Last updated: August 2008

These are our experiences up to 2008 before the GSS separated from the SFSS; because of the split in student societies some of this information will change. Also, note that we're just trying to give some advice based on our experience. We do not claim completeness of the provided information.

Important information for beginning graduate students

  • Beginning at a new university or new program can be very confusing and stressful.
  • There are lots of nice people who can help. Ask anyone in the physics office and they will point you towards someone who you can talk to about any of your concerns. You can also contact the grad caucus at physgrad-pres(at) and we can help you.
  • If you havenít registered by the first day of classes, it is unlikely that you will lose your spot in the program so donít worry too much. Before you can register you will have to pay a $100 deposit ó this is easiest through online banking as the lineups are very long the first week.
  • If you are new to BC, you will have to make sure you have registered with MSP (Medical Service Plan of BC) and have found health insurance coverage in case you get sick. (see below for more details)
  • Introduce yourself to the physics office staff, they will tell you where your office is and where you can get keys. Make sure you also ask for the KA-C key, this opens the door to the Grad Lounge in room P9431 and the physics office coffee room, both of which have fridges and microwaves.
  • Before the end of the first month, you will need to choose which medical plan to join (see below). However, if you forget or donít care, you will be covered through the university anyway.

Grad Benefits or TSSU medical plans

  • You are automatically enrolled in the Graduate benefits plan.
  • Grad benefits have some dental and optical coverage
  • Grad benefits do NOT cover MSP premiums
  • MSP premiums are based on your last tax return and they donít care if you are now a student making little money.
  • Check the government's MSP page to find information on MSP. If you made under a certain amount of money last year, you can apply to have the government cover the cost of MSP (see MSP premium assistance).
  • The TSSU plan will cover MSP costs
  • TSSU coverage does not cover optical and you can get a separate dental add-on (SFU will cover some of the dental premiums).
  • If you will need to pay MSP premiums each month ó it may be worth enrolling in TSSU coverage.
  • If you want to continue your coverage for a semester or two after the end of your TA work term you can apply but you will have to cover the full cost of the premiums up front.
  • If you are eligible for MSP premium assistance but want to stay with the TSSU for another semester, you will need to pay the premiums up front to SFU then apply for the premium assistance through Human Resources (do not send to MSP directly). MSP will send you a cheque for the difference.
  • Talk to HR or Finance/Payroll in Strand Hall and they should be able to help you.
  • It is up to you to enroll/opt-out in medical plans in the first month that you start as a student.
  • More info: Student Services.
  • Medical insurance issues are a real pain but hopefully this summed up some of the facts.

Medical Issues for International Students

Essentially the same holds, but:

  • you are not eligible for Premium Assistance
  • you must apply for MSP upon arrival, then there's 3 month waiting period
  • highly recommended: private insurance for those 3 months, see:
    (imagine you have an accident and need to stay in the hospital)
  • you are eligible for TSSU and Graduate Benefits plans
  • a good resource is SFU International, see 'Health Insurance'

Medical issues for out of province students

  • Check the health coverage from your home province. If you cannot maintain your home province coverage while you are studying in BC, then you will have to register for the BC MSP.

Should I be a TA (Teaching Assistant)?

  • You will most likely have to TA in your first year at some point. But it depends on:
    • How much money your supervisor has.
    • If you have any scholarships or grants.
  • Being a TA can be a great experience and teaching others is a great way to learn yourself.
  • If you are worried about having to pay MSP premiums, being a TA allows you to enroll in the TSSU medical coverage (see above). However, you have to enroll in the first month of your start date or on each year's anniversary.
  • You will need to talk to your supervisor and get approval from them first.

Problems or issues related to being a TA

  • At the beginning of the semester you are told how many hours you are expected to do. Keep track of your hours and if there is a problem talk to either the instructor, someone in the physics office, or us (we have a representative on the TSSU union).
  • You are entitled to one month of sick pay! Call the class instructor or physics office staff, it is their job to find a replacement for you. Donít cover or get someone to cover for you as you will both lose out on pay.


No events listed

Email us though!