Choosing a University

This post is for all the prospective students looking for the perfect university to go to!

I’m sharing some ideas to think about when selecting some universities to apply to and for picking your final university. I know for many of you, this post has come too late: you have already selected a university and you’re there or on your way there soon. For the rest of you, I hope this will help you if:

  • you are in HS and looking for a college/university
  • you are in university and are looking to study abroad

Selecting your Schools

Where do you start? What’s important? You’re juggling schoolwork and now you have to research on hundreds & thousands of universities. Here are some things to think about:

  • SubjectsWhat do you want to study?
    Find all the universities that offer the subject(s) you are interested in studying.
  • LanguageDo I need to speak the language?
    Some universities are conducted solely in one language. Are your language skills up to par?
  • University ReputationWhy do I want to study here?
    Take a look at the universities you’re interested in. Does it matter if this is a new/old university? Does the university’s GPA matter to you? Do you want the best of the best?
  • City/TownWill I like the city/town?Do you want a big city you can explore and get away from campus or a student town? I preferred the latter. More freedom and more opportunities to be independent. Plus, it’s easier to meet up with your friends/classmates. Don’t forget to take a look at the weather year-long. Will you be able to survive their summers/winters? Is the city (rent, food, leisure, etc.) expensive or affordable?
  • Class Size: Will I be able to see the professor?Are you one of many students attending a course (where your professor is as small as an ant) or are you in an intimate class (and your professor could talk at eye-level)? In fact, will you even have a professor or will you be taught by a teaching assistant? Will you get to know your classmates or are you better off studying and working independently?
  • University SpiritHow much team spirit does the university have?
    Will you recognise a student or alumnus/a from afar? Does the university have good networking? One of the reasons I recommended to prospective students for choosing my uni was that we have amazing team spirit. Students, alumni, faculty – we are all connected.
  • Clubs & Fraternities/SororitiesWhat extracurriculars are available?
    Courses aside, you want to do something fun as well, be it volunteering or learning how to dance. This is also an opportunity for you to meet more like-minded people. Are there plenty of clubs available for you to join? Will you be able to start your own? Take a look at the clubs – it says quite a lot about the students and university! 😉
  • Funding: How much funding would you be able to receive?
    Tuition can be terribly expensive so we all need the help when we can. How many scholarships, bursaries, and grants are available from the university? How many of these will you qualify for? Take a look to see if there are jobs on campus available too.
  • International Student Support: How much assistance will I have as an international or exchange student?
    Is there university funding available for you to apply for? Is there an international centre or group for international and exchange students? Are there study abroad coordinators there to help you through?

Non-refundable application fees are not cheap. Make sure you select your top 5 (at least 1 near your home, just in case travelling doesn’t work out)!

Next: Which University to Attend?

Now that you have received your acceptance (and rejection) letters, think about these things:

  • Which university (or universities) have offered you scholarship, bursaries, grants, etc.?
  • Which university would be the cheapest to attend (deduct the scholarships and loans, etc.)?
  • Do I have enough for living expenses (travel, rent, food, etc.)?
  • If there are some student-recruitment events in town, attend them. Talk to alumni and faculty.
  • Visit the university – if it’s close to your home. Walk around the campus, take a look at the student buildings and dorms. Do you feel at home here?
  • Ask as many people as you can about student life in the prospective university – in person or online. Get as much information as you can.

All the best and congratulations!


Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very PROUD to announce that after 3 years of student loan repayments, I am finally DEBT-FREE today! 😀 All before turning 25 as planned!

It hadn’t been easy and at times, it was truly depressing, but I’ve come out of this a more financially stable and happy person.  I would like to share my tips and lessons I’ve learned from my 7 years with student loans.

I started uni in autumn 2006 and not long after, I received my student loans from the national and provincial student loan centres. What I should have done is transferred a lump sum of the money to my parents to cover the tuition fees they had paid for and save some for other necessary expenditures (books, student fees, extracurriculars, food, etc.). Unfortunately, I was a foolish girl and went shopping like a shopaholic. I felt like money was no issue and spent on whatever I desired (namely, beauty products and clothing). To be fair, my clothing purchases were long-term, though some of these were later donated or swapped in recent years.

