UPEI: An insider look at an island university

Fourth-year veterinary student, Gia Barss, examines Tobasco at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) at UPEI. In addition to the delivery of educational programs and research projects, the faculty is widely known for its Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Atlantic Canada's only full-service veterinary referral hospital, providing specialized services and health care for patients, as well as training for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students, interns and residents.  PHOTOGRAPH BY JENNA MARIE WAKANI

Photograph by Jenna Marie Wakani

Olivia Robinson, 22

With its picturesque quad and historic buildings, UPEI is a wonderful place to learn. The imposing facade of the campus’s main building drew me in immediately and continues to inspire me to work hard. Even though UPEI is largely a commuter school, the large international student base helps to create a welcoming atmosphere. The campus is relatively small (it only takes five minutes to walk from one side to the other), which makes getting to classes easy and stress-free. On average, the enrolment at UPEI floats around 4,000 students.

UPEI is not immune to the financial pressures facing Atlantic universities, but, with the implementation of a new school of engineering, it is still growing. Even though many of the buildings on campus are old, there is a new business building that opened in 2008 and a new health sciences building that opened in 2012.

Sometimes the campus feels quiet, but that makes it easier to find a perfect study spot in the library or drop in for an impromptu chat with one of your professors. The faculty and administration at UPEI have adopted the Island mentality of friendliness, and most of them will get to know your name and stop to chat if they see you walking around campus.

The orientation week for incoming students is legendary, but the fun activities do not end after first year. The live theatre community at UPEI is going strong—there are numerous poetry readings and musical performances throughout the year—and it’s almost a guarantee that you can find free coffee or food on campus, especially on Fridays.

Overall, UPEI is a small university with a big heart. It is beautiful in every season and the people you meet will make you feel right at home on this gentle island.

There is definitely no shortage of extracurricular activities to partake in, such as yoga, zumba, skating and various other exercise classes. If participating in activities isn’t your thing, there are always Panthers sports games going on and spectators are encouraged to cheer on the UPEI athletes. And if sports aren’t your thing, there are many societies on campus, such as the Business Society, the Pre Vet Society and the Poli Sci Society, which welcome new members with open arms. Not to mention, the ocean is never more than a 10-minute drive away, no matter where you are on the island, and it is usually still warm enough to swim in September, if you’re brave.

City Vibe
Right across the street from UPEI is the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market, which has local coffee and food, as well as mini-doughnuts that are to die for. Downtown Charlottetown, which is only a short bus ride away from campus, has a plethora of coffee shops and quaint eateries. The Confederation Centre Art Gallery is a wonderful way to spend a quiet afternoon, as well.

The bar scene is also excellent, with great live music at the Globe and Hunter’s Ale House. If you’re craving a brilliantly crafted drink, check out Marc’s Studio or head across the street to Gahan House for some great local beer (and probably a run-in with a professor or two).

The Skinny
P.E.I.’s guide to what’s going on: BuzzOn.com.