If you walk around with an accent on this campus, the locals don’t need to ask you what you’re studying – you’ve already told them just by opening your mouth. The most clichÃ© thing you can be as a study abroad student at James Cook University in Australia is a marine biology major, and sadly I’m one of them.
Every year, students from all over the world travel to Australia because of JCU’s long-standing reputation as being the world leader in tropical biology studies. The programs here are so well known that most courses are likely to be filled with just as many international students as there are Australian.
At least the Australian students who study here already knew what they were in for, though. I came here, like most international students, thinking that I was going to be studying on top of the reef and walking down to the beach every day after class. I now know how out-of-state students feel when URI advertises as a ‘beach school.’ The Strand in Townsville is about a 40 minute bus ride from campus, and a trip to the reef requires traveling several hours by boat.
Even on the other side of the world, I still feel like I go to school in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t have friends with a car, it feels like you’re a freshman again being stuck on campus Monday though Friday. The weirdest part about being stranded on campus at JCU is that you don’t really mind being so far away from the rest of the world.
It may not be on the beach, but it’s also not built on a hill like URI where you need to climb a mountain just to get to class. The weather is always warm, but there’s lots of shade under all the palm trees. And we don’t have squirrels, but we do have wallabies hopping around campus at all hours of the day and night.
I’m really going to miss this campus when it’s finally time to come home. I’ll be facing the reality of leaving much sooner than I’d like it to, since my semester began in July. Instead of coming up on the end of week three of classes, I’m coming up on the end of week nine of a thirteen-week semester. At the end of September, I’m more than halfway done with classes.
If I never get to return to the land down under, I’m using the time I have here wisely and making sure I experience it to the fullest. Â Over the past two and a half months I’ve already been SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef (twice), climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, gone white water rafting down the Tully River, slept in the world’s oldest rain forest, sailed around the Whitsunday Islands and gotten sunburned on Whitehaven Beach.
I still have more places in Australia that I’d love to travel to if time (and my wallet) allows, but next week for ‘lecture recess’ as they call it in the land down under, I’m leaving for Bali instead. Places like Melbourne, Perth and Gold Coast will just have to wait while I go visit temples, surf at Kuta Beach and snorkel around the islands of Indonesia. Â