It wasn’t long before I started panicking when I realised that the numbers in my bank account were dwindling. I still had some for 2nd year, but it wouldn’t be enough to last me. I believe I was approved for another loan in my 2nd year but sadly, that would not last very long either. Thank goodness for all the scholarships I could get that would cover part of my tuition, as well as the bursaries (student work programmes) that would help me get by. Thank goodness too that I could receive a scholarship from the student loan bureaus, lowering the total amount I would have to pay back. I am happy to say, at least the total amount of student loans was considerably less than what others had to pay.

As I’d wanted to spend my final semester in Vancouver for the Winter Games, I made sure that I took an extra semester between 2nd and 3rd year. I received a nasty surprise halfway through my 4th year when I realised that I would have to start paying back my student loans, now that I was a part-time student. Suddenly, life became hell on earth. I was juggling a very difficult online course (on a subject I knew very little of) and an onerous financial debt. Very well, the monthly amount was not awful but the minimum payment of C$89 every month was too much for a starving student* with no income.  (*I was not a starving student. I lived at Hotel Mamma & Pappa with free room and board.) Luckily, after I sent a desperate request to NSLSC, I was offered a 6 month grace period. Thus, I was able to finish the rest of my semester in relative peace and to find some temp work.

I wonder now if I would have finished paying off my student loans earlier had I found a full-time job in Vancouver instead of spend a year in Munich. Probably. However, I do not regret my year abroad in Munich, gaining some international work experience though barely surviving on very little income. Furthermore, I spent the following year (after Munich) just temping every now and then, sometimes going bankrupt, sometimes barely afloat. When I started my first full-time job last August, I decided it was time to start paying more. I raised the monthly payment to $200 but discovered, to my dismay, that it would still take 6-8 years to pay back all of my student loans. That is terribly depressing!

Last year, I finally paid off my provincial student loans. It was a fraction of my national student loans but one less burden sitting on my shoulders.

Not too long ago, I decided I would take the risk and raise the amount to $450/month. That would be nearly a quarter of my monthly income. I would have to prepare myself to live very frugally but at least I would be done by the end of the 2013 year. I opened a new bank account at ING for their no-monthly-fees and $25 bonus in your bank account (for your first $100 deposit) was far too tempting to resist. ING gave me peace of mind, I tell you. When tax season came around, I was elated that I would be receiving more than I’d expected (forgotten about the tuition credits we could get back). Some people put their tax money into their savings account or RRSP. As I did not have the latter and I was desperate to be done with my student loans as soon as possible, I gave it all back to the government (as in the national student loan bureau), shortening the end date by at least 2-3 months.

Originally, I was going to ask the NSLSC to withdraw the final amount in its entirety on the last day of the month (as usual). When I learned that it would then be $2 more, I was surprised.

“I’m quite certain it was $454.79 the last time I checked (on Sunday),” I said.

Today, it was $454.99. I wasn’t going to risk waiting until pay day Friday to find that I have to pay $455 or more. Yes, call me a Scrooge. That one penny will make a difference to me!

So if you are paying back your student loans, I suggest you pay back as much as you can afford and as soon as you can. Then, when you’re done, CELEBRATE! 😀


  1. Avoid asking for too much loan money. If you do receive a lot for your 1st year, make sure you can use it for at least 2 years.
  2. When you receive your student loans, pay back the tuition fee to your parents (whatever they paid for).
  3. Budget wisely. Set aside an amount for rent, food, extracurriculars, flight/ride home, etc. Then you’ll know how much entertainment money you have.
  4. Every month, put some money in your savings account. That’s money you don’t touch! (Unless it really is an emergency!)
  5. Keep yourself so busy that you have little time to shop.
  6. Eat at home or bring a lunchbox to work. Eating out can be quite costly and turned out to be the biggest culprit on my credit card bills!
  7. Pay back your student loans as soon as possible, as much (as you can afford) as possible!

