Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Newbie’s (Sorta) Short Guide to the U of A Campus (OR, Helpful Reminders for Returning Students)

Welcome to the U of A

So, it’s the last day before school, and you’ve likely spent hours frantically Googling the names of different U of A buildings, trying to work out the shortest routes between your classes, or when and where you can get your U-pass, or just maybe, where you can go to feed that Starbucks addiction you have. Anyway, you’ve now inevitably ended up on this page, frustrated, annoyed and at your wit‘s end… so I’m just going to get to the point: YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE. Because in all your Googling, Binging, and Ask-Jeeves-ing (is this still a thing?), you’ve likely thought, “Argh! I wish there was a central place I could go, where I could find general information about U of A’s campus to help me sort out all this information in my head!” That’s exactly what this post aims to accomplish. (It’s also what InfoLink will do if you visit them in person… but, more on that later.)

Let me add though, that this isn’t exclusively for new students (or faculty members). You could be a returning student, and to those students, I say “Welcome!” This is a judgment-free zone. At no point will I make underhanded jabs, or even imply something along the lines of “BUT HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND THE SCHOOL YOU‘VE BEEN GOING TO FOR 2+ YEARS?” 

Truth is the U of A campus is big. Like mighty big, and it can be easy to get lost. It’s also unlikely that you have (or have had) a class in every building, so although you might already know a lot  about our campus, there could still be a few new things to learn. So, it’s my job to try to share as much helpful information about the U of A as I can in a single post just for you. Do I deserve some sort of award for this? Probably. Okay, well, maybe not, but just send some well wishes my way and we’re even. 

Getting to Campus

UAlberta Sign

For the ultimate newbie: you’re most likely taking, or teaching, classes at U of A’s North Campus. Please do not get confused on your first day and get off at South Campus whilst taking the LRT… because you will likely be left scratching your head, staring confusedly at endless, seemingly empty green fields as the train dings away. “Ha!” you laugh. “She must be joking! That’ll never happen to me!” Now, now. We’ve all been confused freshmen at one point… don’t belittle someone else’s unfortunate (but entirely hypothetical) experience. I mean, not that it happened to me or anything…


UAlberta QUAD

Be it fall, spring or summer, QUAD is the place to be (see how I failed to mention winter? Because we live in Edmonton, and trust me when I say, you won’t be spending too much time out there once the cold settles in.) It’s beautiful, and perhaps the most well-known place on campus. It’s almost impossible to miss since it’s the giant field in the middle of campus. 

Different ‘fests’ go on here at various times throughout the year including this week’s Week of Welcome and even Clubs' Fair activities... BBQs held by student groups also tend to happen in QUAD along the path between CAB and SUB; who doesn’t love a good burger, even in the dead of winter? If you need a place to relax, meet up with friends, or people-watch in a non-descript manner whilst enjoying the fresh air outside, quad’s your place. Also, please don’t romanticize the notion of completing an assignment outside… ‘Cause been there, done that, and let me tell you, watching your papers fly into the face of an annoyed stranger is just the worst thing. So, do so at your own risk. 



The Students’ Union Building, also known as SUB (gotta get used to those abbreviations!), is probably the one building that all students have in common. You will visit this building a number of times throughout your academic career at the U of A, willingly or unwillingly. Here, you’ll find the offices Students‘ Union, most of the campus student services, and the University of Alberta Bookstore, which is a must when buying books, lab manuals, various class equipment, and UAlberta gear. Which reminds me - can someone please do a study on how many hours of student life is spent in the lineup for the Bookstore? If it’s your first time, I wish you good luck, because the Hunger-Games-like environment in there can get overwhelming (and also a pain, when all you’re buying is a ruler and the person ahead of you seems to be majoring in every single subject, and naturally, HAS THE WHOLE STORE IN THEIR HANDS). But, we do have a few suggestions for beating the line in this post

Just on a side note: make sure you visit SUBtitles, which is now a part of SUBmart (all located in SUB, clearly), when buying textbooks as that is where you’ll find used books, which is a cheaper option for most students. 

In addition to cheap books, SUBmart is also home to the campus post office, which is usually open pretty late, giving you enough time to pop in after classes are finished for the day (excluding night classes). 

SUB is also home to a food court as well, and has plenty of places where you can sit and chat with friends. Beware, though: the sitting areas in SUB tend to get pretty crowded (starting at about noon), especially in the first few weeks of the semester. The Alumni Room is also located in SUB and is a very popular study spot, with its glass walls and bright lighting offering a somewhat cheerful atmosphere (as cheerful as studying can get). The fact that it’s a silent room is great for productivity! But if you’re a literally-POP-open-my-Doritos-bag-and-crunch-loudly type of person… it’s probably best that you stay out of there, because the daggered looks you’re likely to receive are not good for morale the night before a gruelling midterm. 



