Program Overview

Just an hour from the Great Barrier Reef, James Cook University is a top-notch university that has a backdrop of tropical islands, thick rainforests, and lush parks – plus they’ve got an aquarium on campus! With hundreds of subjects to choose from, hands-on learning including field trips, and real-world projects with business and industry organizations, you’re well-placed to get the most out of your studies. Many courses include excursions to islands, JCU outback research stations, and some of Australia’s best-kept secrets!

GPA Requirement
Application Deadlines
Spring: November 1
Fall: May 1
Avg Course Load
4 classes (12-16 U.S. credits)
Language(s) of Instruction
  • World-renowned marine and environmental academic programs
  • Tropical environment, with temps ranging from 60-90 degrees year round
  • Residence hall living with meal plan—no worries!
  • AACSB International Business School accreditation
  • Trips to Magnetic Island, home to northern Australia's largest wild koala population
Your Journey Begins Here
  • Connect with your Global Advisor to start planning. Apply by the application deadline.

  • Meet your Program Coordinator to finalize acceptance paperwork, housing, courses, flights, visas, payments, etc. Attend a pre-departure orientation.

  • Fly away. You'll be greeted at the airport, participate in a robust On-site Orientation and La Vida Local Curriculum with your Site Director.



Our Semester in Tropical North Queensland is located at James Cook University. Founded in 1970, James Cook has a unique location, situated between rainforest, dry savannas, and the Great Barrier Reef. This means you can study in a diverse physical environment unparalleled by any university in the world.

The University is famous for its marine, environmental, and sustainability research. That said, many of the 15,000 students study topics outside of the natural sciences. You can choose to take courses in a range of subjects, including biomedical science, business, information technology, psychology, and much more. James Cook’s close-knit community means you’ll get to know your fellow students, faculty, and administrators. And taking classes in the tropics is an incredible experience—experiential courses might put your “classroom” on the Reef itself!

James Cook also has a campus in Townsville, where 11,500 students attend, including over 1,500 international students. The campus is in a suburban location on nearly 1,000 acres of natural “bush.” The campus has teaching and research facilities, cafes and bars, fitness and sporting facilities, and a wealth of student clubs and societies. Around ten percent of James Cook students live on campus, giving the University a true community atmosphere.

Accredited by The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of Australia

How to Choose Your Courses

Now the fun part! You get to pick the courses you will take abroad. Review the course information on this page. Once you’ve decided which courses you want to take, fill out the CISabroad Course Selection Worksheet in your online portal.

Course Approval

Make sure to talk with your home university about course approval and get additional classes approved before you go abroad. For example, if you are taking 4 classes abroad, we recommend getting 8 approved. This gives you some flexibility in setting up your class schedule. Think about courses required for your major, but also courses that fulfill your elective requirements.

GPA Requirement

If you find your GPA is lower than the requirement listed at the top of this page, do not despair! Get in touch to let us know your situation. In many cases, there are additional application materials that you can submit to make your case for acceptance.

Choose your courses, making sure to get them approved by your home university and then fill out the Course Selection Worksheet.

Course Information

Semester in Tropical North Queensland offers two 14-week semesters, starting in July and February. James Cook University (JCU) is a top university for studying sustainability and environmental research.

Course search instructions:
Courses with the prefix of ML, PS, RH, TV, PC, MD & DS are part of JCU’s health and medicine subjects and are not typically available to Study Abroad and Exchange students.

Ensure you choose the proper “campus.”

Course search:
To explore a list of courses you can take at James Cook University, click here.

Courses that typically offer experiential field trips:

Australia Vertebrate Fauna
Biodiversity of Tropical Australia
Ecology and Conservation
Plant Survival in a Land of Fire, Flood, and Drought
Populations and Community Ecology
Rainforest Ecosystems
Wildlife Ecology and Management
Australian Landscape Processes and Evolution
Coral Reef Geomorphology
Managing Coastal and Marine Environments
Linking Indigenousness
Functional Biology of Marine Organisms
Marine Ecology and Environmental Assessment
Coral Reef Ecology
Coral Reef Ecosystems
Evolution and Ecology of Reef Fishes
Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals
Descriptive Physical Oceanography

Life in Townsville

Welcome and Orientation

Your program will kick off with the active and engaging CISabroad Adventure Orientation. This 4 day/3 night program will provide you with a great introduction to Australia’s culture, wildlife, and natural environments. We’ll be moving around (both on land and in the water) much of the time, visiting places like the rainforest, indigenous communities, and the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll also get to quickly cross off your bucket list things like holding koalas, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, and learning about the region’s indigenous cultures.

This fun, activity-based orientation program isn’t just one big adventure, however! We’ll also gather together to discuss program and behavioral expectations, discussing topics such as culture, slang, food, and where to go and what to do when you settle into your new home in Townsville.

After the CISabroad orientation program, you’ll also get an orientation at James Cook University to help you get adjusted to your new campus and home in Townsville.

Farewell and Re-entry Program

Though you’re not an astronaut returning from space, re-entering your home culture after being abroad can be shocking to the system. We’ll walk you through some of the things to expect, rehash your time abroad so that you can remember the highlights. We love to stay in touch so although it is farewell for now it is not goodbye.

Housing Options

While attending the Semester in Tropical North Queensland, CISabroad students will live in residence halls. Similar to the the US, residence hall living helps you become part of a community. Each hall is within a short walk or bike ride of the center of campus. You’ll also have a full meal plan while living in the halls, which includes 21 meals per week (breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day).


