone was welcome. I explored a lot of Vancouver that way, as an international student.”
And because these events brought students from different residences together, said Karim, “I met a lot of people through res events who I wasn’t friends with before. That was great.”
For Jewish students, Rabbi Chalom Loeub, director of Chabad Jewish Student Centre at UBC, has an open-door policy at his home on Friday nights, where Jews of all denominations are welcome to join in a Shabbat dinner at any time of year, whether or not classes are in session.
“We’re always here for students if they need it,” he said. “If they need chicken soup because they’re not feeling well, we have chicken soup in our freezer and I’m happy to deliver it. We’re here to make sure Jews have a Jewish home away from home.”
Students can reach out to Rabbi Chalom at chabadUBC@gmail.com.
While AMS student offices and services will be closed Dec. 20 – Jan. 2, the Sexual Assault Support Centre will be on call 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. through the holidays. The Nest will also be open Dec. 22 and 23, as well as Dec. 27 – 29, and back to regular hours Jan. 2. Campus security will also be working 24/7 and can be contacted directly through UBC Blue Phones or 604-822-2222.
Above all, students, staff and faculty are encouraged to take time to celebrate the season.
“As we take a break to celebrate the holidays this winter, I wish the UBC community a joyful and restorative holiday season,” said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono. “I especially want to extend my warmest wishes to our students who are away from their families this season, and encourage them to explore the many festive activities open to them in our upper-year student residences.”