Archive for the ‘Australia: North Queensland’ Category

Ashley Carlisle, the Florida Down Under marketing intern, writes:

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Though I had waited years for the opportunity to study abroad, I still had reservations about having limited communication and not knowing anyone else. But I knew I could not forgo such an amazing opportunity because of a little apprehensiveness. I jumped in at the deep end and was so glad I did. Here are a few tips to help others who may be struggling with anxiety before going abroad for the first time:


  1. Socialize with new friends: When we departed LAX to fly to North Queensland, I knew no one, but by the first night at Bungalow Bay, I had already made five new friends with my bunkmates. I often consider myself introverted but on the program I found it surprisingly simple to make friends as everyone was open and welcoming to new friendships. Try to be social and talk to anyone and everyone on your program.
  1. Immerse yourself in the program: Whether working on course modules or exploring new surroundings, we were always kept very busy. I thought I would be spending a lot of my free time phoning home, but I found myself opting to visit local markets or hike nearby trails instead. The busier you are, the less you will have the chance to be homesick. Studying abroad is a great chance to focus on the present and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!

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  1. Keep a journal: Writing down my thoughts and describing my adventures to tell my family about later helped to alleviate my homesickness. Plus by journaling I also had a detailed recollection of all the amazing places I experienced abroad. Bring a small journal in your daypack to record your journey – the Smash book is a great way to keep things together as you’re going along!
  1. Stay Connected: It is easy to take effortless communication for granted with low-cost data coverage and unlimited Wi-Fi in the U.S. Knowing that my communication would be limited for days or weeks at a time seemed daunting at first, however, staying connected was definitely not impossible. FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp and Skype are great for video chat and free texting when you have a Wi-Fi connection. And if this isn’t enough you can always look into local SIM cards and international plans too.

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Courtney Roth, the Hokies Abroad marketing intern, writes:

During our study abroad in North Queensland, we learned about the pernicious human impact on the environment. Upon my return to the U.S., I made a conscious effort to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life.

With 2015 right around the corner, many of you may be having a difficult time deciding what your New Year’s resolution should be. If this is the case, fear no more, here are three easy-to-keep lifestyle changes that can help you to live a greener life and decrease your carbon footprint.

  1. Instate Meatless Mondays: Research has shown that meat consumption can be damaging to the environment, requiring mass amounts of water and gas for production and transportation. Going without meat one day a week may help prevent overconsumption. Furthermore, there is data to support that decreasing meat intake may decrease your chances of getting cardiovascular disease or cancer.
  1. Plant a tree: Everyone knows that trees are good for the environment; they offset carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide shelter for wildlife. An easy way to decrease your own carbon footprint is to plant a tree sapling in your yard. Better yet, make a fun day of it and encourage your friends to get together and plant trees together. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. Planting trees does not require a huge lifestyle change but does create a long-lasting positive environmental impact.

Virginia Tech students look out over a reforestation project in the Daintree Rainforest


  1. Utilize energy efficient light bulbs: Replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with halogen incandescent can decrease energy consumption by 25 to 80 percent. Furthermore, eco-friendly light bulbs can last up to 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs, actually saving you money! If you like saving money, helping the environment, and hate replacing light bulbs all the time, then buying halogen light bulbs may be the best decision you make in the New Year! For more information about eco-friendly light bulbs, visit: energy.gov.

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Adam Carron, the Buckeyes Abroad marketing intern, writes:

Figuring out how to avoid breaking the bank while studying abroad can be a difficult task, especially when it comes to food! However, I found that there are some strategies to limit this expense and put that money toward something much more interesting, such as a Shotover Jet ride in Queenstown!  Here are a few tips to keep you on track:

  1. Pack convenient snacks from home: Consider your staple foods that you have at home that would be beneficial to have while overseas. For example, think about granola bars and crackers that make easy, convenient snacks. Ensure you check local customs regulations for importing food. In particular, Australian and New Zealand customs regulations can be quite strict and you always need to declare any food items. After checking policies, then pack as many of these items as you can because they typically cost more, especially in Australia and New Zealand, but make delicious and cheap snacks that can substitute for lunches.
  1. Plan your meals in advance: Throughout your program, make sure to plan your meals to avoid impulse purchases that are simply convenient. Decide where you will be going for lunch or dinner and give yourself a budget so that you do not settle on a more expensive meal than you planned.

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  1. Head to the grocery store: Find time to visit to a local grocery store and purchase food with the intention of making your own meals whenever they aren’t provided with the group. For lunch, you can buy cheap sandwich makings that last several days and can still be delicious with a little bit of preparation. Making your own lunch provides flexibility when you are out hiking for the day and is much cheaper than a local café. For dinner, basic meals like pasta or burgers are inexpensive yet filling options. Plus, cooking dinner with your classmates can provide a unique bonding experience.