If, at any point during your day, you need a general question answered about anything to do with the University of Alberta, the services offered or even about student life, pay a visit to the InfoLink booths located in various buildings on campus, and they‘ll point you in the right direction, at the very least. This is especially convenient when you’re on your way to class, and just want something clarified. InfoLinks are also the place to visit for returning U of A students who’d like to get their U-pass, without hassle and at the start of each term. 

Student Connect

Student Connect

The Administration Building, conveniently right beside SUB, houses a number of practical services you’ll need as a student when: paying your fees (due on September 30th, 2014... you‘re welcome!), asking registration questions, getting your transcript and official documentation , updating your personal records, asking about loan information and much, much more. Student Connect is the Office of the Registrar’s main service point for students, and you’ll likely visit it at least once during your time on campus. As a note, remember to try to pay your fees as early as possible if you want to avoid long lines as the deadline draws near! 

ONEcards and U-Passes

InfoLink ONEcard Service Centre

I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, but if you go to the U of A, you should have a ONEcard. It’s very important that you have it, because this is how you‘ll pay for copying and printing, borrow books from libraries and pay for meals. This is also where your U-pass sticker will be, which is essential if you take the bus or go on the LRT. 

If you’re a new student, during the first few days of the school year, there’s usually a place where they mass-produce ONEcards so you don’t have to wait in very long line ups (if you attend Orientation, you will probably make a stop here). This year, it’s at the Riverside Lounge from August 27th until September 2nd. I repeat, this is for NEW students ONLY. 

If you’re a returning student, and need a replacement ONEcard, you’ll have to go to the InfoLink ONEcard Service Centre  located in HUB mall. Keep an eye on that ONEcard, because even though you can easily replace the card itself, you’ll have to replace the U-pass as well. Yes, you’ll have to pay full-price for the U-pass in order to replace it, even if it’s three days after you’ve gotten it. Sucks, I know.  (BUT, starting on October 1, you’ll only pay 75% for the cost of your replacement U-Pass… and in November, it will only be 50% of the U-Pass fee… and if you have the misfortune of losing your card/U-Pass in December, you’ll only have to pay 25% of the U-Pass fee for a new sticker… But if you never lose your sticker, you’ll never have to pay anything other than the original cost of your U-Pass.) You can get your U-Pass at InfoLink’s SUB and CAB locations all this first week.


UAlberta Libraries

Ah, the libraries… home to the most frequented study spots on campus and likely where you’ll be spending late nights, red-eyed and tired, and experiencing your most frustrated and stressed moments. We have a number of libraries on campus, and though the libraries aren’t restrictive in terms of who can study there, you might want to find out the types of materials available at each library. 

For example, if you’re looking for a book on the history and application of psychiatry in North America and how that ties into the clinical treatment of mentally ill patients, you’ll likely find that in John W. Scott Health Sciences Library. But, if you’re looking for a book on Malcolm X’s contribution to the civil rights movement, you’ll probably find that in the Rutherford Library. 

Or, you can just visit the official website for UAlberta libraries, and figure out where the book you’re looking for is located. Most libraries have a computer-area, so if you don’t have a laptop, or forgot yours at home, have no fear! 

Below is a list of the larger, main libraries on campus and what buildings they’re located in. (Yes, I totally deserve an award at this point.) 

  • Cameron Library - CAB
  • Herbert T. Coutts - Education
  • John W. Scott - University of Alberta Hospital
  • J.A. Weir Memorial Law Library - Law Centre

Also, here are 8 reasons why you’re going to actually love studying at our campus libraries.


Coffee at the U of A

To fuel your coffee and baked good addictions, and to jumpstart that freshman 15, I think it’d be best that you knew where various coffee places are located on campus. So, here you go:

  • Starbucks: entrance to Cameron Library (in CAB), in CCIS (by the West entrance), and in ECHA.
  • Tim Horton’s: in KATZ, and CAB (there are two locations in the latter), and on the second level of ETLC
  • Second Cup: in the Biological Sciences building, and Tory/Business Atrium
  • Daily Grind: SUB and the Daily Grind 2.0 (known as “The Under Grind” down in the lower level of SUB) 


CAB UAlberta
Image courtesy of UAlberta Inside Out

CAB, or the Central Academic Building, is another popular building. Why, you ask? Oh, I don’t know… MAYBE CAUSE THERE ARE TWO TIM HORTON’S LITERALLY METERS FROM ONE ANOTHER (I should know, being the proud Iced Capp addict that I am). Okay, there are probably other reasons for its popularity right? Maybe it’s the fact that there are so many different classes held here: from Statistics, Chemistry, all the way to Sociology.