Important info

  1. As soon as you stop becoming a full-time student, you have to start repaying your loans. I was shocked to learn that as a part-time student, I would have to start paying back my student loans. How cruel. As if part-time students have the money!
  2. Interest is not your best friend when you have to pay back. The earlier you pay, the lower you keep your interest.
  3. When you are done, the student loans bureau will send you a letter confirming that all is paid. Yay!

To show my gratitude for education, I will be:

What’s next?

I’m currently saving up for a master’s degree, as well as all the expenditures for living abroad.

24 Things I Learned in Life

With one month to go before I turn a quarter of a century, I’ve come up with a list of things I’ve learned the last 24 years (in no particular order of importance).

  1. Chicken noodle soup is a must have when you’re ill.
    Thank you whoever invented Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup!
  2. Wooden roller coasters are painful.
    I’m not sure about men but it’s painful for women.
  3. Pets are the best ‘antidepressants’ (forget drugs – get a pet).
    People can be disappointing. Pets will warm your heart with their cuteness. I wish I had a pet when I was younger.
  4. Crying feels awful at the time but relieves the pain afterwards.
    Not crying when you need to will make you feel far worse. Let it out.
  5. Avoid people who speak negatively of others. They may say the same of you.
    You’re never ‘safe’ on their side. They can turn against you. Are you strong enough not to care?
  6. Beware of the green monster named jealousy. It can choke you and transform you into another little green monster.
    First, it’s just, “Oh I wish I were in your place!” Then it changes to, “Why do you get all these good things and I don’t get anything? This is unfair!”
  7. Being bullied earlier in life prepares you for hardships ahead.
    Ideally, I’d like the happiest childhood but sometimes you end up having the meanest people around you. Don’t give up. At least I won’t have a personal life crisis now or later.
  8. Boys are easy to get into trouble, girls will hold a grudge forever.
    If a boy picks on you, you can tell the teacher and the issue will be resolved. If a girl picks on you and you report her, she’ll hold a grudge forever. Watch out for her revenge.
  9. Drama/acting/theatre classes are a great way to get everyone out of their comfort zones.
    I’m still shy and I still get stage fright but drama classes have allowed me to be someone else and to learn what it’s like to be in people’s shoes. Furthermore, you get to be silly!
  10. What is a friend?
    Whereas Facebook applies a very liberal meaning to ‘friend’ and ‘friendship’, I’ve learned that just because someone is nice to you or you’ve enjoyed some good times with him/her, that ‘someone’ could just be an ‘acquaintance’. I used to call everyone a friend – as long as we had already been introduced and had enjoyed at least one conversation, however long or short. More recently, I’ve tried to be more cautious. Now everyone is an acquaintance. I wait for others to call me a friend. This could take a long time but thankfully, Germany already trained me for that.
  11. Joining and deleting Facebook were the best things I’ve done.
    During my 5.5 years on Facebook, I was able to reconnect with friends from Primary 3 to High School – all around the world – and to connect with new ‘friends’ from university and elsewhere. Keeping in touch became much easier and the first year on FB helped me through university. Leaving Fb, however, also brought me so much freedom from TMI (too much information) posts and all the unnecessary drama. Everyone else can continue to complain about privacy invasion. Furthermore, I will no longer have to be forced to accept people’s friendship requests. 😉
  12. Twitter is faster & better than Facebook
    Waiting for updates on Facebook, in the newspapers, on news sites, and the television is too slow. Twitter is the fastest way to find out the latest updates (for now?).
  13. The less you are on social media, the better.
    You’ll have more to talk about later. You’ll notice more things around you. Plus, you can take a break from drama tweets. 😉
  14. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So is fashion.
    Everyone is a fashionista if they want to be one. Everyone has a style. I’ve learned that elegance and chic today is broader than what I’d used to imagine it to be. There are clothes that I dislike that the world loves and things that I like that others don’t care for. Who cares. Own your style. Fashion faux pas? Who’s dictating this?
  15. You don’t have to be beautiful to be dated.
    I used to think that the only way you’ll find a date is if you’re pretty. If you aren’t, you have no chance of having anyone fall in love with you. Well, I was wrong. Turns out men (and women) will go for anyone. Everyone has different tastes. Some do go for the drop-dead-gorgeous. Some go for brains. Some go for humour. Some have no idea how it all happened, they just ended up together. There’s a someone for everyone.
  16. The secret to feeling young is to surround yourself with older people.
    Surround yourself with anyone who’s older than you – someone who’s a few years older, your parents’ peers, or your grandparents’ peers. You’ll feel VERY young. You have YEARS ahead. None of this I’m-so-old nonsense in your 20’s. Are you ancient at age 30?
  17. You can’t see yourself in 5 years. Or 10 years for that matter.
    “Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?” I hate those questions. How am I supposed to know? My whole life has been inconsistent and unpredictable. I did plan for the next 5, 10, 50+ years but I can tell you that life threw me so many wonderful surprises. If there were no disasters, no economic crises, and if I were super rich – if life were boring – maybe I would be able to get to where I see myself in 5 years. It doesn’t mean that I won’t try to pursue what I love. I’d still rather answer, “We’ll see where life takes me!”
  18. Until you’re in your 30’s, people don’t take you seriously in your 20’s.
    At least that’s what I figured out after I had graduated from university. Why not temp (try out different jobs) and travel in the meantime? Then your resume will look impressive.
  19. Volunteering jobs can be far more enjoyable, rewarding and educating than paid jobs.
    Aside from university & my exchange years, the next happiest memories for me are from volunteering. I met so many wonderful people. Received lots of wisdom from them. Learned more about homelessness, children, seniors, international organisations. Sometimes I want to put down ‘volunteer’ as my dream job.
  20. University are the best years of your life.
    That’s what I had been told before and during first year of university. They were right. I met so many people with like interests. There were hundreds of clubs for activities that I got to try (e.g. equestrian) and volunteer with. I got to know my professors. Oh and exchange year – getting the opportunity to travel and be a student in a foreign university was the best of those years!
  21. You are always learning something new.
    You can get a PhD or be the smartest person in the world but you’ll always be learning something new.
  22. Having a roommate can teach you a lot about yourself and how you deal with others.
    There are things you’ve never noticed or realised about yourself that your roommate will notice. We always try to show our good side to others. Perhaps even our good or best friends don’t see the other side to us. Our roommates are like siblings – they can be the best or the worst. Just make room for improvements when you need to and learn to communicate properly.
  23. Learning about your personality will help you and those around you.
    I was never good at expressing myself when I was little. I knew I was me but those around me couldn’t understand me. Learning about my personality through personality tests, horoscopes and the zodiac (whatever was related to me, that is), and from my parents helped me realise why I behaved the way I did: because I was born that way. Knowing that about myself, I can tell others this is who I am and if they don’t like it, blame it on the month and year I was born. And my ancestors. 😛
  24. Smiling can make a world of difference – to you and those around you.
    Just smile. 🙂

