“What made the University of British Columbia (UBC) stand out to me was its rigorous and practical Bachelor of Commerce programme, a highly international community, a broad variety of student clubs and organisations and a generous International Scholars programme,” Andrej Grman, a 20-year-old Slovakian native based in Bratislava tells us.
Having graduated from an international boarding school: LEAF Academy in Bratislava, Grman was looking forward to flying to Canada this year to join his course at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Things are at an uncertain standstill now, but the recipient of the Karen McKellin International Leader of Tomorrow Award is hopeful to head to the Great White North soon to continue his studies and meet his classmates in real life. We spoke to Grman to find out how the first-year student is coping with virtual classes, his tips to apply to UBC, and what his long-term plans are:
Tell us more about yourself, what made you choose Canada?
When I was making a decision on where to pursue my university studies, I took into consideration the quality, opportunities for extra-curricular involvement, and availability of financial aid. Many universities all around the world fit those criterias. However, it was UBC’s beautiful campus and attractive location that played a big part in my decision. I am looking forward to living in such a developed country like Canada, exploring nature and experiencing its diversity.
What challenges do you face learning online? How do you overcome them?
Although I spend a significant amount of time studying and taking online classes, I still haven’t taken in the fact that UBC is now a part of my life. I think this is because I haven’t managed to create a strong personal and physical bond with the institution yet.
This creates another challenge for me, as I generally prefer face-to-face interactions to online conversations. In consequence, I try to schedule video calls with my UBC friends rather than texting and messaging because it’s more engaging.
Another challenge I currently face, is how difficult it is to combine my social life in Slovakia with my academic life in Canada (online). Taking most of my online classes during times that my friends are at social gatherings has made it quite tough for me to balance.
Even so, this is a minor setback. I am glad that my friends and I are able to make compromises and continue building our relationships. Also, I’m very much anticipating arriving in Canada very soon!
What was the application process like?
Every individual applying to UBC must hand in a personal profile, which includes a set of questions about your past activities, achievements, challenges, and so on. Specifically, when I applied to Sauder School of Business, there were two extra questions in the personal profile as well as two video interview questions.
This application also required my high school to send official transcripts by mail. For the Karen McKellin International Leader of Tomorrow Award, I had to send in several essays, a description of activities I’ve participated in, honours I’ve received, recommendations from my two teachers in Slovakia, and a summary of my family’s financial situation. I am extremely thankful to my high school that I was nominated for this award which has led me to studying at UBC.
What is your advice for others planning to study in Canada?
Here are some of my tips for applying to UBC:
- Know the student profiles that UBC wants to recruit: UBC was relatively explicit about what type of skills and character traits they look for when evaluating applicants. I would advise to research these as this would also help when applying to other universities as well.
- Reach out to people: What I found most helpful in my application process was reaching out to different people at UBC, who then gave me valuable insights into university life. I also found it useful to talk to UBC’s current students, professors, and recruiters for tips and advice.
- Dedicate enough time to your personal profile: I recommend dedicating some time to write about your personal profile where I reflected on my own experiences and then connected them to why I wanted to study at UBC – this made my profile stand out and gives the admission officers a valuable insight into who you really are.
What are you most looking forward to as soon as you arrive in Canada?
I am looking forward to meeting my classmates in person. While it’s definitely harder to develop online friendships, I am thrilled to be able to connect with them on a more personal level. On another note, I am looking forward to exploring UBC’s campus, downtown Vancouver’s restaurants and bars, and the wildlife of British Columbia.
What are your plans for the future?
In the long-term, I plan to return to Slovakia where I hope to advance the wellbeing of Slovakian society through responsible investments. I would also like to use my experience from Canada to support educational institutions in the region.
On top of that, I would love to be able to contribute to the inclusion of marginalised communities by advising NGOs. I believe Slovakia and its people have great potential. I find it to be the responsibility of my generation to take action to carve the future we want.