Studying outside Europe – Australia

James Cook University

Photo of student diving in Australia

Alec (Marine Biology)

As part of my 3rd year of my BSc Marine Biology, I studied at JCU in Townsville, NE Australia. It was an experience that I will never forget and one that has completely changed me for the better – not only as a scientist but also as a person.

Situated in the dry tropics within arm’s reach of the Great Barrier Reef, this place is a marine biologist’s dream come true. Containing the prestigious ARC Centre for Coral Reef Studies and with strong links to AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science), the education I received was second-to-none in my field.

I was able to study a part of marine biology that is not a major focus on my degree in St Andrews, broadening the scope of my degree immeasurably and giving me a much more rounded appreciation of marine ecosystems. The modules I took also had a really strong base in practical experience through labs, coursework and most excitingly of all, fieldtrips to the Great Barrier Reef and the Australian bush.

From catching cryptobenthic fish on the GBR and studying geckos in the outback, to surveying coral reefs after the major bleaching event, I got the chance to throw myself headfirst into tropical biology (sometimes literally!). I was even able to gain credits for volunteering with an ecological surveying group that gave me industry experience, again something that would not have been possible if I had stayed in St Andrews. With these all these new experiences and knowledge under my belt, I now feel like I can really make an important contribution to my field in whatever I chose to do after I graduate.

However, my study abroad experience was not just about my modules. Travelling alone around Australia and New Zealand was an incredible, eye-opening experience. From diving and snorkelling with dwarf minke whales on the GBR and dusky dolphins in New Zealand, and trekking through the wet tropics in Cape Tribulation and Cape York, to shivering in snowy Tasmania, I was so lucky to be able to get this chance to see these beautiful parts of the world with my own eyes. These experiences reaffirmed my love for wildlife and nature and my obsessive passion to protect the natural world through wildlife conservation in my future career. I also feel so much more confident after having travelled alone around, and lived in, a foreign country for over half a year. Now I think I am definitely ready to take on the world in whatever career I choose to pursue after graduation.

If you do get the same chance to study abroad as I did, then here’s some advice. Make sure you go abroad and bring back something that you could not have achieved, experienced or received if you had stayed at St Andrews. Whether that’s field experience, subject knowledge, or a different attitude to life just make sure you make the most of your time abroad. This is your moment to make your mark on the world and for the world to make its mark on you. Where will your study abroad experience take you?


Charlotte (Marine Biology)

Studying Marine Biology at James Cook University, Australia, with the Great Barrier Reef in its backyard, has been a wonderfully exciting experience. From the university picking me up from Townsville Airport, to the day that I left my college to travel the country, I felt a fully supported member of the JCU community, a reassuring thing for any exchange student!

I have just finished my most challenging assignment to date: the dissection, rotting, cleaning and reassembling of the skull bones of a Hump-Headed Maori Wrasse. The classes here take a hands-on approach, and field trips have taken me to the University’s marine research facility on Orpheus Island, where the reef is literally at your feet, plankton trawling in the University’s research vessel and crawling around the Queensland outback catching reptiles, frogs and mammals.

Of course, it hasn’t all been studying!! There is plenty of Australia to be seen in Queensland, although if you’re planning a trip you’ll soon find out how big Australia actually is!! Non-academic highlights for me have been the diving trips on the outer reef, where I advanced my diving qualifications, hiring a camper van to tour northern Queensland, as well as a walking through the bush to look up and see a wild Koala sleeping in the branches.

Applying for this exchange was relatively painless: the biology department have an application process including interviews, and you will find out if you have a place in ample time to sort out visas and accommodation with James Cook University. The part I was most worried about was applying for a visa, but the application took literally five minutes, and as soon as I sent the application I received an email telling me that it had been approved. The visa I received was valid until August 31, plenty of time for travelling after the semester ends.

The most challenging aspect of applying to study for a semester in Australia is that Australia is literally the other side of the world to St Andrews. The large international community at James Cook University helps with dealing with this distance, and being in Australia has quickly become a way of life for me.

The best advice I can give you is expect to have fun, join in with everything, expect things to be different and Townsville will become as much a home to you as St Andrews is.


University of Melbourne

Photo of study abroad student Miriam in Melbourne

Miriam (Classics and Latin)

Spending a semester at the University of Melbourne was perfect for me. St Andrews is great, but I loved the opportunity to experience its polar opposite: a big, modern city on the other side of the world, about as far away as it’s possible to travel.

I’m a Classical Studies and Latin student, and the University of Melbourne does not teach Classical Studies without the languages. However, that was no barrier: many Ancient History courses offered fit well, and additionally gave me opportunities to branch out that I couldn’t have done under my degree title in St Andrews. Though there are very few Latin subjects offered, the department was wonderful and incredibly supportive.

I lived in Yarra House, a student hall with single or twin rooms and shared kitchens and social spaces. The cycle to the university is about 5km. Once I had a bike, living out of town was fine – I made so many friends at Yarra and Melbourne is very cycle-friendly.

I also spent lots of time exploring Australia, visiting Byron Bay, Tasmania, and Sydney. I had a phenomenal new year: bodysurfing, barbecuing, and watching the Harbour Bridge fireworks! Even so, when I look back on Australia the first thing which comes to mind is cycling around Melbourne in the sunshine. Of all the places I visited, Melbourne remains my favourite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *