Degree Requirements Q&A

This page consists of frequently asked questions from students regarding GRS degree requirements, including the areas of:

  • Regional Specialization
  • Resource Specialization
  • International Experiences
  • Language Requirements

Regional Specialization

This is a good question to ask, but should not form the basis for choosing your regional specialization. There will be job opportunities in each of these regions, as well as in Canada because Canada has active trade and other links with these regions. Choose the region that interests you the most - follow your passion!

There are two things you can do. One is to choose global courses that, because they are global, will be relevant for your region. For example, if there is no economics/business course specific to Asia Pacific, such as the Economic Development of Japan, you can use a more general International Economics course. But out of the 18 regional credits, a maximum of 9 credits of global courses that are not specific to your region can be used. This ensures that at least 9 credits of your regional courses will relate specifically to your region and thus will give you some understanding about your region. The other thing you can do is make sure you take some of your regional courses while on exchange. Even if it is a global course and not specific to Asia Pacific, such as International Economics, if you take it while on exchange in Japan it will no doubt involve perspectives and insights from the Asia Pacific region.

Resource Specialization

In GRS, you (the student) are in charge of mapping out a program that fits your interests, background, and learning objectives. If a resource specialization makes academic sense for you, then it will be possible under GRS. For example, if you want to follow a resource specialization such as Sustainable Agriculture and Health that is not listed, then map out the courses you would like to take and discuss your plan with your Faculty Advisor. These days, combining almost any areas – such as Sustainable Agriculture and Health – makes sense because of the increasing interdisciplinary and integrated approaches that are relevant today.

It depends on your interests. More depth in the environmental area will be better for some jobs, while more breadth plus global exposure from the GRS program will be better for other jobs. For example, the Fraser River Estuary Association may want more environmental depth, whereas the Vancouver Parks Authority may want someone who has environmental training but also understands what parks mean to different cultures. It is also useful to think about what happens if funding in the environmental area declines and your job is eliminated in two years time. Long term, the breadth and global perspectives provided by GRS will make you more adaptable for a wider variety of jobs.

Yes you can. Taking the case of Applied Biology, if you want to take as many Applied Biology courses as possible you should probably choose the B.Sc.(APBI) degree program. But if you want to study Applied Biology in a broader global context, then GRS is probably the right choice for you. The main difference is that under GRS you need to take social science courses that relate to your region of interest. Thus, you will be able to take fewer Applied Biology courses, but you will gain regional knowledge, language skills, and cultural awareness to supplement your knowledge of Applied Biology. Note that if you choose the B.Sc. (APBI) or the B.Sc. (FNH) you can still obtain global experience by participating in the Student Exchange Program. An exchange will give you new perspectives and insights on your area (APBI or FNH) from studying at a different university and living in a different culture.

If you know that you want to pursue a Master’s degree in a particular area, such as Food Science, you are probably better to do a bachelor degree in FNH with a major in Food Science or a double major in Food and Nutritional Sciences. But most students who are just starting their undergraduate degree program and anticipating going on for a Masters are not sure what specific area they would want to specialize in for the Masters. GRS offers a lot of flexibility, not only for the job market, for further studies. You could go on to a Master’s degree in a number of different areas, including Agricultural Economics, Business Administration, International Relations, and Resource Management Science as well as Food Science.

If you choose GRS and want to prepare yourself for a Masters in Food Science, the important thing is to discuss courses early on with your Program Advisor to ensure that you take the most appropriate courses in your resource specialization. Because GRS requires you to take social science courses that relate to your area of interest, you will not take as many food science courses as students from food science undergraduate programs. Thus, you will likely have to take upper level, undergraduate food science courses in your first semester as a graduate student. This may mean that by taking GRS you lose one semester of time. But it is common for students entering graduate school to have to pick up a few undergraduate courses in preparation for the Master’s degree.

International Experiences

For most GRS students, an exchange fits in well with their learning objectives, and they benefit immensely from it. If your region is the Americas, your exchange could be to another Canadian university, or another university or college in British Columbia. While most students choose an exchange to meet the global experience requirement, there are other ways of meeting it, such as through a work internship or a service based learning project. The real “must” is that GRS students get away from UBC campus for at least 3-4 months and have a different learning experience in their region.

