JCU Study Abroad student shares his experience with OzTREKK

Many students opt for university in Canada. For some, this is just fine and dandy, thank you. Other students pursue their bachelor degree in Canada, then lift their gaze up and over huge land masses and bodies of water—and zero in on Australia.

Study Abroad
Stephen and kangaroo buddy at Billabong Sanctuary

For students, Australia pretty much has it all, which is why it hosts more than 250,000 international students, making it one of world’s most popular foreign study destinations.

Besides being a great experience, studying at an Australian university is a great way to gain an edge in an increasingly globalized economy. No matter which university or program you choose, international study in Australia will give you access to unique academic, professional and personal opportunities.

James Cook University in Australia
SCUBA diving off the coast of Queensland offers the tropical marine delights of the Great Barrier Reef

OzTREKK Study Abroad student Stephen Paterson left the ordinary and experienced the extraordinary at James Cook University. As just one of JCU’s 229 Study Abroad students, Stephen enrolled in two semesters of biology programs and began in semester 1, 2013. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native chose to leave Canada’s blustery winter behind in favour of northeastern Queensland’s balmy, tropical summer!

Why did you choose study abroad at James Cook University?

I decided to spend a year studying at James Cook University for several reasons. First, I was nearing the end of my four-year biology degree in Winnipeg and found that I had exhausted most of the courses at the University of Winnipeg that interested me. So rather than waste my time taking courses just for a credit, I began searching for another option. Second, in the last several years of my life I developed a strong interest in marine biology and passion for diving and JCU seemed a perfect place to study and get some time in the water on the incredible Great Barrier Reef. Finally, I have an insatiable desire to travel that was beginning to impede my progress in completing my degree, so I figured I should combine travel and university! Also, I was interested in living in a new city because although I love to travel, I have never left home for more than six months at a time and usually never spend more than one month in any single location.

James Cook University in Australia
Mountain biking is Stephen’s latest passion

What did you enjoy most during your study abroad experience in Australia?

I have had so much fun since I arrived it is impossible to list all the best times, but I’ll try. To start, I have done some of the most spectacular diving of my life from Townsville and Cairns. The reef and marine life are truly spectacular. Furthermore, being from Winnipeg, I had very few friends who dived and enjoyed it as much as I do, but here I have made many friends who are fantastic divers and are completely obsessed with being underwater the way I am. It’s really nice to be surrounded by people who share your passion.

I’ve also had loads of fun taking up new activities. Before I arrived I figured I might take my skates over and be the best hockey player in Australia. Instead, I’ve and taken up several new sports. Coming from the heart of the prairies I had never been on a mountain bike until a friend took me out riding in Townsville. A month ago I bought my own bike and have spent several hours riding every day since I bought it; I simply can’t get enough of it. I still love my road bike and ride it an hour or two a day also, but mountain biking is a new-found love of mine! I’ve also been trying a bit of climbing. Recently, just before class, a friend took me abseiling down the face of Castle Hill! Last month I played a game of underwater hockey. That was really fun, but I’m better at ice hockey.

James Cook University in Australia
Stephen with grouper at Cod Hole

I’ve had an incredible time doing all these new and invigorating activities, but it’s the people I’ve done the activities with who have made it so much fun. Having made new friends and met people who share the same passions as I do has really been the most valuable part of this experience for me.

Do you have any tips or advice for international students interested in studying in Australia?

As for tips/advice for international students, I really have none other than use what OzTREKK has to offer! Studying as an international student is not a simple thing to arrange, but I feel this whole transition/adventure has gone incredibly smoothly. I cannot overstate how helpful it was to have OzTREKK there to guide me and explain how things work. It’s really easy to see how thing are once you’re here in Australia, but it can be very confusing from across the world.

JCU School of Marine and Tropical Biology

The school’s strategic intent is “to be the leading research and education centre for the study of biology in the tropics.” To this end it aims to expand knowledge and understanding of biology through excellence in research and teaching, with a focus on tropical systems. With its immense biodiversity, in marine and terrestrial environments, JCU consider north Queensland to be one of the best places in the world to study whole organism biology and ecology.

James Cook University in Australia
OzTREKK student Zev and friend, on the outer reef

The school ranks number two in the world for citations on Climate Change and features world-recognized programs in aquaculture, marine biology, marine science, ecology and conservation.

Strengths of the school include strong research collaborations with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian Centre for Tropical freshwater Research (ACTFR) at JCU, and Savanna and Desert Knowledge CRCs.

About Marine Biology at JCU

JCU, through its School of Marine and Tropical Biology, is the first university in Australia to offer specialized training in marine biology. It has earned an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research and takes a field-oriented, hands-on approach to its teaching and research endeavours.

The school’s location in the tropics allows students and research staff ready access to a wide variety of tropical marine systems including coral reefs, tropical estuaries, mangrove habitats and seagrass beds. Links between our research and teaching programs ensure that students are at the cutting edge of marine research.

Study Abroad
OzTREKK and UQ Physio student Zev Permack snorkeling (our OzTREKK students stick together!)

What is a Study Abroad Program?

A study abroad program is similar to an international exchange program, where you leave your Canadian university for one or two semesters and take classes at a university outside Canada. When you return to your Canadian university to finish your studies, the credits you gained at the university abroad are counted toward your Canadian degree.

If you would like to go to Australia on a study abroad program, you may apply through OzTREKK to any Australian university that offers study abroad programs and accepts international students.


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