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Exploring the experiences of first-year LGBTQ+ students at UBC

Making new friends, adapting to life away from home and maintaining wellbeing can be challenging, especially for sexual minority students new to the university. With this premise in mind, Dr Gu Li and Professor Frances Chen from the UBC Department of Psychology started a research project that aims to understand the experiences of first-year LGTBQ+ students during their transition from high school to the university. 

Supported by the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the AMS Impact Grant, this study is expected to reveal how sexual minority students’ social experiences and feelings about their own sexuality influence their friendship formation, sense of belonging, and psychological wellbeing. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this research even more relevant now as most UBC classes will be online during the Fall semester and students are asked to maintain social distancing. 

If you are interested in sharing your own experience as a new student at UBC and be part of the research, you can start by filling in this survey.

If you are eligible, you’ll be invited to join a 2-part study in which the researchers will ask you additional questions about your social experiences and how you’re feeling during your first months at university.  These online lab sessions will be hosted online via Zoom.

 In this pre-screening survey, you will have the chance to enter a prize draw for one of ten $20 Amazon e-vouchers and ten $10 Amazon e-vouchers. If you are invited for the two online lab sessions, you will receive a $10 Amazon e-voucher for the first online lab session and an additional $15 Amazon e-voucher for the second online lab session.

Practice Self Compassion for Better Mental Health

By Speakeasy Peer Supporter

As a Speakeasy Peer Supporter, I would like to share my journey towards greater mental health and self-compassion with all of you because it has not been easy. This cold, gloomy weather makes me feel sad at times. The return to the routine of classes, writing papers and work makes me feel under the weather too. And, these shorter and darker days have me feeling more lethargic than usual.

Being gentler with myself – physically, mentally, and emotionally – was tough, especially because I tend to turn my anger and hurt inward. I tried to adopt an attitude to “kill with kindness” but this has a sort of dual meaning for me. I had to deal with the discomfort that arises from suffering, and kill unhealthy reactions like avoidance in order to grow. I believe that the beauty of life is being able to choose the way you relate to yourself, so you can give yourself what you need to thrive and reach your goals.

So, I decided to practice self-compassion and recognize that, I and everyone else around me, we are all deserving of health, success, and love. No terms or conditions.

So, I used some mental, behavioural, and emotional techniques that helped me deal with my fear of “ not being enough. Here are some exercises that helped me to practice self-compassion and you can try too.

In a moment of distress

Check in with your inner dialog. How are you addressing yourself? Are you denying yourself forgiveness? Are you using cruel language? To throw a little bit of psychotherapy in here, are you attributing your difficult situation to factors that are inner, unchanging, and general across all situations you will encounter?

For this first practice, think about the way you are talking to yourself, and then flip the script. How would you address a friend going through the very same situation that you are going through right now? The language probably looks very different – a bit gentler and warmer and kinder. Try to give yourself that same love when you are going through something tough and think about how you feel.

Try a self-compassion break

Take a moment to notice the feelings arising in your body. Stay with them for just a moment. If the feelings are overwhelming and causing you to panic, you can first try a stress-reduction exercise like counting 5-4-3-2-1, or do some box breathing. Then try telling yourself: “this is a moment of suffering”  “this is stress”, “this hurts”.

Acknowledge your pain and choose any of these mantras: “suffering is part of life”, “others have felt the way I feel”, “I am not alone”, “everyone deals with their own struggles”

Again, this is your practice, so choose the sentence that best resonates with you: “may I be kind to myself”, “may I give myself the compassion I need”, “may I learn to accept myself as I am”

Now, check in with yourself. How does your body and mind feel?

Try a meditation practice

Leading self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff has several to choose from on her website. While there are many ways to achieve better mental health, taking some or all practices from self-compassion is one possible route. There are also tons of others.

But if these exercises don’t work and your mood starts severely affecting all aspects of your life, if you find yourself lacking the motivation to go to class, being less social than usual, or having trouble sleeping, come to talk to us. Speakeasy is here for you and our Peer Support team will help you to resolve your issues, give you tips and advice on how to pick up your mood and to talk about any other challenges you might have.





Your AMS top 10 achievements in 2019

After the last day of classes and once the exams are done, the campus is mostly empty! With just a few of us holding the fort here, it’s time to reflect and think back to all the great things the AMS has brought to you this year.  These are our top 10 achievements of 2019.

1. Sexual Violence and Anti-discrimination policy (SVPREP)

In September, the AMS council approved the Sexual Violence Prevention and Respectful Community and Workplace Policy. This will apply to all AMS staff and student members across UBC. Read the full policy here.

2. More funding for SASC, Indigenous Student Fund and U-pass renewal

In March, you agreed to continue your support for the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), to create an Indigenous Student Fund and to extend the U-Pass program for another 5 years.
Plus, you put two questions forward to establish a thrift shop and to re-structure the campus culture and performance. They both passed the referendum. Well done UBC!

3. The Norm Theatre re-opened

This well-loved space reopened last month after being closed for three years for a revamp. Read more about it here.