Unfortunately, this useful experience cannot be used to meet the global experience requirement. The global experience requirement is intended to be an integral and planned part of your program, and must be pre-approved by your Program Advisor. Most students coming into GRS already have global experience. They build on it with additional experience through the GRS program.

While this would be unfortunate, there are still some options available to you:

  • (a) You could choose another country in the Asia Pacific Region as your second choice for exchange; e.g., Australia, India, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, or Thailand.
  • (b) Now there is an exchange option for GRS and other students from the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. Our partner in Japan, the Tokyo University of Agriculture, is offering a program in “Agriculture, Environment and Food Safety” that is taught in English.

It is possible. One semester abroad is better than none, but it is really too short to get engrossed in your new culture. You will get much more out of the experience if you can spend a full academic year (i.e. two semesters) on exchange.

Students in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems are allowed to go to two different exchange partners. For most students it is not desirable to split their exchange. One semester is too short to really get oriented into your new academic environment and new culture. In some cases can an academic argument be made to split the exchange. For example, if your regional specialization is Asia Pacific and your resource specialization is organic agriculture, it may make sense to spend one semester in Asia Pacific (for your regional specialization) and one semester in Europe (for your resource specialization) because it is one of the few places that you can take courses in organic agriculture.

That is not only possible, but desirable. Study tours, field studies, academic exchange, and internships all provide different learning experiences. Going on a study tour to Japan or Mexico would be a good way to get introduced to these countries before going there on the Student Exchange Program. Similarly, doing a work internship abroad after you have completed your academic exchange will provide work experience to complement your academic experience.

It depends on where you want to work, and what you want to do. The GRS program has developed a series of contacts and partners that can offer internships to GRS students, so you should discuss your internship plans with the GRS Coordinator or Director. If you want to do a work internship in a place where the GRS program does not have contacts, then it will be up to you to make the arrangements and have them pre-approved by your Program Advisor. In all cases, it is important to discuss your learning objectives for an internship with your Program Advisor well before making any arrangements.

This will depend on your situation, and the opportunities that exist for internships pre-graduation versus post-graduation. One advantage of incorporating an internship in your GRS program is that the work experience gives added relevance to the courses you will take to complete your degree. A disadvantage is that your undergraduate degree will take longer to complete, whereas an academic exchange does not cost you in time because you can transfer back full credit. While many GRS students do not mind taking an extra semester or two if they are getting good work experience, time is a consideration. Another consideration is the difficulty/ease of getting an internship after graduation. Many times even volunteer agencies require some international work experience before granting internships, so you are ahead of the game if you have done an internship within your undergrad program. On the other hand, some internship opportunities require that students have graduated. One such opportunity currently available for Canadian citizens is the Youth International Internship Program (YIIP). Because of the opportunity (and pay) offered by YIIP, if you are a Canadian citizen it is probably in your interests to postpone your internship until after graduating from GRS.

Language Requirements

In the Philippines, people speak Filipino and English, as well as their local dialect. Courses at the University of the Philippines are taught in English. Unfortunately, UBC doesn't offer courses in Filipino. However, if possible, you should study Filipino before or during your exchange, as it will enable you to get more out of your stay and to interact at a different level with local people. If you are unable to study Filipino, you can use any other Asia Pacific language (e.g., Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Punjabi) to meet the language requirement. Spanish can also be used because Filipino is about 50% Spanish, and Spanish is a Pacific Rim Language.

In Malaysia, people speak Bahasa Malay and English. Because Bahasa Indonesian and Bahasa Malay are largely the same, you should take Indonesian at UBC (INDO 101 and 102). You can build on this by taking an intensive course in Bahasa Malay when you get to Malaysia.

Yes, you can use any language relevant to the Asia Pacific region (except English). Although you could use your Cantonese to meet the language requirement, you are encouraged to improve your language skills in one way or another. You could take credit courses at UBC or your exchange university to improve your Cantonese, or take 12 credits of another Asian language. Alternatively, some of our exchange partners offer non-credit language courses. The important thing with the language requirement is not the 12 credits, but rather improving your language skills in a way that will enhance your exchange experience and/or improve your job prospects. GRS is for students who view language as an integral part of their undergraduate program. Nearly all GRS students have viewed the language requirement as an opportunity to improve their language skills, not as a requirement to get out of.