  • Private rooms
  • Furnished with a single bed, desk and chair, bookshelf and wardrobe (closet)
  • Some rooms have air conditioning, while others have a ceiling or floor fan
  • All rooms are equipped with internet
  • Common areas where students can mingle, socialize, and study
    • Common areas include communal kitchens, recreation rooms, outdoor courts (volleyball and basketball), and laundry and TV rooms
  • There is 24/7 security on site at all complexes

students walking down the strand in townsville

Local Life

  • Farmers Markets: We love our fresh produce – check out the North Shore Markets each Saturday to stock up on your fresh fruit and veg for the week or visit the Cotters Markets or Willows Rotary Markets on Sundays.
  • Museum of Tropical Queensland: When you are in the mood to learn and the air-conditioning is calling –this is the place for you. Every day at 11am and 2:30pm the museum holds demonstrations where you can learn how to load and fire a six-pounder cannon at their star attraction, the HMS Pandora.
  • Secret Street Art Trail: Townsville is known for its laid-back attitude. Many are surprised that there’s a vibrant street art scene – you just have to know where to look. Keep an eye out for local coffee hot spot Hoi Polloi Espresso Bar.
  • Billabong Sanctuary: If you can’t get enough of our wildlife this one is for you! Kangaroo-feeding plus koalas, wombats and a great reptile experience.
  • The Strand: Mix with the locals and enjoy the great cafes along the foreshore which is always a popular running and cycling track if you are feeling fit. From May to December each year, on the first Friday of the month, The Strand Night Markets light up the park with entertainment, live music, and loads of market stalls.

More About Townsville

Townsville is a charming coastal city that offers visitors a world of new experiences. You can spend your day exploring the outback, relaxing at the beach, shopping at the local markets, or dancing at one of the many music festivals. And, with only 110,000 people, it has everything a student could want without being in an overwhelmingly big city. Best of all, Townsville has 320 days of sunshine a year!

Townsville is most known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. You'll have a chance to visit the Reef as part of your orientation program. Because you'll live so close, you can return again and again to the Reef to explore the awe-inspiring marine life and tropical islands. The inhabited Magnetic Island is also only 20 minutes from the city center, where you'll find nature walks, abundant wildlife (think koalas and wallabies!), and inviting beaches. The mountainous terrain and turquoise waters of the Coral Sea will awe you. Over half of this beloved island is a World Heritage listed national park.

After a day in the water, wilderness, or at university, unwind at the endless beach-front esplanade. Discover international cuisine, abundant cafes, a world-famous aquarium, and vibrant nightlife. You can also join the locals in cheering on their two major sporting teams. Townsville is one of Australia's premier tourist destinations, with a jam-packed calendar filled with sporting, aquatic, cultural, and historical events throughout the year. Australia is famous for sun, surf, and scenery—and you'll get it all by studying abroad in Townsville.




Program Excursions

While participating on a CISabroad program, you'll be able to take part in built-in day trips at no additional cost. These trips are subject to change from term to term; listed below are excursions that have run in the past.

CISabroad Study Abroad Semester Program australia magnetic island

Magnetic Island

A short ferry ride away takes you to a different world: a mountainous island with twenty-three beaches and bays. We’ll explore by foot to discover stunning views, clear snorkelling spots, and—if we’re lucky—a few local wild koalas.

300 Smiles Stadium

This famous stadium is home to the North Queensland Cowboys NRL team. Catch a rugby game at the home-team stadium—a 26,500-capacity venue a few minutes from the center of Townsville.

4-Day Orientation on the Great Barrier Reef

Talk about an amazing orientation! Spend 4 days learning about the environmental and cultural beauty that Australia has to offer in the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you spend your time snorkeling or exploring the rain forest, you won’t leave Cairns without some unbelievable photos and memories!

Your Support Staff

Global Advising Team

Travel Tip: We love what we do and want to talk to you! The Global Advising Center is here to help you decide on a program, and complete the Online Application. From the moment you first hear from us be it through a phone call, email or personal visit, you will find that our passion for international education is contagious. We’re ready to launch you abroad.

Emma Van Loon
Senior Program Coordinator - Australia, New Zealand, and Hawai'i

Travel Tip: When I begin planning a trip I love to leave two or three days free. There are always fun activities you’ll learn about while in country so you don’t want to miss out on them due to over scheduling!

Learn more about Emma

Tracy MacKeracher
Site Director in Townsville, Australia

Travel Tip: Try to get ‘off the beaten path’ – sometimes the road less travelled is the one that leads to the most memorable experiences.

Learn more about Tracy

Student Feedback

This CISabroad program gave me so much confidence to embrace the spontaneity of life and just enjoy it. With CISabroad, I was able to transition easily into life on the other side of the world via a wonderful orientation, which not only got me acclimated to the culture but also allowed me the valuable opportunity to meet others who were studying in the same country.

John Davenport, Semester in Tropical North Queensland, The University of Southern Mississippi

Program Fees & Dates

Advisor Tip: Please do not book flights until you have received confirmed dates in your acceptance paperwork. Dates posted here are subject to change.

  • Fall 2019
    Application Deadline
    May 1
    July 17 (Estimated)
    November 23 (Estimated)
  • Spring 2020
    Application Deadline
    November 1
    February 13 (Estimated)
    June 21 (Estimated)
    $20,990 (Estimated)

CISabroad reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to currency fluctuations and/or fee changes made by our partner universities.

Program Inclusions

As with all study abroad programs, you should count on a few additional expenses.

Program fees are in US dollars and include the following:

  • 4 day Great Barrier Reef Excursion
  • Full-time tuition and fees
  • Housing (residence halls) and full meal plan
  • Medical and accident insurance
  • Overseas Health Insurance (mandatory for any student studying in Australia)
  • CISabroad support services before, during, and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial aid counseling
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Predeparture orientation
  • Airport pickup
  • James Cook University orientation
  • On-site support
  • James Cook University official transcript
  • NYTimes Digital Subscription
  • La Vida Local cultural program