VANCOUVER -- A week before the start of classes at the University of British Columbia, engineering students Akash Tirkey and Seif Wadi met up for coffee at the Point Grey campus.

"It's usually always packed with people so this is definitely different," Tirkey said through his blue disposal mask.

The two friends reminisced about meeting each other on the very same ground three years ago during Jump Start –- a program set up by the university for new students to "make (their) first friends," according to its website.

"A part of being in university is being there in person and I think losing that component is going to change the experience a lot," Wadi said.

The inevitable change was clarified by UBC on Wednesday when it said that its faculty and staff have worked around the clock to take 3,000 courses online and into virtual classrooms – calling it a "monumental task."

"University is not about a physical place, it's about challenging yourself intellectually and making great connections with profs and students," said Mathew Ramsey, director of university affairs.

He added the university is providing as many ways for students to do that as possible.

Some classes which would be otherwise impossible to teach will still operate in the traditional in-person setting, which UBC said will be adjusted to physical distancing standards.

Student services like financial aid, career counselling and health supports are also completely virtual at the university.

"I'm still excited," said first-year student Noah Hrdlicka before putting his mask on to tour the bookstore with a glass-half-full approach.

"It might be tough online at first but hopefully it's still good."