By following these simple and economical steps you should be able to save money overall or simply save up for a fancy dinner with friends or an adventurous activity on your free day! Utilizing some of these suggestions will help you stay under your food budget and prevent unnecessary stress when you are enjoying your study abroad experience.

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Caroline Gilmore, the Richmond Down Under marketing intern, writes:


When I arrived in Townsville for the North Queensland, Australia program last summer, I knew little about Aboriginal Australian culture. The little I remembered from high school was certainly not enough. Fortunately while in Australia, we were given the opportunity to connect with the indigenous community, forever changing my perspective.


The day we spent at Mungalla Station, an area operated by the Nywagi people, allowed our group time to explore and understand Aboriginal culture in a hands-on way. We had the opportunity to learn how to throw a boomerang, make ochre and watch one of our guides, Buddy, play the didgeridoo. I embarrassed myself trying to throw the boomerang – it’s more difficult than it looks – while others were able to show off their athletic talents.

We also worked alongside Big Jake, another of our guides, to help restore the wetlands area, which has been overrun with hymenachne, an invasive plant species. As we worked, Big Jake explained to us the unique relationship between Aboriginal people and the land. He described the environment as a pharmacy, where each plant traditionally had a specific use within the tribe.

He emphasized that his family places a priority on living their lives in harmony with the environment.  After everything we had been learning about sustainability, the visibly strong connection that Big Jake’s family had with the land was extremely insightful. While I already knew a little about the Aboriginal lifestyle, nothing compared to speaking with Buddy and Big Jake, hearing their stories, and being able to truly interact with pieces of their culture.

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Thomas Koller, the Lions Abroad marketing intern, writes:

When people ask me about my experience studying abroad in Fiji and North Queensland and Sydney, I hesitate. I hesitate not because I did not enjoy the experience (this would be a complete and utter lie); I hesitate because their question conjures feelings of joy, excitement, euphoria, bliss, and exhilaration.


I immediately envision those breath-taking Fijian sunrises, the welcoming Votua Village, the boat rides along Fijian islands seeing the quintessential blue seas, the nights we gazed for hours at the clearest night sky, the little hot peppers that look harmless but leave your mouth begging for water even after gulping two bottles, the sunset over the Australian Outback, the sea turtle I swam with on the Great Barrier Reef, the true friends I made, the genuine people I met, and the perspectives to which the trip has opened my mind.

Maybe a better question to ask is something more direct. For example, “What did you do on the Great Barrier Reef?” Now this I can handle. On the Great Barrier Reef, my fellow students and I snorkeled for three days learning from local marine biologists about the health and future of the reef. The first day (being an introductory lesson to snorkeling) marked one of the most monumental days in my life, and here is why.

There is something mysterious—almost spooky—about the open ocean. It plays with the human desire of exploration of the unknown. We were sitting on the stern of the boat, fourteen kilometers offshore, flippers and masks on, ready to see the largest living organism on the planet. There is no explanation for the emotions I was feeling. We were given the signal to enter the sea and meet our finned friends and with no hesitation, I dove right in.

It took a few minutes of swimming to realize that I was hyperventilating and needed to control my breathing. I finally grasped my bearings and decided to free dive. During my first plunge a few meters under the water to say hello to a bumphead parrotfish munching down on some coral, I looked back up at the surface. And something special happened. There was a feeling of weightlessness. You know when you reach the peak of the roller coaster and begin to drop down the highest peak? Yeah, that feeling. The adrenaline only felt during those moments of euphoria. I saw the rays of sun beaming through the surface and onto the coral. I slowly floated back to the surface while saturating myself in the experience. And as I felt the gentle waves lift me up and down, I then understood—on a level unattainable in a classroom—the importance of interconnectivity, interpersonal relationships, and appreciation of the world we live in.

IMG_0461I understand the importance of learning in a classroom or reading a textbook or conducting controlled experiments in a lab. But I also think that everyone needs to apply knowledge taught in the classroom to the world we live in. In this way we can all reach the deeper understanding only attained from real life experiences and travel.

As humans, we cannot be ignorant enough to live in one place our entire lives and expect to grow to our full potential. Travel opens our minds to new perspectives and helps us go beyond our current capacity of appreciation while achieving a new level of comprehension.

So if you approach me and ask, “How was your program?” you may need to give me a few moments to reminisce and realize, yet again, how metamorphic the experience was. I urge you to experience study abroad for yourself. Stretch the limits of comprehension and open new perspectives never seen before.

