Final (scathing) thoughts about UBC

25 02 2014

In yet another email from UBC, I was invited to share my thoughts on my undergrad experience and to give feedback. Most of it was standard, boring survey stuff, but at the end, I had a big blank box to add any other thoughts about UBC. Here’s what I wrote:

UBC is a school renowned for not the quality of instruction, but the brand. As such, instructors are experienced in their field of study, but are not trained as educators (some worse than others). This leads to ineffective and often frustrating learning. For the amount of tuition we pay as students, and for a “world-class” university, this is sad and has left me very disappointed in my educational experience. I thoroughly enjoy the Creative Writing program, but for many courses and instructors in the rest of the university, it has been truly a letdown; courses in which I was excited to take and learn have left me disinterested and disheartened after. Many dismiss or downplay getting a bad instructor, but it’s much more than that; you feel upset/bored/tired going to class; you’re bored/tired in class; and after class, you’re upset and carry around negative emotions that impact the rest of your day. And to top it all off, you’re paying for this experience. This has happened time and time again, not just to me, but to others I know too. I am proud to have been a part of the Creative Writing program, but almost ashamed to have done it at UBC.

UBC prides itself with being a gorgeous campus with shiny new buildings. But if they can’t afford to hire trained educators, it seems clear that their money’s simply going to maintaining a grotesque facade and continuing their swindling scheme on unsuspecting future students.

The Rat and the Desks

1 10 2012

Here is a translation of my short story, El ratón y los pupitres.

The Rat and the Desks

The worst day of the year: the first day of classes.

Between the flood of cars, kids, parents, teachers, and lots of noise, I sit in my jail for yet another year again, watching the crowds through the window.  On the blackboard, I’ve written “Mr. Lema.”  The desks in the room are dull, empty, and cold.  Slowly, students enter, talking in loud voices, laughing.  They never pay attention to me, never look at me.  When they fill the desks, I stand up.

“Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Sixth Grade.  My name is Mr. Lema,  your teacher.  We’re going to learn a ton of stuff this year.  I hope you’re all ready and excited.”

They all laugh.  I imagine that I am the joke they are laughing at.


I remember when I was a child.  I loved to learn everything — math, science, geography, music.  I was so curious about the entire world.  But when I see kids today, with their high-tech gadgets, their diverse and confusing vocabulary, their indifferent and bored faces, it’s all a reminder that these boys and girls aren’t like I was.  Enthusiasm, passion — it’s not there anymore these days.

Or maybe it never existed.


One day, the principal tells me that a new student is registering in my class.   I don’t think about this news much.  While the class arrives, I short and quiet boy, like a mouse, stands at the door.  He looks at the floor in silence.  But I can see something special in the eyes of this young boy, something shining, like a little diamond waiting to be mined.  During class, he doesn’t read, and seems afraid of everything.

The students are outside during recess.  I am sitting at my desk when I feel someone in the room.  It’s him, of course, and I smile because I see those shining gems.

For a month, during lunchtime, I help him with his studies, especially English.  I can feel the quiet passion in this little mouse, the curiosity in his constant questions.  He never tells me about his family or where he comes from.  Little by little, he talks more and more in class, better and better.

One Friday, we are in the Music Room.  He sees all the different instruments in awe.  I pick up a trumpet, my favourite instrument.

“Would you like to learn how to play this?” I ask him.  He nods, a smile on his face.

“It’s a small instrument but loud,” I say.  “I can teach you tomorrow.”


I haven’t seen him since that day.  People say his family simply left.

While the bored students arrive as usual, and the grand noise returns again, I sit at my desk and I notice the dull and flat desks in the room.  I notice that the students that fill the desks year after year, both waiting for nothing.