Life in B.C. as an International Intern

Thu, 28 Mar 2024

By Ina Pace

A note from SFU Public Square: Ina Pace joined SFU Public Square as an International Intern with the InternEx program. Hailing from England and with a degree in History and English Literature, Ina came to Vancouver to gain further experience in communications, multimedia work, and social media marketing. She has since returned to the UK to pursue further education in journalism and writing, and we wish her all the best in her studies! 

Read about Ina’s experience in B.C. and at SFU Public Square below.

Unlike my past experiences living abroad, my life since late August in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) has been almost unnaturally plain sailing and uncomplicated. Not only do I have life experience and financial freedom that I didn’t have when I first came to B.C., I now find familiarity and comfort in Canadian culture. From 2013 to 2014, I was a student at the University of Victoria (UVic) on Vancouver Island, for an exchange year abroad during my English Literature and History degree in the UK. After that year abroad, my mindset changed significantly; I had a boost of self-confidence, I prioritized my mental health, and I embraced new travel experiences. Returning to this part of the world a decade later, I have sentimentally come full circle. I’ve come home again.

Among the many places I’ve traveled to or lived in, none have resonated with me like B.C. This is largely because of the natural beauty, seasons, the formative experience I had living here, and the relationships I formed. However, enough time has now passed for me to accept that my life in this province will not be how it was when I was 22, and I have consciously decided to avoid re-living or replicating history, rather focusing on making new memories and having novel experiences. That is one of the reasons I moved to Vancouver rather than back to Victoria, searching for new adventures, experiences, and exciting multimedia opportunities.

Ina visiting Victoria, B.C.

At the end of September, I returned for a bittersweet trip to Victoria, visiting sights such as the Parliament Building, the Empress Hotel, and the UVic campus. Coming back to B.C. has given me the opportunity to rekindle old connections, but it has also shown me that some chapters are best left closed. Victoria itself and UVic have changed, with various buildings being knocked down and replaced. Victoria has expanded and, from my point of view and experience, become less of a “sleepy town” and more a web of high rises akin to the metropolis of Downtown Vancouver. 

With my student days behind me, back when I was catered for and rarely traveled off campus, I have been living independently in Vancouver. Now, I am a more confident and savvier 32-year-old with life experience! For example, unlike my younger self, I know that it’s best to over-budget, that not everyone is going to like you, and that despite it being easy to meet new people, it’s actually harder to “click” with most.

These days, I am renting a basement suite in central Vancouver. Most weekends, I go on trips— either solo or with friends. I do my own grocery shopping and cooking, at the end of which I’ve (on occasion) asked the cashier to repeat the final bill in disbelief.

Ina Pace and Nicole Luongo

But despite my past life in B.C., there have been some culture shocks, such as tipping culture, which I have never been able to get my head around. My most unexpected culture shock was B.C.’s toxic drug supply crisis and the decriminalization of the possession of certain drugs for personal use, which occurred in January 2023. I was so intrigued by this topic that I researched it heavily during my internship with SFU Public Square and conducted an interview with an advocate for safe and regulated drug supply: Nicole Luongo, the recipient of the 2023 Sterling Prize.

When I’m not climbing mountains, drinking cocktails, and generally living my best life (while moaning about grocery receipts, of course), I’m interning in communications and research with SFU Public Square. I have enjoyed contributing to their approach to helping and enhancing local communities, as well as the welfare of students and knowledge mobilization.

SFU Public Square has taught me the necessities of editing and precision. I’ve learned the ways in which social media posts need to have precise wording/character counts, and how the tone will differ depending on the corresponding platform. It’s been fun pitching ideas for videos to my colleagues, and I’ve begun to incorporate what I’ve learned into my personal work, which has been a new and refreshing dynamic.

The SFU Public Square team

My highlight of this internship has been attending diverse events and engaging in open-minded conversations. The events which particularly stood out to me have been those about controversy and current affairs; including an interactive seminar about refugee housing and support with KinBracean exhibition-opening at The Museum of Vancouver exploring the cost-of-living crisis, and of course, the 2023 Sterling Prize Ceremony and Lecture with Nicole Luongo

During my internship, I also took an online course about Indigenous history and culture from the University of Alberta to expand my knowledge about the lands on which I was living and working. I learned about the vaste Indigenous histories and cultures, as well as this country’s deplorable colonial past. Additionally, I’ve learned the importance of land acknowledgment at public events (even during a Coldplay concert!) and how there is still a strong need for active allyship. Land acknowledgments do not seem not enough in the face of racism and other ongoing prejudices. I look forward to expanding my learning, even away from Canada. 

I currently have too many draws to the UK preventing me from moving to Canada permanently, but I hope to return to Vancouver next summer and find work within multimedia or journalism. Within a few weeks of my arrival in Vancouver this past summer, I knew that it would be difficult to leave again. With every visit it gets more and more difficult: 2013-14, 2016, and now in 2023. But I take comfort in the knowledge that I will come back soon. Here’s to 2024!