Hi everyone! I am a third-year MSci Marine Biology and study abroad student, currently having my year exchange in James Cook University, Australia. James Cook University (JCU) is known for their leading research in coral studies (mainly due to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef) and their collaborations with the Australian Institute of Marine Science and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

The tips I will share below does not only apply to students that are planning to go to JCU but also to other students who are planning on studying abroad.

1. Go to every possible event you can afford.

This is probably the best time you will have in university to explore many new and different things before the start of term. The event organised by universities are normally discounted and more affordable than usual.

2. Take as many subjects as you can during the first week (if your university permits)

This is finally your chance to explore and take almost any subject that you have always wanted to do. Exchange universities are normally quite flexible on subject choices (check with your home university as well). There will be a limit on the number of subjects that you can do per semester, but attending all the lectures in the first week can give you a better idea on your subject choices.  I managed to attend 6 subjects during my first week and I am glad I did, the subjects that I thought I would not enjoy turn out to be one of my favourites!

3. Go for their free lunch/events

Free events are always great for students… there is nothing to add for that :P. On top of that, getting utensils for cooking may take a while and going out for food can be expensive, free lunches offered during the first few weeks are a very good way of making sure to have food and meet people as well!

4. Talk to people

This will be a new academic year for most people and you might find that there are other exchange students, just like you, if you talk to them! This is the time where everyone is getting to know each other and the people that you meet might be one of your best mates for life.

5. Take it easy

This will be the first few weeks of coming to a new place and you may have many mixed emotions and trying to sort out many things such as getting to know people, finding a part-time job or even getting a bank account. I had less of a problem because I was an international student at the University of Southampton, adapting in James Cook was nothing new to me. However, if this is your first time abroad, take it easy and always seek help from a member of staff in the exchange university or speak to other exchange students. You will not be alone and things will get better as time progress. You will be proud of yourself at the end of your time abroad.

These are the few tips and tricks I found during my Orientation week and the first week of the academic term.  If you would like to see what I have done during my first two weeks at James Cook University, please continue reading 🙂

I first made a visit to Bali, Indonesia as the international flights to Townsville are very limited (probably only from Bali). Bali is a cheap and beautiful to visit, I strongly recommend if you are studying in Australia.


Orientation week in JCU

  1. Visit to Billabong sanctuary, the animals are very well looked after and this is a great chance to get to know the animals of Australia. There are a lot of dangerous animals in Australia but there are many ways that we can avoid unnecessary harm!

    2. Visit to Magnetic island.



3. Tour in Townsville

There are also barbecue, free lunches and many great prizes to be won during the Orientation week. Make sure that you make the best of your time if you are thinking of going to JCU!

Tips for the first weeks of studying abroad

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