Vancouver Island University: student life on campus

An insider’s guide to the best live music venue, place to study and more on campus

The 411

Best place for a fancy meal:
La Stella Trattoria
Best cheap lunch:
Jalapenos Mexican Food
Favourite campus food:
Best pizza:
Ali Baba Pizza
Best place to live:
Best place to study:
Art and Design building
What surprised me most about the school:
The view of the ocean and mountains from on top of campus is amazing
Best campus event:
Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poets Lecture Series
Best live music venue:
The Queen’s
If I could change one thing about the school:
Make it more accessible. There are a lot of stairs and not enough ramps.

PROFILE: Vancouver Island University | Nanaimo, B.C. | Founded 1969

New construction has been booming at Vancouver Island University. There’s a state-of-the-art health and science building, a major expansion to the marine, automotive and trades complex, and a geo-exchange energy system that uses water trapped in an abandoned mine to cool and heat buildings.

Despite the growth, campus life is far from overwhelming. Nestled in the lower slopes of Mount Benson and overlooking Nanaimo, VIU has around 7,500 undergrads and offers small, intimate classes. It’s typical for professors and students to be on a first-name basis. There are two cafeterias, both supplying fresh eats from the culinary arts program. In the bustling quad, you have access to everything from Starbucks to a weekly farmers’ market. Wildlife is abundant—expect to learn alongside bunnies, deer and even owls.

There are more than 120 programs to choose from. The creative writing and journalism department boasts a faculty full of award-winning writers. There are several publications to publish your work, including Portal, a nationally distributed literary magazine. Attracting students from more than 40 countries, the faculty of management won the national M.B.A. Games competition in 2017. The International Centre for Sturgeon Studies is also stationed at VIU and allows biology students to take on innovative research projects with the ancient fish species. (VIU is a little sturgeon-obsessed: the campus bookstore sells canned sturgeon, and our mascot is a sturgeon named Stuey.)

After Class
Located on Snuneymuxw territory, VIU has many Indigenous programs. Elders-in-residence provide guidance and regularly appear in classes across departments to share Indigenous ways of knowing. You can minor or major in First Nations studies while completing a bachelor of arts. Shq’apthut (a gathering place) is home to three totem poles, and hosts feasts, workshops and cultural activities.

Local Vibe
More than just the birthplace of its namesake dessert bar, Nanaimo is a growing coastal city of 90,000 with plenty to do. For nature lovers, hike the wealth of trails that crisscross the city, chase urban waterfalls or experience world-class scuba diving. For those who are more indoor-minded, enjoy Nanaimo’s quaint and vibrant downtown. Shop the array of eclectic boutiques and specialty shops in the Old City Quarter, see a show at the Port Theatre, or eat at one of the many drool-inducing restaurants lining Commercial Street.

More Info
The Navigator, VIU’s student magazine, and the VIU student union website.