Three Students Studying the Coral Reef in Australia

St. Lawrence University students have the opportunity to spend the fall or spring semester in Australia at James Cook University (JCU).  Students choose to study at the Townsville or Cairns campus.  As Australia’s premier tropical university, JCU has dedicated much of its research activities to areas relevant to life in the tropics, such as aboriginal studies, tropical medicine, tropical environmental studies, and Asian Studies. Its department of Marine Biology is world famous. In addition, the University has pioneered a higher education center for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Please note that the number of students attending this program is limited and admission is highly competitive.

  • Based in Cairns or Townsville
  • Fall or Spring semester
  • Enrollment capped at 15 students per semester (a backup option is encouraged for competitive programs)
  • Pre-requisites: 3.0 GPA.  Applicants should have prior coursework in the subjects they intend to study on the program, and must articulate clear reasons for advanced study of these subjects in Australia. Applicants should also describe their interest in studying the peoples and cultures of Australia.
  • All applicants must have completed at least three semesters at a four-year college or university at the time of application.
  • While on the program students are required to take at least one class focused on the peoples and cultures of Australia
  • Live in student residence halls

Apply to Study in Australia

Location     Academics     Co-Curricular     Housing     Calendar     Orientation      Program Contacts


James Cook University (JCU), named after the explorer Captain James Cook, has two campuses located in northeast Australia. The larger campus in Townsville has approximately 14,500 students; the Cairns campus has about 5,000 students. As Australia's first tropical university, JCU has dedicated much of its research activities to areas relevant to life in the tropics, such as aboriginal studies, tropical medicine, tropical environmental studies, and Asian Studies. Its Department of Marine Biology is world famous. In addition, the University has pioneered a higher education center for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

More information about the University can be found on their YouTube channel.

James Cook University's main campus is located 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the city center of Townsville, Queensland, the largest city in northern Queensland. It is the business, cultural, educational, administrative and industrial center for the North Queensland region and has a diverse economy based on manufacturing, industry, tourism, and transportation. It is a major distribution center for imports and exports with trade links with Papua New Guinea, the Pacific Rim, and Southeast Asia. Townsville is also the home of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. The Townsville campus is particularly appropriate for students interested in marine biology and owns a research station on Orpheus Island

Many JCU subjects offered in Townsville are also offered on the Cairns campus (with the exception of marine biology). Cairns, based on the coast 4 hours north of Townsville, is a center for outdoor activities and a tourist destination for Australians and international travelers wishing to access the Great Barrier Reef and points north including Daintree rainforest and Cape Tribulation. The Cairns campus, close to the size of St. Lawrence University, is particularly appropriate for tropical ecology studies.

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You must take a full academic load (4 courses) while in Australia. (12-15 credits are considered a "full academic load" at JCU).  SLU students will receive 4 units for 12 JCU credits.  Credits awarded depend on the subject taken.  Each course at JCU equals to 1 SLU Unit.

All SLU students attending JCU are required to take at least one course focused on the peoples and cultures of Australia. You can access course information here through the JCU website. Select the campus you are applying for (Townsville or Cairns) and select the relevant Teaching Period (semester) you plan to study in at JCU, either Teaching Period 1 (January to July) or Teaching Period 2 (July to November). The last 2 numbers in the subject number indicate how many credits will be awarded: HI 3 191: 03    [ HI  =  History Dept.  3  = 3rd-year subject.   191  =  subject number. 03  =  # of credits ] 

  • Course of study = major
  • Faculty = department or school (e.g., Faculty of Arts, Education & Social Science; Faculty of Medicine, Health & Molecular Sciences; Faculty of Science)
  • Subjects = classes
  • Semester I or Study Period I = February through June
  • Semester II or Study Period 2 = July through November

Any questions about course offerings, please contact Louise Keller in Admissions (

Course credit from JCU transfers back to SLU provided you have received course approval from the department chair of a relevant academic department. Some courses at James Cook University have already been pre-approved by St. Lawrence and are listed on the Registrar's website. Please keep in mind that these are just the courses that have been pre-approved. Students may enroll in other courses and seek transfer credit approval at SLU. In order to have credits returned from James Cook University, students must complete a credit transfer form (available on their Studio Abroad applications) before their departure and have each credit approved by the relevant department head at SLU.

  • All subjects must be on the Townsville or the Cairns campus. The two campuses are 4 hours apart, so it is impossible to take subjects at both campuses. You may not take block or external courses.
  • Students take 12 credits (generally four subjects), which must be endorsed for transfer credit prior to commencing study in Australia and approved by the appropriate department chair at SLU.
  • The Business school at JCU has moved to a trimester schedule so SLU students on the semester program will be unable to choose business subjects. 
  • At least one subject must have significant content focusing on the peoples and cultures of Australia.
  • Grades earned at JCU are converted to SLU grades using the standard Australian/US conversion system:

High Distinction = 4.0
Distinction = 3.75
Credit = 3.0
Pass = 2.0
Conceded Pass = 1.5
Fail = 0.0

Studying at James Cook University is not "SLU in an exotic location." Australian universities generally offer more course-specific instruction compared to the American "liberal arts" education. In Australia, students study more narrowly but delve more deeply into one subject area. This means there may be scheduling challenges if you plan to take subjects from differing disciplines or departments. Australian academic programs, administrative structures and grading more closely resemble the British university system than the American system. The most common instruction method is a combination of large lectures classes and smaller tutorial classes. Students are expected to progress through the semester independently. Assessment is less frequent and may be based on a much smaller number of assessments than you may be used to.

