Port Douglas, Emerald Creek Falls, and Tropical Cyclones

G’day everyone!

The 12th of March marks one month since I first arrived in Australia, and it has been a wild ride! Since my last update, I have attended more classes, visited a coastal town, and participated in a group hike to a waterfall! 

Classes are in full swing here at James Cook University. Monday of this week marked the beginning of week three, and I have already learned so much! In my Myth, Ritual, and Religion class, we are learning about flood myths from areas such as Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Northwest of the United States. We are also expected to discuss the topics and participate in group activities that will supplement our learning. My Indigenous Australians class discussed Indigenous astronomy this week, which was an incredibly fascinating topic. Yesterday, we learned about an Indigenous rock formation which was designed to calculate the placement of the sun during the equinox and solstices. In fact, this creation was formed before Stonehenge, which makes it a fascinating anthropological and scientific discovery. Finally, my Forensic Archaeology class is discussing bones and burials this week, and next week we are talking about assessing trauma on bones!

In the last week of February, my apartment complex (Cairns Student Lodge) hosted a trip to Port Douglas, a coastal town north of Cairns. Port Douglas is known for its fantastic markets, which we had the privilege of visiting! At the markets, tourists and locals can purchase food, Indigenous artwork, jewelry, animal products, and much more. I purchased some beautiful Indigenous boomerangs and platters for my family back home, and I also found some stunning Aussie jewelry. After the markets, we were planning on going to the beach, but the stingers (deadly jellyfish) were at a high, so we went to a swimming hole instead! We had an amazing swim in the cool river water, and then we drove back to our apartments.

Carins Student Lodge residents standing in front of a beachfront lookout
All 45 Cairns Student Lodge residents who went on the Port Douglas outing.
Cairns Student Lodge residents in a swimming hole
Cairns Student Lodge residents were able to cool off in a fun swimming hole!

Last weekend, Cairns Student Lodge went to the Kuranda markets, and on a hike to a waterfall. It was slightly rainy, but what else can you expect when you live in a rainforest! Once we arrived at the markets, we had some time to walk around and purchase goods. The markets were comparable to the Port Douglas markets, but the Kuranda ones are open every day. I had some yummy lemon gelato, and we went on our way to the Emerald Creek waterfall. Access to the waterfall requires some (slippery) hiking, but it was entirely worth it for the stunning view and experience. The water was cool, and we could see an incredible view of the rainforest while sunbathing on the rocks.

Christina and a group of friends sunbathing by the waterfall
My friends and I had an amazing view of the waterfall and the rainforest while we were sunbathing!
After we went to the waterfall, we stopped for some ice cream
After we went to the waterfall, we stopped for some ice cream!

While the weather in February was bright and sunny, March has been the exact opposite. Back at home, people say the Oregon weather is unpredictable–but it is nothing compared to the weather here! I can count on both hands the amount of times that I have left in the morning to sunny, hot weather, and when I walk back it is uncontrollably pouring rain. Word of advice to travelers–bring your raincoat/umbrella because these tropical cyclones are no joke!

Sunny, warm weather in Australia
A beautiful and sunny day in Australia.
A cloudy and rainy day in Australia
A cloudy and rainy day in Australia.

Cheers!

Christina

O Week, the First Week of Class, and Life in the Rainforest!

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! 

A rainforest view of Christina's apartment.
I can see the rainforest from my apartment!
The Cairns city esplanade: a large metal sculpture in front of the ocean, which serves as the gateway to the great barrier reef.
The Cairns City Esplanade serves as the official gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
A tree is full of flying foxes, or fruit bats.
It may not look like much, but this tree is full of flying foxes (fruit bats)!

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!

Christina standing next to the letters "j" "c" and "u"

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!

A photo of the ocean, beach, and hillside.
The view from the beach was absolutely stunning!

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!

Cheers!

Christina

Val Ball and Castle Hill

It has been a hot minute since I have written a blog post, but for good reason. To be honest not much has happened in the last three weeks. At least nothing too interesting to write about!

First of all, I am composing this blog post on Thursday October 25th, which means it is week thirteen. In translation, this is my last week of classes before exams. Tomorrow is my last class at JCU, ever…. It is absolutely crazy to think how time has past me with a blink of an eye. Over the past three weeks the only two significant things worth talking about are Val Ball and Castle Hill. The rest of my time I have been studying and writing papers. After everyone returned from lecture recess classes got more intense and required less time  relaxing on the beach and more time in the library studying.

Val Ball, which stands for Valedictorian Ball was October 6th. This is where our dorm, Uni Hall, celebrated all of the people (valedictorians) that are moving off Uni Hall next year. It is also used to recognize and award all of the RA’s and our Senior RA for their amazing work over the past year. This was a time for all of us to dress fancy and wear heels and celebrate. It was almost like prom. We picked our table group of ten people and we were served a two course meal, in addition to an open bar of champagne, wine and beer. Val Ball was such a fun experience because it reminded me of my high school prom experiences and it was fun to get dressed up and see everyone so well put together. After Val was over, all of us changed into regular going out outfits and went to town all together.

