The Natural Wonders Down Under Past Review

By (Biology, Trinity University) for

IFSA: Cairns - James Cook University

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about myself and how much I can actually do on my own. I am a lot more confident and sure of my choices now. I am also a lot more aware of how fortunate I am to be an American on one hand, and how amazing and wonderful foreign cultures can be on the other hand.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The Australian workload is designed to focus more on the end of semester final than most liberal arts American schools. A lot of my classes had maybe one paper or project during the semester that we would get feedback on, and then the other major component of the final grade was the final. This made the weekly work load easier because there were not a lot of little projects and readings assigned, but it did make it more likely for the grading system and workload to be very heavily weighted towards the end of the semester. As far as the teaching methods go, the main difference is that most subjects are split into tutorials and lectures, and the lectures are usually longer than most American lectures.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our Program's contact person was actually located in Townsville which is at least three hours away by car and was rarely if ever available by phone. She also was very biased towards the boys in our program and spent extra time and money on them. The only good thing about all of that was that it allowed me and my housemates to learn how to be in a foreign country really on our own at times, but it would have been nice to have someone there to give us little tips about the area. There were only five of us in the IFSA-Butler program in Cairns so it was a nice small group and we really got to know each other.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Housing was arranged for us through IFSA-Butler. Me and two other girls lived in a villa which was fully furnished and we were provided with most of our cooking utensils and just had to by some comfort items and extra bedding if we wanted it. The neighborhood was actually really safe and our apartment complex had other students living in it so we got to meet international, Australian, and American students as well as families. It was very close to campus (maybe a ten minute walk) and only a short distance from a shopping mall (20 minute walk). The only downside is that campus is a bit a of a distance from downtown, so in order to live close to school, we had to sacrifice being away from downtown Cairns, but even that was manageable if you made friends with someone with a car or took the bus.

* Food:

There is a really good farmer's market downtown every week from Friday to Sunday to get good, local produce. Tuesdays were cheap pizza and movie night at the local shopping center.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The walk about club was an amazing way to see local Cairns and get to experience a lot of great sites in the area. IFSA-Butler also gave us great little trips like going up to Kuranda on the sky tram and going to a local Australian cuisine restaurant.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Healthcare was sort of confusing because it is different from American health care, but James Cook and IFSA Butler both provided us with plenty of information about it. Overall the safety of the area was pretty good because we were less than a block away from the local police station.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 50 dollars a week on food, maybe 10 dollars for public transportation, and usually 50 dollars set aside for big trips every other weekend.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Set money aside before you go to spend on all the local activities. Things like scuba diving, bungee jumping, and sky diving are expensive, but worth it.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Location
  • My Course
  • The People
* What could be improved?
  • Transportation
  • On site personal from IFSA Butler
  • Technology (Internet)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? James Cook Cairns is really geared towards Environmental Studies students and people who love to be outdoors. You have to be very self motivated and willing to go on adventures to fully take in all of the beauty of the tropics of Australia.