Course Attendance Mode:

Please be aware that SLU students are only allowed to take the Internal mode course and up to ONE limited Attendance mode course. 

  • Block mode: is an intensive study mode. Subjects offered via block mode require attendance at classes conducted via block teaching sessions and may be held on or off campus. For example, classes may be held from 9.00am - 5.00pm Saturday and Sunday for three consecutive weekends, or may be held three nights per week for, say, four weeks. SLU students may not take Block mode courses.
  • External mode: subjects offered via external mode are offered via flexible delivery and require no on-campus attendance for classes. Flexible delivery may incorporate the delivery of teaching material wholly or in part online. SLU students may not take External mode courses.
  • Internal mode: subjects offered via internal mode require regular attendance at classes over most weeks of a study period and are usually held on campus. Internal mode subjects offered during Study Period 1 (Semester 1) or Study Period 2 (Semester 2) are generally of 13 weeks duration.
  • Limited attendance mode: subjects offered via limited attendance mode are offered via flexible delivery and require some on-campus attendance. Flexible delivery may incorporate the delivery of teaching material wholly or in part online. Practicum subjects are sometimes also recorded as limited attendance mode subjects. SLU students may take one Limited mode course.
Suggested Australia-Content Courses:

AR 2011:03: Australia Through Time and Place

CN 2205:03: Regional Features: Place, Location, Australia and Asia in Cinema

EL 2020:03 Australia Literatures

HI 2006:03: Australia and Pacific Exploration

HI 2191:03: Australia History

HS 1401:03: Health and Health Care in Australia

IA 1015:03: Indigenous Australian World View: Survival, Identity and Cultural Diversity

IA 2013: 03: Ecology and Australian Indigenous Cultures

IA 2016: 03: Australian Indigenous Politics

SS 1010: 03: Australian People: An Introduction to the Social Sciences

SY 1001:03: Australian Society: An Introduction to Sociology

WC 2001:03: Australian Women’s Studies

IA 2011: Indigenous Australian (SLU Equivalent: ANTH-3037)

Students at Townsville campus can take the following two courses which are taught by SLU alumna Theresa Petray.

SS1010: Australian People: Indigeneity and Multiculturalism

SY1001: Australian Society: An Introduction to Sociology 

Crime and Punishment in Australia  (SLU History)

Modern History in Australia (SLU History)

Interested in Field Trips Courses? 

Some courses at JCU include field trip components 

The cost for the field trip courses are on this list.  Check under the Subject Field Trips section. And four more under Indigenous Studies and Arts, Society and Education sections.

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Students are encouraged to get involved in JCU cultural, sporting and recreational activities and students receive a stipend to join the JCU student association. Common weekend trips are Mission Beach, Cairns, Daintree Rainforest, Hinchinbrook Island, Whitsunday Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. The JCU Office of International Affairs has a variety of excursions and programs for which students can sign up.

Previous students can share recommendations for independent travel within Australia as well as outside of Australia (to SE Asia, New Zealand, or Bali). Previous students have also become SCUBA certified, and hiked Hinchinbrook Island and Mt. Bartle Frere. The Hinchinbrook hike, which normally takes 3 - 4 days, is very popular and reservations must be made months in advance. Please note that students can explore the Great Barrier Reef by snorkeling or SCUBA diving.

Australian students normally use study breaks to study; therefore, SLU students should plan to do the same.

Keeping in mind that Australia is nearly as large as the continental United States and that there are long distances between destinations, students should plan to arrive early if they wish to travel throughout Australia or schedule such trips immediately after exams.

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The Townsville campus has several on-campus residential colleges and residence halls providing housing for about 1,500 students. Most of the rooms are single study/bedrooms comfortably furnished with a bed, closet, study desk, and bookshelves. Information about applying for housing online will be distributed at the orientation meeting after acceptance to the program.

St. Lawrence has requested that SLU students be housed in some of the centrally located colleges that provide full board with 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. It should be noted that James Cook University cannot guarantee that all SLU students will be accommodated in their first housing choice on the Townsville campus, but every effort will be made to do so. Students are encouraged to stay at the George Roberts Hall and University Hall as they are much closer to campus.

In Cairns, student accommodation is directly across the street from the Cairns campus. The Cairns Student Lodge houses up to 230 students with single study bedrooms and shared living rooms, usually 4-6 students per living room. Information about applying for housing online will be distributed at the orientation meeting on campus.

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Please see James Cook University's website to find more details about the Program Calendar. Study Period 1 typically begins in mid-February and ends in mid-June. Study Period 2 typically begins in mid-July and ends in mid-November.

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Pre-departure: The CIIS office organizes in-depth orientation sessions on-campus prior to the students' participation in the program. This includes a program specific session(s) in which the students will learn more about the program, local culture, academic expectations, and any other important information. There is also an orientation session led by the CIIS office on culture shock, pre-departure preparations, as well as safety and security while abroad.

On-site: JCU will host orientation sessions when students arrive. JCU has a helpful link with pre-departure information for incoming students. You can get information about airport arrival service, the specific dates for the mandatory orientation meetings, and other arrival information from JCU's webpage.

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Program Contacts

If you are interested in learning more about the Australia program please contact one of the following people:

CIIS Office: Dr. Yanqiu Zheng, Associate Director of Asia and Pacific Programs - Questions about eligibility, program logistics, and other off-campus opportunities.

Faculty Coordinator: Dr. Alexander Schreiber - Questions about program academics.

Apply to Study in Australia

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