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.



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!