Dena and I at Val Ball
Dena and I at Val Ball
American friends all dressed up before heading to the Brewery in town where the event was held
American friends all dressed up before heading to the Brewery in town where the event was held

This past Tuesday Dena and I took a bus into town to climb Castle Hill. Castle Hill is a massive rock in the middle of Townsville. You can either climb or drive up it but it leads to a beautiful view of the city. Hundreds of people visit Castle Hill every day. It is a very popular place to get a great workout it considering it is a massive steep hill. Dena and I met up with Will, one of our friends we met in our hostel in Byron Bay. He stayed in Townsville for two days and we were glad we could meet up with him. Castle Hill is one of the main things to do in Townsville, so it was a “right of passage” to take Will up to the top (even though Dena and I hadn’t done it yet). Always, we went up around sunset and even though it was a bit of a difficult climb it was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately we didn’t get the best view of the sunset because of some clouds and the sun was almost already set but below is a photo from Google so you can get the idea of how beautiful it is.

Photo of Will, Dena and I at the top of Castle Hill
Photo of Will, Dena and I at the top of Castle Hill
Google Images photo of Castle hill
Google Images photo of Castle hill

Overall, even though these past few weeks have been pretty slow with school work, this upcoming week is SWOTVAC. SWOTVAC is the study week before exams. Most of us Americans tend to travel around this time. Dena and I are headed north up to Cairns and that’s what my next blog post will be about, until then…

Cheers!

Makenna

Lecture Recess

Prepare yourself for a lot of photos!

I just returned from lecture recess and to say the least, it was amazing.

Dena (Dena is from California, we met each other on move in day) and I went all along the east coast for our mid semester break. We started in Sydney. On Saturday afternoon we flew down the coast to Sydney. That night we met up with one of my friends from high school who has been living in Sydney for a few years. She showed us around some of the bars and clubs. The next day, Sunday, Dena and I were determined to see as much as we could. We walked all around Sydney, we started in Kings Cross and made our way around to Darling Harbour to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, in addition, to the Botanical Gardens.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia
Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia
Sydney Opera House, Australia
Sydney Opera House, Australia

By the end of the day, we had walked over 11 miles, to say the least, we were tired!! That same day we caught an Uber to take us to the eastern part of Sydney, Bondi. Bondi is a beautiful and touristy beach. We visited and swam in the world famous Iceberg pools. This pool is right along side the ocean which makes for a beautiful view and great pictures.

Bondi Beach, Australia
Bondi Beach, Australia
Icebergs Pool, Bondi Beach, Australia
Icebergs Pool, Bondi Beach, Australia

We met a few Americans on our night out, one happened to be from Seattle! We walked up and down the beaches and looked at all the shops Bondi had to offer. Unfortunately, Bondi was a lot colder than we expected with lots of wind. The average temperature was about 58 degrees, compared to 80 degrees in Townsville! Other than the temperature, Bondi is beautiful and I would highly recommend putting it on your bucket list.

Tuesday morning at 3:30am Dena and I woke up and headed to the airport for our 6:10am flight to Gold Coast. We stayed in Surfers Paradise for one night. We walked along side the beach and shopped around. We went to the clubs with friends that we met from the hostel. Even though we were in Gold Coast for only one night we met some awesome people and still got to explore Surfers Paradise.

Surfers Paradise, Australia
Surfers Paradise, Australia

On Wednesday, Dena and I bused down to Byron Bay. Byron is a very popular beach town. Beautiful beaches and great surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and more. Byron reminds me of Portland in a way because of the hipster and chill vibes that come along with the town.

Byron Bay, Australia
Byron Bay, Australia

We met some new friends all across Europe and played games and got to know each other. The hostel we were staying at offered free wine and cheese every Wednesday night, yes please! On Thursday we rented bikes and biked our way into town, had lunch and listened to live music on the grass looking out onto the ocean. We sat on the beach for a total of three hours just watching people surf and petting dogs. The next day we woke up at 4:15am to bike two miles to the Byron Bay light house to watch the sunrise. The bike was at least one mile straight up hill and to say the least, by the end of it we were properly sweating, but the view was totally worth it.

Byron Bay Lighthouse at Sunrise, Australia
Byron Bay Lighthouse at Sunrise, Australia
Sunrise View, Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia
Sunrise View, Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia

In addition to the sunrise, there were whales breaching and swimming in pods. Such a beautiful sight! After we watched the sunrise we went back and took a quick hour nap and ate breakky. It was such  beautiful weather in Byron on our last day, we rented surf boards and surfed.