First year – but really any – science students rejoice, as most Chemistry labs, if not all, are held in the Chemistry hallway (which explains that smell that always seems to be present here. Blame it on the Ammonia!). 99% of the time, this is a good thing, but it probably isn’t so good that ONE time you woke up late for an 8:00 a.m. lab, and arrived at school all disheveled and disoriented, only to enter the wrong room and have a sea of scientific goggles stare at you confusedly, mid-titration.

You can also get to CCIS through CAB via a pedway right by the Chemistry hallway, which is really the most efficient way to get to CCIS (and probably why the tiny pedway seems to get crammed during the 10-minute period between classes, especially during the winter!).


CCIS... and a lady bug

CCIS (to be completely honest, I couldn’t tell you what those letters stand for if my life depended on it… so yeah, shame on me* [Editor's Note: It's the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences]) is a relatively new building, and you can clearly tell if you compare it to its obviously old (and easy to get lost in) neighbor, the Biological Sciences building.

The coolest thing about CCIS, in my opinion, is the Observatory located at the top floor; a visit here is a must for anyone taking Astronomy, and a definite should for everyone else. There’s a Starbucks AND a Second Cup located here, including the offices of many of your Science class professors and TAs... just in case you need to visit during office hours.

If you have a class scheduled here, please make sure you know what level your room is located in. CCIS has two lower levels, L1 and L2; and just to make things a little extra confusing, the main floor, where you’ll enter the building, is actually floor 0. Classes are typically held on the main floor (i.e. 0), first floor (take one flight of stairs up from the main floor), and on the two lower floors (take one or two flight of stairs down from the main floor). You’d actually be surprised by how many people confuse the room numbers in this building!


If you’re hungry and want to try something different and new on campus, HUB Mall is your best bet; you can find anything from regular coffee, to Korean delicacies, to authentic, Italian style pasta!

Sure, the long walk up and down can be a pain, especially when there are throngs of people trying to get to the other end as well, but a word of advice: make sure you’re walking on the correct side. By that, I mean PLEASE don’t be that one person walking against the current, thinking it’ll get them to the opposite side faster. Needless to say, you don’t get anywhere… you just get dirty looks.

The Correct Way to Walk In HUB
YES! (Original image courtesy of zkalina.ca)

HUB Mall is the only other building (other than SUB) that has ATMs from specific banks, so that’s always a plus! But, the most useful part about HUB Mall is the easy access to the Humanities building from here, which is where you’ll have your first year English classes, most likely. Its entrance is nearest to the end with the TD Canada Trust ATM, and has a visible sign you hopefully won’t miss. I’ve been going to the U of A for a few years now, and let me tell you, I’ve actually been through the front entrance of Humanities only a handful of times, so if you need to get there in a hurry, it’s best you do it through HUB!

Tory or Tory Lecture?

Tory Building

The Henry Marshall Tory Building, or Tory, and the Tory Lecture Theatre are right by one another, but that doesn’t make it any easier to differentiate between the two with an untrained eye. Tory Lecture theatre is often described as looking like a turtle… I mean, I don’t see it, but if that helps you in any way, you’re probably of 0.000002% of people who actually found that tidbit useful, and that’s great! Large first year Biology and Chemistry classes (usually the ones scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays) are often held in the Tory Lecture Theatre, while Tory Basement (that’s what the TB on your class schedule stands for) is where many first year Calculus lectures are scheduled, along with Sociology classes. If you don’t want to walk outside, you can also get to Tory through the Business atrium, which is also an efficient way to get to HUB Mall; a smaller Second Cup is located here as well. Check, check and check!

So, there you have it. I hope you’ve found at least some of the information I’ve provided useful in some way or another… if not, I’d rather you didn’t admit it to me. Enjoy your U of A experience, and good luck on your undergraduate and/or graduate education!

Aala - YouAlberta Blogger

Aala is in her final year of the Neuroscience program [insert other random but completely boring things about her that make your eyes glaze over]. Now, onto the real important stuff: any doctors out there reading this? She's got a serious case of wanderlust-itis, and was wondering if there were any immediate cures? Because it’s got her on Pinterest, pinning images of places she’ll likely only visit in her dreams, when she should be paying close attention as her physiology professor goes over the role of CCK in the digestive system. FOR THE THIRD TIME. Sigh. At any point during the day, you can most definitely find her in the lineup for Tim Horton’s (ANY Tim Horton’s really, she's got quite a radar for it) getting her daily Iced Capp fix. 



  1. Thank-you for the great article. One more coffee spot worth noting is the main floor of Education North; and a nice large seating area too. Oh yeah; also new and improved UWS!

  2. Funny and informative. Thanks Aala

  3. Bookmarked :) Very helpful, thank you.


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