Post-Exchange: An Unpleasant Return to Vancouver

Meine liebe Freunde in Europa,
My dear friends in Europe,

zuerst muss ich sagen, dass ich euch VIEL vermisse! Die letzten Tage in Deutschland waren sehr chaotisch… Ich war in Muenchen von 24-26. Am 26. war ich wieder in Heidelberg, um mehr zu packen & zu putzen. Ich hatte um 3.30 geschlafen; am 27. war ich um 9h zu meinen Hausmeister gegangen, um eine Auszugstermine zu machen. Den ganzen Tag war hecktisch! Ich glaube, ohne die Hilfe von meinen Freunde, koennte ich nicht ueberlebt.mLeider war mein Flug verspätet bis 28.7. um 8h (am Ende, war es um 9.25), wegen des Wetters. Aber wir hatte eine freie Uebernachtung und Abendessen beim InterCity Hotel. Es war total geil, mein eigenes Zimmer zu haben, bes. ein schmales Doppelbett! Nun, muessten wir um 3h aufwachen, um den 1. Bus um 4h zu nehmen (ich sollte ein bisschen mehr geschlafen und den 4.45 Bus genommen!).

Den 28.7. war vielleicht den schrecklichsten Tag meines Lebens (d.h. 28. im Morgen IN Deutschland)!

