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Journals from James Cook University, Australia

2011-02-25 The First Week Down Under

As orientation week at James Cook University comes to an end, it is hard to believe that I have only been living in Australia for 10 days. Unlike Linfield, JCU dedicates an entire week to prepare its incoming freshman and international students to their new home. As a junior and having already undergone this welcome at Linfield over two years ago, I felt very out of place while sitting in a crowd of mostly 17-year olds listening to speeches about the major adjustments they will be facing in the upcoming months. And while I was able to attend some of the fun activities arranged by the school, most of the orientation programs were more appropriate for first-time freshman instead of continuing students. Having free time during orientation gave me the opportunity to get familiar with my new surroundings, explore the city and beaches, and most important, get on schedule with the 18-hour time change. So far, I have not experienced any type of culture shock. The Australians I have encountered are extremely hospitable, very laid back, and have a wild sense of humor. In the short time I have been living in Cairns, I have been to many different areas of the city. There are four different beaches within a twenty-minute drive of the student lodge. That is to say, it only takes about twenty minutes if you can catch a bus. The public bus system in Cairns is not very reliable. A short wait for the bus has come to waiting on the hot metal benches for 40 minutes or less. The bus schedules are confusing to understand if you are unfamiliar with them and the buses are at least fifteen minutes late. But once you get to one of the beaches, Trinity, Kewarra, Clifton, or Palm Cove, the excruciating wait in the humid, 95-degree heat was definitely worth it! The water is a warm 85 degrees, and with views of the surrounding islands and beautiful palm trees, I can lie in the ocean for hours at a time. Unfortunately, until April or May, there is a very high stinger risk in Northern Australia. Three of these beaches have stinger nets, and it is crucial to swim within the specified areas. Australia is home to two of the most deadly species of jellyfish, so I was a bit apprehensive to swim, even with the nets, but I was assured it is completely safe. The Cairns Tropical Zoo is another one of the main attractions in Cairns. My favorite exhibit at the zoo was the petting zoo Australian style. Visitors are able to enter the kangaroo exhibit, hand feed, and pet the kangaroos. The zoo also offered programs explaining the various types of animals found around Cairns. After seeing the presentations, I saw wild wallabies and cockatoos, but luckily, I haven’t seen any wild crocodiles yet. I am very excited for classes to begin this week, although it will be hard get into the rhythm of school again after becoming accustomed to living on the beach. Amanda Contreras

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