Visiting International Research Student Program (VIRS)

The Animal Welfare Program hosts visiting international students who are interested in gaining research experience for short term periods.  We use a UBC program called the Visiting International Research Student Program – also referred to as VIRS – to support visiting students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  VIRS facilitates exchange for students at institutions from around the world to come and have short-term research experiences with the program while still enrolled at their home university. You can find all of the details about the VIRS program here.  Think of this as a semester abroad, but it is focussed on research rather than coursework.  If this is something that might interest you, please review the FAQ and the student profiles below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do I have to use VIRS?  What if I’m not a student?

The short answer is that we accept individuals who are eligible for the VIRS program, so please check your eligibility before reaching out. The VIRS program does require you to be a student at a home institution elsewhere; it does give you official student status while you are at UBC. It is similar to a semester abroad, but instead of courses, you are working on research projects being undertaken at UBC. If you are not eligible for VIRS (i.e. you are not a student), the opportunities to participate in research activities are much more limited and are not likely possible.

What are the general costs of the program?

The VIRS program involves program costs (i.e. program fee and mandatory medical coverage) as well as living expenses. You can find details about these costs on the Go Global site. You will note on that site that the recommended budget for students is for those living in Vancouver and attending the UBC campus. However, if you are planning to conduct your stay at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, your regular expenses will be significantly lower (approximately $800 Canadian per month). For more details, please reach out to

How do I apply?

Please do not apply to VIRS without contacting the AWP directly first. You will require a research supervisor at UBC and the VIRS program cannot accept you unless you have that lined up first. We encourage you to check your eligibility before reaching out to the AWP. Once you have checked your eligibility and you are interested, please fill in this form to express your interest. If you have questions about the form, you can email Once we review your form, we will follow up with you.

When should I first express my interest?

As mentioned above, you need to line up a supervisor before applying for VIRS. We recommend that you fill in the form to express your initial interest at least six months in advance. Please note that one of the benefits of VIRS is that there is no deadline, students can be accepted on a rolling basis at any time of year. The timing depends entirely on the projected research needs as well as the length of time required to complete all of the necessary paperwork. So, if you are interested in starting in November, we recommend that you reach out by May.

Who do I talk to about questions?

For research questions, you can reach out to the AWP directly at Someone will reach out to you; depending on your research interests, this is typically the AWP Research Coordinator or the AWP Dairy Graduate Research Coordinator. 

UBC’s Go Global program manages the administration of VIRS. The advisors at the Go Global office can help you with questions related to your travel and how the program is administered. You can reach them at Alternatively you can reach out to International Student Advising and let them know you are interested in the VIRS program. You can find their contact information here.

Do I get to choose between being at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre (DERC) or at the UBC Vancouver Campus?

Currently, almost all of the VIRS students who come to the program do research related to dairy cattle out at the DERC in Agassiz, BC which is about 2 hours outside of Vancouver. There are very limited opportunities to conduct research based out of the Vancouver campus. You can reach out to us at if you have questions.

Is there funding?

The AWP does not provide funding for incoming visiting international research students.  However, students sometimes apply for and obtain their own funding through programs like Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP), Canada-ASEAN Scholarships and Educational Exchanges for Development (SEED) program, and Mitacs Globalink among others. Please contact Go Global for more information.


Zimbabwe Osorio Santos

Zimbabwe joined the VIRS Program in 2021, joining from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil. Read his story!

Malina Suchon

Malina joined the VIRS program in 2022, joining from the Université Sorbonne Paris Nord in Paris, France. Read her story!

Alison Sinnott

Having received the Steve Bishop Early Career Award from the British Society of Animal Science, Alison joined UBC’s Animal Welfare Program. Read her story!