First of all, I have to say that I miss you HEAPS! The last few days in Germany were very chaotic… I was in Munich from the 24th-26th. On the 26th I was back in Heidelberg in order to pack and clean some more. I slept at 3.30am; on the 27th I went to my Housemaster (“Landlord”) to set up a move-out appointment. The entire day was hectic! I believe that without the help from my friends, I couldn’t have survived. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed ‘til the 28th at 8am (in the end, it was 9.25am) due to the weather. But we had a free overnight stay and dinner at the InterCity Hotel. It was so amazing to have a whole room to myself, esp. to sleep on a queen-sized bed! However, we had to wake up at 3am in order to take the bus at 4 (I should’ve slept in and taken the 4.45 bus!).
The 28th (i.e. 28th morning IN Germany) was perhaps the most AWFUL day of my life!

  1. ich hatte 2 SCHWERE Koffer + Handcarry “Kofferlein” mitzuschleppen. Niemand hat mir geholfen.
    I dragged around 2 HEAVY luggage and a carry-on mini-luggage. No one helped me.
  2. war leider in der falsche Richtung gegangen. Von Halle E (richtig & auch Starting Point) bis Halle D (falsch u. weit), und nach Halle E zurück (wie ich die Schlange vermissen hatte, habe ich keine Ahnung!).
    Went in the wrong direction…from Hall E (correct and also the starting point) to Hall D (wrong and far away), and back to Hall E (how I missed the queue, I have no idea!).
  3. Musste Koffer auf Kofferkuli heben. Ohne Hilfe. Meine Armen tun weh. (Ansonst, bin ich SEHR STOLZ AUF MICH! Ich hatte es schon 2 mal gemacht in einer Kleid! 😉 Ich soll in die Olympiade mitteilen!)
    Had to lift luggage onto the trolley. Without help. My arms are sore. (Otherwise, I am VERY PROUD OF MYSELF! I have already done this twice in a dress! 😉 I should join the Olympics!)
  4. Weil die Koffer so SCHWER waren (50 kg insgesamt + 10 kg Handcarry), musste ich 340 EUROS bezahlen. Ja, ich HATTE gedacht, es wäre nur 30,40 Euros… 😥 Oh arme Studentin… am Ende war das Hotel nicht so frei, eh?
    Because my luggage was so HEAVY (50 kg for the two + 10 kg carry-on), I had to pay 340 Euros. Yes, I had THOUGHT, it was only 30.40 euros… 😥 Oh poor student… I suppose the hotel wasn’t so free after all, eh?
  5. Weil wir so früh fertig eingecheckt hatten, war die Securtiy Control nicht geöffnet. Musste noch 30min-1 Stunde warten.
    Because we were done with checking in rather early, the Security Control wasn’t opened yet. Had to wait another 30 min – 1 hr.
  6. Mein Platz im Flug war in der Mitte…Gangplatz. Koennte kaum schlafen. Ansonst, habe ich keinen Jetlag.
    My seat was in the middle…an aisle seat. Could hardly sleep. Otherwise, I don’t have jetlag.

Und jetzt bin ich wieder in Vancouver, British Columbia, Kanada. Es war sehr komisch fuer mich, wieder in einem englischsprachige Stadt zu sein. Das letztes Mal, das ich in Vancouver war, war im August. Damals lebte mein letzten Opa noch… Seit September war er verstorben, aber ich war nicht dabei. Also, ich wundere mich immer, ‘wo ist mein Opa? Ich muss ihn anrufen.’ Am Anfang hatte ich das Gefuehl, dass ich wie eine Auslaenderin war… oder als ob ich in einem Traum war. Na ja, es war ein Déjà Vu Erlebnis…

And now I’m back in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It was very strange for me to be back in an Anglophone city. The last time that I was in Vancouver was in August 2008. Then, my grandpa still lived… since September, he’s passed away, but I wasn’t there. So, I keep wondering, ‘Where’s Grandpa? I have to call him.’ At the beginning, I had this feeling that I was a foreigner…or that I was in a dream. It was a Déjà-Vu experience…

Jetzt bin ich totmuede. Es ist hier fast Mittenacht in BC.

Now I’m dead tired. It is almost midnight in BC.

xoxo Vergiss mich nicht! Forget me not!