Byron Bay, Australia
Byron Bay, Australia

The waves were just small enough for us to catch a handful. We only had a few wipe outs! Later that day we took the bus up to Brisbane.

At our last destination, Brisbane, we arrived to our hostel in the city at 8:30pm. At this point we were pretty tired from waking up early and being in the sun so we went to bed early! We did explore the city at night before bed and got to see the night life environment. We woke up and caught a train to Northgate which is a suburb north of Brisbane. Our friend Ben, from Uni lives up there and picked us up. Us three and two of his mates drove a few hours north to a beach called Moolooaba beach.

Moolooaba Beach, Australia
Moolooaba Beach, Australia

It was a bit windy, but it was fun to hang out with some mates and have a beach day. We returned back to Ben’s house a few hours later and he headed to another one of his mate’s house. We played games and watched the storm. There was a massive thunder and lightening storm and it was nothing like the small lightening strikes we get in Portland. After that, we took the train back to the city and packed all of our clothes for our 5:15am wake up call to head back to Townsville.

Overall, our lecture recess was such a fun time. We met so many great people at all of the hostels. In 8 nights, we stayed at 5 different hostels and met people from Brazil, U.K., Switzerland, Norway, South Africa, Canada, Germany and more. Dena and I are so thankful and so lucky to have this opportunity to travel abroad and see what Australia has to offer.

Cheers!

Makenna

Magnetic Island

As school just passed our half way point, I am in awe at the fact my time studying at JCU is half way over. Even though Uni gets harder and harder every week with more assessments, that doesn’t stop us Americans from exploring Australia.

This past weekend a small group of us  went to Magnetic Island, or as the Aussies call it, Maggie Island (Aussies pretty much shorten every word they can). Maggie Island is a small island off the coast of Townsville. It is a short 20 minute ferry ride away.

Views from the ferry terminal at Nelly Bay
Views from the ferry terminal at Nelly Bay

We spent the night in a hostel in Nelly Bay called Base Backpackers. Magnetic Island is a beautiful green and colorful island full of Koalas, horse back riding, hikes, scuba diving and snorkeling. This island is a hub for many different backpackers and travelers all over the world.

Base Backpackers Hostel
Base Backpackers Hostel

When we arrived at our hostel, we were taken back by what it had to offer. There were bean bags everywhere for sun bathing, in addition to, a pool, multiple beaches, a bar, a restaurant, and a volleyball court. To my surprise, there were so many travelers from different parts of the world. We met people from Germany, France and even the U.K. Initially, I figured Maggie would be a place for Aussies to take a Holiday or just a small weekend getaway, but no, it’s a massive tourist sight for everyone.

We rented paddle boards and snorkeling gear. We saw fish and even some string rays up to 5 ft in size. We also accidentally discovered a nude beach! We walked along the beach on low tide and discovered a more hidden beach and were strongly surprised when we saw naked people walking around. There’s a first time for everything! Sunday morning my friend and I woke up at 6am to watch the sunrise.

Sunday Sunrise
Sunday Sunrise

Views from the rocks looking out to the water at the nude beach

Views from the rocks looking out to the water at the nude beach

 

Maggie Island was an amazing experience and I would go back there within a heart beat!

Cheers Mate!

Makenna

 

Netball, Field Trip and Billabong Sanctuary

Time is flying by! We just started Week 6 here at JCU. Linfield just started their fall term and I can’t believe I am almost half way finished with my semester abroad and my friends at home are just moving in. It is safe to say this week I have been getting serious FOMO (fear of missing out) with everyone moving back to school. In times like this when I am sad I am missing out on my friends and family at home, I remind myself, I’m in Australia!

These past few weeks have been full of fun events. Let’s start with Netball. Each dorm has sports teams and the first sport to play during the season is netball. Netball is a mix of basketball and handball. This sport is one of the biggest sports here in Australia. Safe to say when I told the Australians I have never heard of it before, they were shocked. We have a men’s and women’s team and we watched them play games against the other dorms. Even though we didn’t make it past the semi finals, it was extremely fun watching our friends play a sport we Americans have never seen or hear of before!

This past Sunday I went on a field trip with my Linking Indigenous class. We learned about the Aboriginals who are the indigenous people of Australia. It was very interesting learning about their customs and their beliefs, as well as, their way of living. We toured around indigenous land and looked at their art and different plants they eat and use in their daily lives. We also visited a burial site. We were taught how aboriginal people are buried, in addition to learning about their arranged marriages. I was in awe how the Aboriginal people live.