4. A renovated Clubs Resource Centre opened

Planted between Iwana Taco and the Pit in The Nest, this space is here for you to hang out with friends, get some work done or take a nap. The whole space was renovated to make it more accessible and modern.

5. Interest-free student loans

In early 2019, the BC Government announced the elimination of interest for all current and future student loans.
This is the result of years and years of student advocacy and campaigning for the provincial government to recognize the financial difficulties of students in higher education.

6. Divesting from fossil fuels

Last year, we committed to being fossil fuel-free and we shifted our investments. We are also working closely with the university to divest from fossil fuels.

7. We put up a Lennon Wall

Installed on the first floor of the Nest, it quickly filled up with notes about the events that took place in Hong Kong.

8. Zero Waste Campaign

Plans and policies to implement a zero-waste campaign across campus were finalized. Starting in January 2020, all food outlets will reduce their disposable-cups usage.

9. Textbook Broke campaign

This year, we focused our campaign on pushing for alternatives to expensive textbooks. The development of open educational resources will help to reduce the cost of textbooks.

10. The 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square

We organized a ceremony at the Goddess of Democracy statue, which was restored for the occasion, to mark the 30th anniversary of the events of Tiananmen Square.

None of this would have been possible without your support and hard work. So, a big thank you to all of you!

How to put your green ideas into action 

By Natalie Chu 

Do you have a project in mind that could make UBC a more sustainable place to learn and grow? Maybe you think something on campus should be made greener, or you want to educate students on ways they can live more sustainably.

If you have the ideas but don’t know where to find the funds to bring them to life, the AMS Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) may be your answer. Solomon Atta, Sustainability Funds Administrator, explains “the ultimate goal of the SPF is to promote sustainability on campus and to educate students to make positive changes in sustainability at UBC”

The fund was established after students passed a referendum to support student-initiated sustainability projects. Each year, every UBC student contributes  $2.52 through student fees to support the SPF. Projects can be big or small and students can apply to receive funding up to $15,000 depending on their project size.

Here are some past ventures supported by the SPF.

Climate Hub- Climate comeback

In a time where intimidating facts and numbers about climate change might make people want to give up, it is important for students to keep fighting. The SPF financed a short video for Climate Hub UBC, which encouraged students to adopt sustainability. The video aims to motivate students by comparing the current climate situation to athletes returning to play after sustaining serious injuries.

Common Energy – Mugshare 

As UBC’s largest student sustainability organization, Common Energy has many projects that benefit from the SPF. These projects range from conferences to team meetings for education and outreach. For example, a Common Energy initiative is MugShare. This project brings reusable travel mugs to cafes on campus for student use. It aims to reduce the number of disposable coffee cups that end up in UBC’s waste. The funds were used to obtain and administer the mugs to the coffee shops across campus.

Do you have an idea too? 

If you are a UBC student or student group and have a project in mind with sustainability at its core, you can apply to use the AMS SPF. Before you apply, be sure to spend time thinking about your project through its full lifecycle, to increase the likelihood that your application will be accepted. The application process is designed to make sure that all parties get the most out of a given project, and to reduce the possibility of any unanticipated negative impacts.

For more information about the SPF, visit the AMS Sustainability Projects Fund page.

SASC Volunteer Stories: Working together towards a common goal

Volunteers are essential to keep the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) office running, organize events and spread the voice about initiatives such as Healing Fires: Art by Survivors and Allies, Come Together, and Consent Tea. We met with the Projects and Events volunteer who told us about her experience.

Tell us your favourite moment this year as a Projects and Events volunteer

My favourite moment this year as a Projects and Events volunteer was the closing ceremony for our art show: Healing Fires. It was overwhelming to finally see all of our hard work come together, our ideas become a reality, and to see the members of the SASC, UBC, and Vancouver community come out and support the art show. It was an unforgettable energy that night, we laughed, we cried, and it was inspiring to watch how we all came together to celebrate the resilience of survivors on their healing journey. I felt incredibly honoured to have been a part of an art show that created such a profound and powerful impact, by providing survivors and allies with a safe space to share their stories.

What are some great contributions made by other team members?

The events that we coordinated this year were all based on collaborative efforts. Whether it was proposing the initial ideas, logistics, set up, or moral support, my team members were ready to contribute whatever they could, whenever they could, to ensure the success of each and every event. Not only were my fellow volunteers extraordinary every step of the way, but the SASC staff who supported us were also vital to our team and success. Having such incredible leaders and mentors making contributions both big and small was a fundamental part of coordinating events that made an impact both on ourselves and on our community, by creating safe spaces for education and empowerment.

What’s one thing everyone should know about the SASC?

One thing everyone should know about the SASC is that their mission has an astonishing impact on others, and I believe that the SASC has a team unlike any other I have ever previously worked with. The SASCs mission to empower the community through their commitment to the support of people of all genders who are survivors of sexualized violence is incredibly important and impactful. And, it has helped to shape a volunteer community that is passionate and ambitious to make a difference. The SASC volunteer program is a safe and inclusive space where we can support one another while working together towards a common goal.

