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 New Students Tips
New Students Tips

Practical Information for New Graduate Students in Mathematics

Welcome to UBC Mathematics! This document contains practical advice for students entering graduate studies at UBC. The years ahead will be full of challenge, stimulation, learning, and achievement. The tips below should help you get this adventure off to a smooth start. Two checklists below summarize what needs to be done right away or immediately after you arrive. Details about each action item appear later in this writeup.

Before You Arrive

  • Plan your travel. All graduate students in Mathematics (new and returning) are invited to an orientation meeting in late August or early September. This will give you a chance to meet some faculty members and some other students, and to hear about the courses offered in the coming year.
  • Study! All incoming PhD students are strongly encouraged to write the qualifying exam that takes place in early September. (MSc students are exempt.)
  • Obtain a Study Permit, if you need one. [detail]
  • Apply for on-campus housing, or explore the alternatives. [detail]
  • Check your fees and register for courses (if you wish) using the Student Service Centre.. [detail]
  • Optional (but useful, especially for international students): if you will be applying for an Affiliated Fellowship, bring one or two sealed reference letters from a professor at your University. The letters should not exceed one page, and should be written on official letterhead. Let your referee(s) know that the reference letter is for a University Graduate Fellowship competition.
    For this competition, The Faculty of Graduate Studies accepts certified copies of original, official transcripts for all university-level studies. For NSERC applications, transcripts must be original and official, received by the department in sealed envelopes from the issuing institution. We strongly encourage all students arriving from countries where it is difficult to obtain official transcripts to request multiple official, original transcripts from their home universities before coming to UBC. These documents can be kept in your departmental file for future use.

When You Get Here

  • Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) [detail]
  • Apply for medical insurance through MSP [detail]
  • Get your UBC student card and U-Pass [detail]
  • Bring copies of your SIN receipt and your Study Permit to the Graduate Program Coordinator
  • Apply for a MathNet computer account [detail]
  • Get your office assignment [detail]
  • Get keys for your office, building, and computer lab [detail]
  • Get a mailbox and a copier code [detail]
  • Fill out a direct deposit form [detail]
  • Register for classes [detail]

General Information


Here are supporting details for the items included in the checklists above, and some additional tips. They are organized thematically, not chronologically, in sections that capture most of the necessities of life: academics, immigration and employment, family, food, housing, transportation, health, and community.

Academics and Work Environment

Math Office

Room 121 of the Mathematics Building houses the Department's capable and helpful staff, including the Graduate Program Coordinator. Please drop in and introduce yourself as soon as you arrive in Vancouver. The staff will gladly help you find your way around. The office telephone number is 604-822-2666.

Student Card

A student card can be obtained from the UBC Bookstore. It serves as both your student ID and a library card. To obtain it, you must know your student number and bring a piece of photo ID. For more details see


Registration is mostly done online. (The Graduate Program Coordinator can intervene manually in difficult cases.) The online system is offered through the Student Service Centre (SSC), whose URL is

To access the SSC you need to Login, and this requires a Campus Wide Login (CWL) account. To get one, click the CWL Login button on the page just cited and follow the instructions headed Sign up for Campus-Wide Login on the next page. The SSC also allows you to manage your tuition fees.

The Campus Wide Login system also provides access to the wireless computer network that now covers most of the UBC campus. The web page for the CWL program is


The library publishes numerous guides and leaflets outlining the organization of the system and the services available. These may be picked up at information and reference desks throughout the system or online at

MathNet Computer Access

The department has a network including Unix, Linux, and Windows computers. Graduate students are entitled to use this system. Account applications and the related usage policy and guidelines are online at Our systems administrators are Joseph Tam, The Ha, and Thi Nguyen. They share office 227 in the Math Building (phone 822-6621; email help AT Contact them to obtain a MathNet account. To get into the computer rooms (one in room MATH 209, another in MATX 1108), you need an access card. Ask the staff in the office (room MATH 121) for the card; a cash deposit ($20) is required.

Office Space

For office allocation and office keys see the Facilities Clerk. If you encounter a problem with your office that requires the attention of Plant Operations, please report this to the office staff or email facilities AT


Your office will be equipped with a telephone. For on-campus dialing of numbers beginning with 822-, i.e. 822-XXXX, you need only dial the last 5 digits, ergo 2-XXXX.  For example, when dialing the Math Office at 822-2666, simply dial 2-2666. For off-campus calls, dial 9 - followed by the 10-digit number. Please consult the "TELEPHONE DIALING INFORMATION" section in the blue pages of the current Faculty and Administrative directory for further assistance related to long distance calls. Charges for long distance calls made from your number are your responsibility.


