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Journals from James Cook University

2014-06-30 Hello, Goodbye

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Palm Cove, where rainforest meets the ocean

 

 

I sit anxiously, awaiting the arrival of 3am. In just three short hours, my experience abroad will have come to an end. My bags are packed, the apartment empty, goodbyes said. To say this moment is bittersweet would be the understatement of the century. Although I won’t be in Australia studying abroad anymore in roughly a day, the lessons, values, and experiences I gained in the duration of this trip will stay with me forever.

 

Going abroad doesn’t mean that you are going to simply gain a perspective and insight into a new culture. In addition, leaving your home country and integrating yourself into an entirely different culture provides you with a profound sense of understanding and new appreciation of your own culture, country, and background.  

 

During my last few days, in the week before I left, I spent time with the incredible friends I had met four months ago. One morning we all woke up at 6am to drive to the beach and watch the sunrise.  Australia wasn’t a huge culture shock and adjusting to life there wasn’t difficult; there were subtle differences that I noticed throughout my time in Oz. A pretty large difference is the driving style--the steering wheel is on the right, and cars drive on the left side of the road. It took me a really long time to be able to cross the road safely; it was common for me to have to look both ways multiple times before I felt confident enough that no cars were coming. I had the opportunity to drive with a friend, which I am so thankful for!

 

Some of the highlights of my trip to Australia include:

  • Cuddling a koala bear at the Cairns Tropical Zoo
  • Sailing the Whitsunday Islands and having the trip cut short due to Cyclone Ita
  • Glorious last trip to Fitzroy Island
  • Eating entirely too much Dominoes pizza in the company of great friends from around the world
  • Eating kangaroo and crocodile
  • Numerous trips to the beach
  • Stargazing on the beaches of Australia with palm trees swaying above
  • Helping to bury a 12-foot snake on our first journey to the beach

 

If you are considering studying abroad in Australia, THINK NO LONGER. You will have no regrets about studying in this paradise. Sure, the rain may come down in torrential downpours and flood the path to school, but that’s an AMAZING experience. Sure, the mozzies may leave you itching all night, but being in Cairns made it all worth it. The people you meet by staying at the student lodge are amazing; they come from all walks of life, from countries all over the world. It truly was an invaluable experience, with many lessons being learned. I gained an incredibly new sense of independence and confidence in myself as well as confidence in my ability to navigate this world.

 

If you have made the wise decision to travel to Oz for your study abroad journey, I have a few pieces of advice for you:

  • You will miss the bus. It’s inevitable. Just breathe, and look at the schedule to see when the next one comes. It usually comes every half-hour, but do not fret if you don’t see it exactly on the dot--they are usually 5-10 minutes late.
  • Smithfield shopping mall has just about everything you will need. If not, then Cairns Central mall does. For food, go to Smithfield. However, if you have a urgent hankering, the options across the road from the lodge are pretty good. There is a KFC, a Dominoes, a burger shop, a liquor store, a chemist (pharmacy), and movie store, as well as the IGA. IGA is a great place if you need something immediately, but beware, the prices at IGA are much higher than at Coles or Woolworths in Smithfield. Great news, though, Tim Tam Tuesdays exist, and often there are 2-for-$5 deals on Pringles and Doritos. Be careful not to eat too much unhealthy food, though.
  • Trinity Beach, Yorkey’s Knob, and Palm Cove are my favorite beaches.
  • Even if you are nervous about the first few days, with everything and everyone being new, GO OUTSIDE into the courtyard (if you are staying at the lodge) and meet people. This is a wonderful time to connect with the people you will be with for the next four months. They honestly become a large part of your life, basically like family, so don’t be afraid to mingle!
  • Woolsheds all the way. Gilligans has high cover charges. Thursdays are ladies nights, with free champagne for women and men who wear dresses!
  • Hides Corner Café in Cairns for breakfast.
  • Bubble tea from Lily’s bubble tea-enjoy one as you bask in the sun on the esplanade!
  • The esplanade. This is one thing I didn’t take enough advantage of. It’s a beautiful place to walk, swim, tan, and just hang out. The city has free wifi as well, so bring your homework and study!
  • Consider whether you really need a phone. I purchased credit and ended up rarely using it, as I communicated with everyone I met via Facebook. However, this is just my experience; a phone may prove very useful to you. It was nice to have in the beginning, as I didn’t know my surroundings, so being alone at night was scary.
  • Don’t be too scared--be cautious, but Cairns is truly a pretty small city. I was shocked that going into the city, I would actually recognize people!
  • College is much differently set up in Australia. Just stay on top of your workload and keep your grades up, but don’t focus all your attention and energy on University, explore the beautiful country you are in!

 

Well, I had a wonderful journey, and I am grateful to be able to share my experiences with you all. This time in my life can’t be explained in many other ways than it was the best five months of my life. It opened my eyes to a whole new world, and connected me with so many opportunities for future travel endeavors. 

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