What advice would you give to someone going into your position for the first time?

A piece of advice I would give to someone who is going into my position for the first time is to be confident and creative when planning events. Going into my role I was worried that some ideas may have been unrealistic, such as a campus-wide art show, which none of us had previous experience in planning, meaning that it would require an enormous amount of time and energy to coordinate. There were dozens of other events that we could have chosen to do that were far easier and less risky, but I believe that our confidence and creativity was vital to the success of Consent Tea and the art show. Pursuing creative projects that we were passionate about, made the planning aspect more exciting, and it was clear that people were drawn to the originality of the events. It may take more time and a little extra effort, but pursuing ideas no matter how big or strange they may seem, helps to create events that will catch the eye of the community, and amplify our message.

The Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC) is committed to the education, support, and empowerment of people of all genders who are survivors of sexualized violence as well as their friends and family. The SASC provides free and confidential services to UBC students, staff, faculty, and those connected to the UBC-Vancouver campus community. Find out more on the SASC website.


Student entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas

By Iciar Fernandez 

Last Monday, everyone gathered at the Gallery to hear fifteen teams try to convince the audience to use their vote as a catalyst for their venture to jump from paper to life. From healthcare solutions to environmental proposals and everything in between, the students presented their business ideas to win a cash prize that would help them with the first steps to develop their projects.


Shakil Jessa, a first-year student pitching a fashion line of modernized religious wear, said “pitching at RBC Get Seeded was such an amazing experience! Being in a room with like-minded individuals that all had pointed out problems in society that they were passionate about and using creativity to come up with solutions was extremely inspiring”. When asked if he was nervous, he continued, “I felt nervous but once I saw everyone there I was very excited to get started!”

These are the nine lucky (and brilliant!) teams that will have their idea “seeded”, all thanks to a one of a kind collaboration between the entrepreneurship AMS service, eHub, and RBC:

  1. Soneoyster Biotech. An environmentally oriented venture that aims to collect and process oyster shells to turn them into high-value attractive stone products and concrete.
  2. Ferrofluid filtration. A way to remove microplastic fibres generated in each cycle of your washing machine, without relying on current physical methods.
  3. C3. Convert carbon dioxide to solid carbon products at room temperature – reducing our emissions is simply not enough, and this initiative aims to remove and reuse them.
  4. Reimagine Technology. A product for the careful and conscious household parents that are worried about the produce going into their own and their children’s bodies, and a safer way to ensure proper washing technique of fruits and vegetables.
  5. Trackk. Smart clothing with embedded sensors that allows tracking the athlete’s movement in 3D, addressing the need for athletes to get actionable feedback while training solo.
  6.  Chargepod. A product, an app, and a sustainable future for electric vehicles in Canada. Charge your electric car anywhere with Chargepod.
  7. Adapticlew. Imagine drugs could be delivered in a way analogous to the workings of the self-driving car; knowing where to go and reaching their destination seamlessly. This nanobot is designed to deliver targeted cancer drugs, mitigating off-target effects of conventional therapeutics.
  8. Atten.iv. Infiltration is a major issue of IV use; this device is designed to measure the primary cause of infiltration; IV dislodgement.
  9. Iknowagirl. A female-led network that organizes interdisciplinary female-exclusive events for women to develop their professional skills in a safe and welcoming environment.

These ventures will receive $500 from RBC, and automatic entry to Innovation OnBoards competition where they have a chance to compete for more funding and resources to keep their idea going. If successful, a few of those teams will move on to the UBC’s incubator program, the Lean LaunchPad!

“It was great to see pitchers, peers, and other community members from the University come and support innovation that is happening here” – Tahir Adatia, EHub Coordinator at the AMS, commented – “Being able to see a full crowd celebrating those who are working to solve problems, will always be a spectacular sight to see. And, we would like to thank all the participants and remind the ventures that did not win this time that they should continue to refine and improve their ideas”.

Here is a recap on the rest of the brilliant ideas that were pitched onstage:

  1. Appreciate. A line of clothing that seeks to erase the line between modern society and religion by bridging the two together.
  2. Nutricycle. A fertilizer that reduces paper waste and saves freshwater bodies from environmental concerns associated to fertilizer use – and a product that addresses the growing need for increased food production, with the consequences that it entails.
  3.  Initech. Eases the process of learning or reviewing class materials for students by parsing handwritten pages into legible PDFs with deep learning technology.
  4. Multiply2. An app to create an incentive for students to dispose of waste correctly, where the more points you gather, the more points you can spend in different locations across campus.
  5. Reflex. An affordable and versatile carbon fibre shield that protects drones from a wide variety of accidents, minimizing the impact of damages caused by external forces.
  6. Prova. An app to find an optimal food spot to enjoy a meal with your friends, allowing students to upload their schedules, share them with other friends, and with incentives such as gift cards.

Do you also have an idea and don’t know where to start? Check the eHub and Entrepreneurship@UBC pages to find out more.