The departmental fax machine, 604-822-6074, is in the Math Office. If you would like to send a fax, see Ann Artuso. Cover sheets are available beside the fax machine and the original cover sheet is used for invoice purposes. The sender is responsible for any long distance charges related to faxes. Research-related faxes are usually charged to an NSERC operating grant; personal faxes will be billed to you directly.


The mailroom is in MATH 125. Your mailbox will be set up in this room.  There are trays for outgoing mail in the main Math Office (Rm 121).  Letterhead envelopes and campus mail envelopes are available here as well (the white cabinet, side counter).  Letterhead paper is also available in the front office, on the shelf between the fax machine and the printer.

When dropping off your outgoing mail, please use the correct tray.  The tray marked CAMPUS is for mail that will not be charged to the department or any NSERC account holder in the department.  The category CAMPUS includes department offices of UBC, SFU, University of Victoria and the BC Government.  As well, you can put any personal mail in the CAMPUS tray as long as it bears sufficient postage.  Please note, if it is found in the CAMPUS tray, but is not in fact campus mail, and does not include postage, it will not leave the office. The DEPARTMENT tray is for work-related correspondence that does not pertain to research. The other trays are for RESEARCH.  Research-related mail is usually charged to an NSERC account, therefore the account holder's name - i.e., your supervisor's name - should also appear above the return address.  If you have any questions about the mail, ask at the front desk in the Math office, Room 121.

Office Supplies

You'll find envelopes, pens, chalk, notepaper, and other miscellaneous stationery for your use, located near the reception desk in the Math office. For further information on supplies ask the receptionist.

Immigration and Employment

Study Permit

All International Students must hold a valid Study Permit, issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). General information about Study Permits is supplied on the CIC website:

You can apply for a Study Permit from the nearest Consulate or Canadian Immigration Office, or at a port of entry or border crossing. You will need to include a copy of your offer letter with this application. You will be coming into Canada as a person studying in Canada temporarily. Once you receive your Study Permit, you will be allowed to study at UBC on a temporary basis. If you are planning to leave Canada during your stay at UBC (e.g., for vacations, conferences, etc.), please ensure that you notify Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) when you apply for the first time, to ensure that the appropriate visa is issued. Please note that not all persons are eligible for a multiple entry visa.

Instructions on how to apply are available from

and the Study Permit application form itself is available for download at

Please note that you are not allowed to begin working until the effective date of your study permit; for example, if you were hired effective July 1st, but your study permit is not effective until August 15th, your start date will now be August 15th. If you are reappointed and need to renew your permit, you must apply to CIC's Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta. Once you receive your new study permit, please forward a copy of it to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Social Insurance Number

When you arrive, you must apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) as soon as possible. Your T.A. and/or R.A. appointment cannot be processed without a proof of application, and you can't be paid before you're appointed!

The government agency responsible for issuing Social Insurance Numbers is Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC).

Here's how to handle the SIN transaction.

  1. Get some background information at the Service Canada Form site where you can download an application form.
  2. Complete the form and take it to any HRSDC office. The closest one to UBC is located at 1263 West Broadway (map). Take along your proof-of-identity documents and all your papers concerning work authorization (passport, study permit, official offer from Math Department, official offer from Faculty of Graduate Studies).
  3. You won't get your official SIN card, but you should get a receipt with a SIN number to prove that you have applied. That's enough to take the next step.

Getting Paid

Please present your documents to the Graduate Program Coordinator as soon as possible. Once she sees your SIN application receipt and study permit, and knows your local address, she can introduce you to the UBC Payroll system.

UBC Payroll

UBC Financial Services includes the Payroll Department. Payroll is on the 5th Floor of the TEF 3 Building, 6190 Agronomy Road. Phone 822-2187 for reception. Paychecks are generally prepared for the 15th day and the last day of each month. You can arrange for salary installments to be deposited directly into a bank account you specify. Financial Services supplies a direct deposit form you can complete to arrange this; a voided sample cheque is required. (Return the form to Financial Services for processing.)