Lastly, I went to Billabong Sanctuary! Which is basically an Australian Zoo. It was so much fun! We fed kangaroos, watched crocodiles being fed, saw some emu and held a snake and a koala! I haven’t mention as to why I chose Australia as my study abroad choice. When I was in second grade, we had a habitat project. I was required to build a habitat for my favorite animal, which at the time was and still is, a koala. I researched information about koalas and Australia and I absolutely fell in love. Throughout this project, my mom pulled out a photo album of her when she visited Australia at age 25. She showed me a photo of her holding a koala and from that point on, at age eight, I have wanted to visit Australia, especially to hold a Koala. Now that I am finally here and experiencing some of the same things she did, I am living my dream!Holding a Koala.

Almost half way through my time here in Australia and I am loving every minute of it. Oh yeah, the school is great too!

Cheers,

Makenna

Toga Party, Floor Games and Meeting New Mates!

I cannot believe I have almost been in Australia for a month, it feels like four.

The amount of relationships and people I have already met in the past three weeks is crazy. I look back on the first day of orientation when I knew one person and now, I know all of these amazing people, American and Australian! JCU does an great job of creating unity within the University, especially the dorms. Every semester, JCU holds a toga party. This toga party is one of the biggest parties all semester. JCU sells toga kits, containing a sheet, a flower crown and a rope. Everyone gets dressed up in their yoga attire and heads to Uni Bar across the street. This night was extremely fun because this is when I was able to meet a lot of the Aussies in my dorm. Another event that was held just this past Saturday was Floor Games. My dorm, Uni Hall, put together multiple games for everyone to play while competing against other floors. To go more into detail, we also had a theme on each floor. For example, my floor’s theme was super heroes, the floor above me dressed up like animals, another floor dressed up as things that don’t exists (unicorns, fairies, etc.) Anyways, we played fun games such as tug of war, dodgeball and water balloon toss. This was a fun way to meet new people on our floor.

As for adventuring off campus and exploring, our friend group these past two weeks haven’t gotten around as much as we’ve wanted to.

These past two weeks everyone has settled down to focus on our studies and adjusting to a different university. We do have a few places on our to do list that we will hopefully be able to cross off in the next week or so. We did go to lagoon pools which is a public pool right on the river. It is only a few miles away from campus, but unfortunately a long bus ride around town!

These next few weeks will hopefully be a bit more adventurous for my friend group. We also are planning our lecture recess (spring break) soon! Keep ya updated!!

Cheers,

Makenna

Arriving to Townsville, Orientation and New Friends

Wow! Where do I start? The beginning of my adventure began in the Vancouver, BC airport. While waiting for my 15.5 hour flight to Sydney, Sophia (also a Linfield Student going to Townsville, aka my travel companion) and I met a group of Australian track athletes and coaches returning from a big track meet trip. We began talking to them about their US experience, to sum it all up, they were amazed at the fact that we had squirrels (crazy I know). After our very long flight, we hopped off the plane and had less than an hour to make our connecting flight to Townsville. Long story short, we were running through the airport like maniacs, each carrying two 50lbs bags, trying to find where our gate was. Basically, we get to the gate five minutes before we board, not to mention we were both hungry after not eating for approximately 5 hours. Anyway, to conclude my travels, the JCU arrival service found us at baggage claim and drove us to campus along with more US students who had arrived 30 minutes previous to our flight.

The next few days consisted of meeting tons of US international students and becoming best friends two days later. Many of the Aussie students were not on campus yet due to the fact that it is winter break. After days of orientation and meeting other international students across the world, our friend group had many adventures planned. We went to the mall in town, called Stockland, which is only a ten minute bus ride away. We went on a hike looking over the whole city of Townsville, took a dip in the river by campus (which contains crocs, but they’re called “freshies” because the are only found in fresh water and are not fans of eating humans) and then we took an afternoon trip to The Strand, which is the long strand of beach in Townsville that contains shops and restaurants. We quickly learned while swimming in the ocean that we were not in the “safe zone” this meaning we were actually swimming in croc infested waters (salt water crocs are known as “salties” AKA the human eating, scary looking crocs). It was only until an Aussies walking on the beach told us to get out of the water and walk down The Strand half a mile to find a lifeguard station, as well as, two massive flag poles dictating where it is safe to swim.

The past few days have been very fun just waking up and figuring out what adventure we want to go on next. The Aussies have been nothing but nice to all of us clueless Americans who can’t help but walk on the right side of the sidewalk. There isn’t too big of a culture shock, but sometimes I still don’t understand what the Aussies are saying. Gday Mate how are you going? This is a common sentence that translates as “What’s up?” but of course we didn’t know that, so we would just stare at them with a blank face and reply, “umm to the gym?” thinking they were asking us where we were going.

To summarize my past week here in Townsville, it has been quite a fun ride. Next week we start classes, which I am excited for, considering I am taking interesting classes, and it will give me a little bit of structure with my schedule.

Cheers,

Makenna Clizer

Part of the beach on The Strand, Townsville, Australia.
This was part of the beach on The Strand, aka where we weren’t suppose to swim!