G’day from Australia!
To preface my story, I left chilly winter weather in Eastern Oregon for the hot, humid summer weather here in Far North Queensland. While I was prepared for it to be warm, I was shocked by the wave of heat when I stepped off the plane a week and a half ago in Cairns. When I first arrived, I took a shuttle from the Cairns airport to my apartment for the semester at Cairns Student Lodge. I arrived several days before the beginning of Orientation Week (O Week), so I had some time to explore the city and make friends. On my first day, I spent some time unpacking and adjusting to my new living situation. I was surprised to find out that the animals here make noise throughout the night, but I suppose that’s just a perk of living in the rainforest! The following day, I decided to bus 45 minutes to Cairns city with a friend. Prior to arriving here, I knew Cairns was a tourist city, but I didn’t expect the business to be booming so much! When I exited the bus, I walked under a tree full of flying foxes (fruit bats), which was amazing! Then, my friend and I walked along the Esplanade, which could be described as a sort of central hub for the city. The Esplanade has a beachfront walkway, a free public pool, and a picnic area open for anyone to use! It is an amazing place to spend a relaxing day with friends. We then ate Australian style pizza (which is surprisingly different than American pizza), and climbed back on the bus to go back to campus!
On Monday, O Week activities began! I had mandatory International Orientation in the morning, which served as an introduction to living in Australia. We were given information about safety, classes, communication, transportation, and where to seek help. Overall, the event was enjoyable because I was able to meet other international students, make new friends, and get familiar with the campus.
Market Day, an event where local businesses and clubs promote student involvement, was on Wednesday. All of the James Cook University students enjoy Market Day because there are giveaways, free products, and fun activities. I entered competitions for free Great Barrier Reef trips, rafting trips, and excursions while I was at Market Day. Following Market Day, I went to a pool party hosted by my apartment complex!
On Thursday, I went to a speed friending event and a tour of Cairns city. For the tour, we hopped on a party bus, went to the beach, and drove around the city. This was the first time I had been to the beach, and suffice to say, I never wanted to leave! However, it was not recommended that we swim at the beach because there are deadly jellyfish (stingers) and crocodiles in the water at the moment. Oh well, maybe in a few months!
The biggest event of O Week, the annual Toga Party, was on Friday! Everyone hopped on a bus to a club for an entertaining night on the town. The night was filled with fun, dancing, and free pizza.
Monday was the first day of class, which was both nerve-wracking and exciting! I had Myth Ritual and Religion (an anthropology class) in the morning and Indigenous Australians in the afternoon. The class structure is slightly different here, as students have lecture classes and workshop classes. My first class has podcast lectures and notes online, which students are expected to access prior to the workshop (discussion activity) class. However, my Indigenous Australians class has face-to-face lectures on Mondays, and workshop classes on Wednesdays. It was strange to get used to initially, but I am adjusting! The homework in Australia is also different than in America. Instead of having multiple assignments in a week, we only have 3-5 large assignments that are a significant portion of the final grade. For example, it is typical to have 3 quizzes (30% of your grade), one final exam or paper (40% of your grade), and workshop participation (30% of your grade). One other difference from America–I only have class two days per week!
Overall, I am incredibly impressed with this beautiful country, state and city. If you are considering studying abroad in Australia, do it! Just don’t forget your sunscreen, bug spray, and the desire for adventure!