The banks with branches nearest to the campus are the Bank of Montreal, at the University Market Place in the village, #105-2142 Western Parkway, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, one block east of the corner of University Boulevard and Westbrook Mall, 5796 University Blvd, and The Royal Bank of Canada, UBC Wesbrook Village, 5905 Berton Avenue.


Spousal Employment

If you will be bringing in a spouse or a common-law partner,who wishes to search for and take up employment in Canada, they will require a work permit. For more information, please see this section of the CIC website:


UBC Child Care Services ( provides exemplary childcare through 12 centres designed for the children of students, faculty and staff at UBC. The 12 centres include one infant centre, one combined infant and toddler centre, three toddler centres (18-36 months), five centres for pre-school children (3-5 years), and two after-school care centres. In total, the centres provide some 250 places, but due to the extraordinarily high quality of care, waiting lists tend to be long. We suggest you inquire early about available space.

School-age Children

If school age children accompany you, it may be necessary to obtain a study permit for them before they attend classes in Canada. These permits may be issued either by a Canadian Visa abroad or, following your arrival in Vancouver, they may be issued by the Case Processing Centre, Vegreville, Alberta. There is a processing fee for a study permit (currently $125, but subject to change). We suggest that you contact the Vancouver School Board ( prior to your arrival at the University of British Columbia to ensure that your children will be eligible to attend elementary or secondary school. The Vancouver School Board has a web site with further information:


On-campus Housing

For information about on-campus housing, visit

Please note that both colleges mentioned here require you to submit transcripts and reference letters with your application. Green College accepts copies of these documents submitted by the department. Please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator if you wish us to forward the copies to Green College.

Off-campus Housing

The Alma Mater Society (UBC's students union) maintains a list of off-campus housing on its AMS Rentsline:

Temporary Housing

If you plan to look for housing once in Vancouver, have a look at the UBC Student Resident Site.


Public Transportation

Part of your tuition fees helps pay for your U-Pass/Compass card a bus pass that gives you access to all Translink services (bus, sea-bus, and skytrain). You can pick up your U-Pass/Compass card at the UBC Bookstore upon your arrival. For more information about the U-Pass/Compass card, see Several bus routes provide frequent service to the campus; most go to the centrally located bus loop. For detailed transit information and schedules including an online trip planner, see

Parking at UBC

Parking on campus can be expensive. You may purchase parking passes for surface lots and/or parkades, and arrangements can be made to have the cost deducted from your paycheque on a monthly basis. For further information or to purchase a parking pass, contact UBC Parking, 6200 University Boulevard, telephone 822-6786 or email AT


Meals, snacks and beverages are available all over campus. The sources for takeout or sit down meals nearest to the Math Department are Triple O's, Tim Hortons, Bento Sushi, and Qoola. To find places to eat elsewhere on campus see Food Services website for more information.


Medical Insurance

All BC residents are advised to have medical coverage through the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP). You can apply for MSP through UBC and deductions can be taken from your paycheque on a monthly basis for this coverage. For more information, please visit

There are two basic insurance plans (iMED and MSP) and one extended plan (AMS/GSS Health and Dental) for international students at UBC.

Please note that there is a three-calendar-month waiting period before you can be enrolled in MSP, this includes the remainder of the month in which you arrive plus two (2) more months. During this time, you will be covered under the private medical insurance through IMED. All international students who are assessed student society fees are automatically enrolled in IMED. Should you run into any problems, drop by the International House. Your study levy fees will include the medical and dental fees. You are strongly encouraged to apply for MSP coverage as soon as you arrive.

Finding a Doctor

Student Health Service (SHS) operates a clinic on the main floor of UBC Hospital. All students are eligible to use SHS as a family physician while at UBC. SHS offers full primary as well as preventive care. If you require specialist care they offer timely referrals. Many diagnostic tests are scheduled right at UBC Hospital making it possible for most students to receive all their health care right on campus. For more information, please see the Student Health Services website.


Everybody needs a sense of belonging and significance. Every year the Department holds several social events to express its welcome and inclusiveness to newcomers at every stage of their postgraduate careers. We hope you will find life-long friends among your fellow students and professors. There are plenty of other opportunities for human contact on campus as well for example, the intramural sports program, the Graduate Student Society, and the impressive spectrum of clubs sponsored by the Alma Mater Society.