Study Abroad in Cairns

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in Cairns

G’day mate! Do you know what’s better than getting to pet a cuddly koala? Studying abroad in that koala’s homeland. Doorway to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, and a great base to go on treks into the Cape York Wilderness, Cairns is not only a tropical paradise, but a study abroad student’s haven. Home to James Cook University, Cairns is a unique place to live and study abroad in Australia, especially since the city’s universities have over 170 subjects combined to choose from. Students entranced with the Land Down Under who want to hang with wallabies cannot find a better destination to hop into than good ol’ Cairns.

Study Abroad Programs in Cairns

Study abroad in Cairns is a popular choice for students of all majors (the student body is made up of 1,500 international students!), often because they are drawn to the large variety of courses offered within the city’s limits. Those interested in studying marine biology or environmental studies specifically are in for a special treat, because many universities provide students with their own personalized classroom, smack dab in the middle of the tropics.

Due to its proximity to unfettered wilderness, one of the best subjects to study in Cairns is biology. While some classes are based in the classroom with excursions out into the rainforest, there are study abroad programs in Cairns where the entirety of the program is based outside; in these programs, students live, work, eat, study, and play in the field to get a real hands-on view of environmental management, protection, conservation, and restoration practices. As one of the oldest rainforests in the world, the Daintree is the perfect spot for students to get neck deep in some of the most unique and fascinating biology in the world, including blue bird poop!

For those who dream of having crocodiles as classmates, studying in Cairns will place students only a short ride away from the coast, including the Great Barrier Reef, making marine biology another fantastic subject to study in Cairns. Study tropical shallow water marine systems with a focus on reef ecology, seagrass, mangroves, and shores. With all of these great locations allowing for hands on studies, students will better understand  the impact humans have had on the oceans and the natural resources available in Oz.

With the huge influx of tourists every year, tourism and hospitality are both interesting and relevant subjects of study in Cairns. Through a combination of real world experience and local case studies, students can gain the skills necessary to successfully manage a wide range of tourist favorites, including tours, hotels, and events. A special focus can even be put on ecotourism, as more and more money is being invested in preserving the rare and endemic species that make up Australia’s wildlife.

Life in Cairns

A day in the life of a student studying in Cairns is always balmy, given that it’s located in the tropics of North Queensland, Australia. With the beach only a couple of miles away and a bumping backpackers atmosphere, students who study abroad in Cairns will never be at a loss of what to do when not in class or studying. 

Known for its relaxed ambience, Cairns is also considered one of the most friendly places in Australia; you only need to attend one free fitness class at the quay to feel their hospitality. The well established coffee scene on Grafton and Spence streets provides students with the ever necessary caffeine hit before, during, and after a long night of studying. 

After classes, students can go see the variety of natural attractions that Cairns provides. Head inland to the nearby Cairns highlands, and its quaint, old towns will give a warm (literally) welcome, due to the hot weather at 1000 meters above sea level. Reverse your journey and head out to sea, and the islands around Cairns are also begging to be explored. Find Nemo by snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, take a dive out to the coral cays of Green Island, or kayak the serene mangroves. Cheers the end of another awesome day abroad with your Fosters or a cold bottle of Bundaberg ginger beer.

Psst! Don’t forget to look up or you’ll miss out on some of the world’s coolest bats in the trees and skies. 

Accommodation & Visas

Accommodation in Cairns is varied. However, most students choose to live in dormitories with other international and Australian students, providing them with a great opportunity to not only immersion into Aussie college life, but a chance to make friends from around the globe. Some dorms are even equipped with beach volleyball courts, pool tables, and resort style pools! To top it all off, most students get their own bedroom situated in a cluster of three bedrooms with a common lounge area, enough space for you to secretly stash your pet kangaroo and its joey. 

Visas are required for all students who want to study abroad in Australia. Luckily, the process itself is simple for students who decide to study in Cairns for less than 90 days, provided they follow the required steps. Students should have at least one blank page in their passports for a 90 day tourist visa, or they can get a label free tourist visa through the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). Neither one is more expensive than the other, and both are incredibly easy. If a student is planning on studying abroad in Cairns for longer than three months, their study abroad program provider or university will need to help them through the process of obtaining a student visa, which has a couple different requirements. Make sure you visit GoAbroad's Embassy Directory for more detailed information.

Benefits & Challenges

Study abroad in Cairns is an opportunity to not only live in the tropics and have the ability to go scuba diving or beach lounging on a whim, it is also an opportunity to have a natural canopy as your classroom. However, as with every adventure abroad, there are some obstacles that students may face during study abroad programs in Cairns.

Cairns is undoubtedly a very touristy city, with thousands upon thousands of visitors every year arriving in the city to enjoy it’s year round summer, the infamous reef, and swimmable beaches that are just a short drive away! As a student with aims of being immersed in the local culture and history, some find it difficult to truly become a local, as most industries in Cairns are based on attracting foreign visitors.

On the flipside, since Cairns attracts so many people from around the world, students can make life-long friends from every corner of the globe. This also entails that there is a new adventure lurking around every corner as long as the student is willing to dive into something new, whether that’s snorkeling off Fitzroy Island or diving into the swimming holes at Crystal Cascades. 

Another challenge students will have to endure while studying in Cairns is the finicky weather, rain, heat, and back sweat, oh my! However, the weather is a positive for those looking to escape the winter and cold; warm weather year ‘round means that their sunny days and blue skies are here to stay. So pack those flip flops and a boat load of sunscreen, because it’s summer all the time in Cairns. 

So...ready to take your exams in the middle of a rainforest? Cairns is dangerously fun, and we’re not just talking about the lethal jellyfish. Between the sunrays, ample ice cream options on the esplanade, and opportunities to get knee-deep in environmental studies, it’s no wonder foreign students are fleeing to this corner of Oz like mad. Grab your sunnies, your thongs (yes you read right!), and join the masses by studying abroad in Cairns!

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A Guide To
Studying Abroad in Cairns


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