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Review of Every 1st Year Residence at UBC | University of British Columbia Dorms First Years

Moving into first year residences is one of the most exciting, yet nerve racking things most first incoming university students will go through during their time at UBC. For some it is nothing new to move away from home, and for others they’ve never gone more than 1 night without being tucked in by their parents. So whichever one of those 2 you are, or where you are in between, here are some reviews of all 3 UBC first year residences that will hopefully make this transition a little more comfortable for you and give you an idea of what makes each residence great, and what makes it trash.

Totem Park – Can be good depending which building you get

Buildings/rooms: Totem’s buildings vary the most out of all 3 first year residences. There are a few really nice new buildings that are newer than the Orchard Commons (OC) one’s. So if you’re lucky enough to get placed in Cesna, q’elexen, or hem’lesam then you’re golden. But if you get any of the other houses then you won’t be considered as lucky. The older buildings are nice enough, however they won’t be anything special with outdated furniture, walls, windows and overall design. Cesna, q’elexen, or hem’lesam will have the same feel as a hotel room with very nice new updated furniture, windows and amenities. All rooms are a decent enough size that you can store all your school supplies, laptops and more. It just depends on how organized you are. You can also view what the rooms look like here: https://vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/residences/totem-park/. The commonsblock also sports a nice gym that you can use for free. The beds are quite uncomfortable and you should probably bring a foam pad to put on top of your mattress. The new buildings have nice carpets, however the other buildings have somewhat old and heavily used carpets that are kinda gross.

Food: Totem has recently renovated their cafeteria area and with it came updated menu options. The food quality is similar to all the first year cafeterias however the main difference comes with food choice. In my opinion Totem has the 2nd best food options. They have certain portions that will rotate selections, but the consistent ones include a burger bar with fries, poutine and chicken wings. They also have the only pizza bar of all the first year rezs. Breakfast is pretty standard, as it is with all 1st year cafeterias. The food selection is good but after eating there everyday you will definitely start to get tired of it. Thankfully for Totem residences they’re right across the street from Orchard Commons, and so residents can easily access both cafeterias.

Community: Totem has the 2nd best culture/community. There is a very nice tennis court, basketball court and field that is very close to Totem and so you will often find people outside playing sports together. The commons block was also newly renovated and so students will also flock there to hang out as well as create study groups.

Location: Totem is right next to OC and so they gain access to everything they offer. It is also in a very convenient spot for all Comp Sci students, science, engineer and LFS students as their main buildings are not too far of a walk away. It is quite far for Sauder students, Arts students and is a decent walk to get to the bus loop, Nest, and most other UBC buildings. On the bright side it is somewhat close to the frat village for weekend parties.

Orchard Commons – Best one by FAR

Orchard Commons is more of a hotel than it is a university residence. With the newest and most updated building designs and furniture, it is every first year student’s dream residence. That being said, every residence has its flaws, and so in this next section I will breakdown all of the aspects of living at Orchard Commons including the building, rooms, food, community and the location.

Buildings: OC has by far the nicest building. The 2 twin towers are over 20 stories tall and are literally like a hotel. Orchard was recently built and so the entire place looks very new and modern. You will have to pay a slightly higher rent, but it is 100% worth it. The building offers a really nice workout room, SUPER nice cafeteria, tons of study rooms and has very fast elevators. In literally every aspect, OC is the best 1st year res. Oh but one thing to know about OC is that you should get used to fire alarms going off. OC is well known for having an absurd amount of fire alarms pulled throughout the year, or just people burning stuff in microwaves. So get used to it.

Rooms: Most rooms are connected doubles, that means you get your own room, and you share a bathroom with one other person, which is one of the best case scenarios. Most other residences you will have 1 bathroom per floor and you will share it with 20+ people. The rooms are also some of the largest ones in all of UBC 1st years, and you will have no problem fitting all of your stuff. I will say that the beds are quite uncomfortable and you should probably bring a foam pad to put on top of your mattress. But that is the only bad thing I have to say about OC. The furniture is also very new and in very good condition, and also just looks the best in my opinion. The views from the higher OC floors are also unreal. You’ll also be so high up that you’ll have privacy, unlike other buildings that overlook each other from 10ft away *cough Vanier *cough. One of the most underrated things about OC is how nice the carpets are. There’s no weird stains on them and they are clean, so you don’t have to feel gross walking on them.

Food: OC also has the best food. The only bad thing about OC food is that lines can be a bit long at times. But that’s for good reason. A lot of people from Totem and Vanier will come to OC because of their superior food selection. There is a version of a pasta bar, burger/grill bar, mongolian grill, sandwich/burrito place and much more. They also have rotating selections that will sometimes include roast beef, spaghetti and other cool stuff. The seating area is decent, nothing special but it does its job. It can sometimes be hard to find places to sit however.

Community: OC community has the worst community, simply due to the pure size of the place. The community isn’t bad by any means, it just isn’t as good as the others. But who needs community when you’re living in a freaking hotel. OC does have outdoor ping pong tables and a really nice field though that you will always find people sitting or playing at.

Location: Similar to Totem; It is also in a very convenient spot for all Comp Sci students, science, engineer and LFS students as their main buildings are not too far of a walk away. It is quite far for Sauder students, Arts students and is a decent walk to get to the bus loop, Nest, and most other UBC buildings. On the bright side it is somewhat close to the frat village for weekend parties.

Vanier Place – Pure meh all around

Buildings: Vanier has the oldest buildings out of all the 1st year residences. The best buildings at Vanier being Tec De Monterrey or Korea are nothing special at all. Their best feature is that they have a super old and slow elevator. All the buildings are out-dated and are somewhat small. The carpets are kinda gross and there’s no telling how many gross feet and liquids have soaked into it over the years (I 100% recommend buying your own carpet). Vanier does have a decently nice workout area in the commonsblock, a pool table and a few study halls that are average at best. The best part about Vanier is the nice field that they have by the commonsblock that hosts tons of soccer games, ultimate frisbee and other field games.

Rooms: As mentioned above the rooms are not special at all. In fact they can be quite small at times. So long as you rearrange stuff and are well organized, there should be enough space for all your things, but even then it might be a bit crammed. The furniture is all very old; the desks, dresser and closet are a gross wood finish. Vanier honestly wouldn’t be such a bad residence if you weren’t able to compare it to the better Totem rooms, and all of the OC ones. Living in a Vanier room can be somewhat nice so long as you don’t keep reminding yourself how nice the other options could’ve been. All Vanier dorms have a shared bathroom for the floor which are decent. They are cleaned every day and so they don’t get that gross and messy. But it does suck having to get fully changed every time you want to go wash your hands or use the bathroom.

Food: Vanier food sucks. I may be a little biased since I ate there every day for 2 semesters, but even during my first few days all of the options are simply bland and nothing special. They have the usual burgers, chicken fingered and breakfast options. They occasionally have some sweet à la carte meals such as a roast beef dinner, but those come about once a month. They recently just added a sandwich bar, poke bowl bar and a vegan station which is all great and all, but they don’t taste as good as they sound. One tip that I did find after eating there so much is that you can start customizing your own unique meals by ordering a single chicken thigh, egg, and other individual items, and then combine them into their own little meal. That really helped add some diversity to my meals.

Community: Community is the one thing Vanier does have going for them. There is almost always some sort of sports game going on in the commons field. I think everyone just bonds a lot more as everyone is in the same boat of feeling left out from all the stuff that goes on at Totem and OC. I’m not fully sure why to be honest, but it has always been a well known fact that Vanier has the best community year after year.

Location: Vanier has the best location overall. It’s close to Sauder, the Nest, the Life building, all gyms, the bus loop and it’s right across the street from wreck beach. The only flaw is that it’s about a 30min walk from the frat village. But that goes by quickly when you’re drunk.

Despite my crude comments about some of the residences, and how much I hyped up other ones, your time there really comes down to what you make of it. I lived at Vanier in a somewhat shitty dorm, but I was able to decorate it in a way that made it more enjoyable for myself. One other thing that you can’t control is who you’re going to be living with. Arguably the most important part of 1st year res is who you share your floor with, and who you live close to, and so each res has an equally good chance of giving you good neighbours and friends. Each residence has at least 1 good thing going for it, so regardless of which one you get, just keep an open-mind and try to look towards the positives. First year is a ton of fun, just stay positive and you’ll have a great time too, even if you get put in Vanier ;)