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Study Abroad Changed My Life: No Longer a Cliche

January 17, 2019 2:45 PM
Lipaz Avigal



To Tulane Seniors Julliane Crochet and Julia Paschal going abroad was never a question. They knew that pursuing an international experience would forever shape their personal and academic trajectories, but between New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, the options appeared endless and a bit overwhelming. Majoring in Environmental Biology, the two eventually decided to study abroad at James Cook University, located in Townsville, North Queensland, Australia. Enamored with its unique location, rich biodiversity and access to the Great Barrier Reef, Julia and Julliane each spent a semester immersed in Australian culture and environment.

Even though both knew that they wanted to study abroad, the decision to do so wasn’t so easy. Upon beginning her semester in Australia, Julia admits that she didn’t know what to expect. Raised around nature in the United States, she couldn’t imagine the life she was beginning so far away from home. Julliane also had a few reservations; before committing to her program, she spoke to one of her professors to see whether pursuing an international experience made her appear like a less serious student. “For a while I thought, does going abroad look bad? Then one of my professors assured me that it definitely does not, and that I will get so much of this experience both personally and professionally.”

As Juniors, the two embarked on their journey to Australia and have not looked back. During their time abroad, they learned how to work in coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, an experience that provided them with the hands-on experience Tulane couldn’t. Through Julliane’s classes, she had the opportunity to scuba dive for the first time, and discovered that she loved marine biology, a field she didn’t really have the opportunity to explore beforehand. In Australia, she got certified in scuba diving, joined the JCU dive club and even carried out research in Orpheus island, an small island nestled amongst the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, alongside the field’s most renowned experts.

"Anyone can gain amazing research experience at James Cook because there are so many unique opportunities that made studying there absolutely worth it."

Tulane student Julliane Crochet

Julliane said that one of her favorite things about studying at JCU is that almost all of her classes had an outdoor component to them, which allowed her to get to know Queensland and its communities outside the classroom but through an academic setting. To Julia, finally getting to learn about “that side of the world” was one of the aspects that distinguished her experience. Being able to take classes that focused on Australian species and history made her realize how interested she is in learning about animals in a variety of environments.

When Julia and Julliane were at JCU, they directly enrolled to the university, meaning that they went abroad individually, without a cohort of other american students. Even though it felt scary to go on their own, the people they had met made all the difference. To the two, living on campus really helped--“the dorms are very communal, almost like Greek life. You have orientation with your dorm at the beginning of the semester and it makes you so close to everyone. There are even competitions between dorms… we were very much able to become an active part of the student body.” Julia had even made a close friend from Townsville, who knew of the local waterfalls, camping, and hiking spots. With him, she got “the grand tour of North Queensland,” and traveled all throughout the region.

After the opportunity to engage with their passions outside of the United States and get to know the ins and outs of North Queensland, Julia and Julliane left Australia with big plans ahead. Following this semester, Julia plans to move to Australia for graduate school and Julliane is currently seeking ways to pursue a future in marine biology. To potential study abroad students Julliane says that anyone can gain amazing research experience at James Cook because there are so many unique opportunities that made studying there absolutely worth it. To Julia, there isn’t really a question-- “definitely go. One hundred percent. No doubt about it.”