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Amanda Ferguson, 2014 North Queensland student blogger, writes:

Thursday, May 29

If being in Australia wasn’t magical enough, swimming with Nemo and his friends certainly was far more than I could have imagined. I think many of my classmates would agree that while every event on this trip has been spectacular, they’ve all been stops on the road to the reef. Honestly, the Great Barrier Reef was the best place to end our stay here in Australia.

Free diving down while snorkeling on the GBR

Free diving underwater while snorkeling on the GBR

This was my first time snorkeling, but Eye to Eye Marine Encounters let us first-timers test out the snorkeling gear at the hotel pool before we jumped into open waters. Soon though we were out on the boat, adorned in black ninja suits (a.k.a. wetsuits) and snorkel gear, and face to face with Nemo’s home. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan of Disney’s Finding Nemo, so I was tickled pink see actual clownfish poking their heads out of anemones as depicted in the opening scenes of the movie.

The coral itself was also just as beautiful, and lots of other fish were present for the party as well, including butterflyfish, grouper, parrot fish, and even a couple of blacktip sharks! On the last day we even managed to swim with a couple of Pacific green sea turtles. It was really a majestic sight to see these creatures as they gracefully glided in and out of the reef. It was like the ocean version of a horse riding into the sunset.

One of the Pacific green sea turtles encountered

One of the Pacific green sea turtles encountered

It was also interesting to learn how everything in the reef is interconnected. For example, the grinding of the parrot fish as they feed on debris on the coral is actually what orients the baby polyps to swimming back towards the reef. The coral are also able to influence cloud cover for UV protection, which eventually float more inland and contribute to the location of rainforest formation.

This experience really was a great reminder of why I believe sustainability is so important. It is an example of the planet’s beauty we could potentially lose if climate change is not taken seriously. And honestly as I travel back home to Ohio, that’s probably the main thing that is going to stick with me from this trip. I will always remember the beauty of the land, but it’s the discussions of sustainability to maintain those places that will have a lasting impact on my perspective.

These were truly unique places that we were lucky enough to visit, but if I were being honest, it’s a real concern that these some of places could be gone in the next ten years, especially when you realize how interconnected they all are. The reef in particular, while being a great resource to the fishing, shipping, and tourism industries amongst others, is also extremely sensitive to change. A 2 degrees increase in temperature would be enough to have serious effects on the ecosystem.

The requisite O-H-I-O at sunset

The requisite O-H-I-O at sunset

Australia doesn’t have all the answers, but it is doing a couple more things right that we aren’t all doing in America. I’m so glad I was able to experience all that I have in the past 25 days. It’s definitely been widely educational and life changing. For everyone who’s been reading these posts, thank you for reading! And thank you AUIP and everyone we met for a wonderful experience!

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Amanda Ferguson, 2014 North Queensland student blogger, writes:

Thursday, May 22

G’day, mates! After the farmstay, I now have an accent! I’m just kidding, I still sound very American, but on the Atherton Tablelands with my host family was a chance to hear a variety of the local lingo.

“Keen as mustard” meaning smart and enthusiastic and “bloke” instead of man were two phrases I heard quite often. They also used the word “nice” in places where Americans typically use the word good, particularly when we were talking about food. Honestly those farmstay meals were some of the best I’ve had on this program. I guess no matter where you are, nothing beats home cooking.

Friendly horses at the farmstay

We talked about some other differences between Australian and American food. For one, ketchup is called tomato sauce in Australia. A few other American to Aussie translations include candy is lolly, cookie is biscuit and cantaloupe is rockmelon. Also ranch dressing is not common, much to my dismay.

We also had a chance to interact with and feed the horses and cattle, which my farmstay classmates and I definitely enjoyed. The horses were extremely friendly.

After that, we were off to Tyrconnell Historic Gold Mine. Here we took an even closer look at plant adaptations to Australia’s hot dry land. The bowerbird in particular was interesting to hear about because it’s mating ritual is so unusual. The male bird builds a bower out of twigs and then collects different colored trinkets such as glass, bottle caps or shells to create a pathway leading up to the bower where it will perform a dance of sorts to impress females. These structures can become fairly intricate which is pretty impressive for one small bird to do.

Tyrconnell sunset

The best part of this Outback location though was the stargazing. Illuminated diamonds fill the sky in literally every direction while the Milky Way cut through the background. Sleeping outside, that was the view I had while falling asleep.

Now we’re in Port Douglas venturing out to the Great Barrier Reef. My stay here in Australia is almost over, but I have no doubts that the reef will make a perfect ending to this great adventure!

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