Thousands of students move in to UBC residences to start new school year

The University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus was the busiest it’s been in quite some time on Saturday, as students moved into on-campus housing ahead of the fall term.

An estimated 7,000 students from around the world lugged suitcases, cabinets and mini-fridges into their units, with the help of friends and family.

Avi Pandya’s parents drove him to UBC from their home in Fort McMurray. The 18-year-old will be studying engineering.

“I was nervous at first, before I came here,” said Pandya. “But I’ve spent a day on campus and everybody is so friendly. It’s really nice.”

For his parents, having their youngest child move out of the house is a bittersweet occasion.

“It’s a new adventure in his life, so it’s great,” said Avi’s dad.

His mom, however, wished he could be a little closer to home.

“We’re staying all the way in Fort McMurray, so, it’s far from us,” she said.

It’s a similar story for Myra Wei, who’s moving out of the family home for the first time to attend UBC. As she assessed her modest dorm room with excitement, her mom couldn’t help but feel some sadness.

“It’s difficult to see her grow up and move out of the house, but I’m happy,” said Wei’s mother. “I wish her all the best studying here, and then going into the real world.”

Of course, the real world is currently grappling with a global pandemic. COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected campus life in an unprecedented way. The university is increasing its cleaning protocols, frequently sanitizing high-touch surfaces. Additionally, masks are mandatory in all common indoor spaces, and provincial health orders will require those living in student housing to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“The official order from the government has not come down yet, so today we’re actually welcoming students regardless of vaccination status,” explained Andrew Parr, the associate vice-president of student housing and community services at UBC.

UBC expects to begin checking vaccination status within a matter of days, as the school implements a campus-wide declaration program.

“We’ll ask students, faculty and staff to input their vaccine status into an app,” said Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs. “If they decline to do that, or have not been vaccinated, they will be directed to rapid testing.”

In addition to rapid testing measures, the school will also offer on-site vaccinations for anyone who wishes to receive their first or second doses. Parr says vaccine uptake among UBC students has been greater than the provincial average.

Last month, the school conducted a vaccination survey among students enrolled at the Vancouver campus. Of the approximately 16,000 respondents, 83 per cent were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, the majority of those who were not said they intended to be immunized prior to the start of school.

“The community here is not only vaccinated, but they’re taking the safety of themselves and their community seriously,” said Parr.

Last month, B.C. health officials said institutions can discuss vaccine requirements for staff and faculty, but cannot require them for students to attend class.