April 2005 issue

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With its tropical climate and vast coastline, Queensland is a natural first-choice destination for language travellers. Many of the towns and cities along the state's coast grew up around the tourist industry and now offer a wealth of entertainment and sporting opportunities, as Bethan Norris discovers.

Queensland is also known as the sunshine state and its climate plays a large role in its reputation as a world-famous tourist destination. Straddling the tropic of Capricorn, the northern part of the state enjoys a tropical climate that means year-round high temperatures, while further south the appropriately-named Sunshine coast and Surfer's Paradise are very popular coastal areas.

''World famous for its surf beaches, national parks and mountain ranges, the Gold Coast is a popular and safe tourist destination, only 70 kilometres from Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland,'' says Richard Brown from Browns English Language School in Southport. ''With its exciting nightlife, world-class theme parks, international restaurants and 300 days of sunshine a year, the Gold Coast offers a fantastic lifestyle.''

Robyn Henricks from Cairns Language Centre, situated at the top end of the state's 7,400 kilometre-long coastline, describes Cairns as the ''gateway to and capital of tropical North Queensland'' and adds, ''[Cairns] is fast gaining the reputation as one of the world's most spectacular adventure playgrounds.''

Because of its great climate, a lot of life in Queensland revolves around being outdoors and sports of all types play an important part in the local lifestyle. The state's vast array of natural attributes, including the rainforest at Cape Tribulation in the north, the Great Barrier Reef, the many islands - including the Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Magnetic Island - and the ubiquitous Outback, offer the opportunity for students to experience a number of different and exhilarating activities. ''Sport is almost a religion in Australia,'' asserts Garth Keppie from Australian International College of Language in Gold Coast City. ''Free time finds students at the beach learning to surf, paraglide, sailboard, etc, or on the golf course or hang-gliding in the hinterland.''

Cairns provides an ideal base for keen scuba divers to experience the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. ''The temperate waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park harbour vast coral gardens that teem with colourful and exotic marine life,'' says Henricks. ''Diving and snorkelling are a great way to get among the action.''

At many places along Queensland's coastline, the coral reefs come close enough to the shore that it is possible to snorkel off the beach. However, for the more adventurous, the Yongala wreck, which lies a couple of hours off the coast of Townsville, provides one of the best dive sites in Australia. The wreck provides one of the only reef sites in the area and, as such, is a focus for marine life that has colonised the stricken vessel since it sank in 1911.

Away from the coast, Rockhampton is an ''under-rated small town with some lovely historical buildings, excellent infrastructure and amenities [and] an attractive setting at the foothills of a small mountain range'', according to Paulo Vieria at Central Queensland University's language centre, located in the town. Vieria claims that this area of Queensland is often overlooked by tourists, but that students may benefit from the increased ''affordability and quality lifestyle'' that the area offers. He adds, ''The great attraction for students choosing regional Australia is, of course, the Immigration Department's incentives of extra points for those seeking to migrate to Australia who choose to study in a regional setting.''

At the Australian International College of Language, students are encouraged to explore some of the area's many lesser-known inland attractions. ''Queensland has Australia's most dispersed population, meaning that there are many rural cities which still maintain the way of life that has established the mystique of the Australian character - towns such as Longreach, which has the Stockman's Hall of Fame, and Mount Isa, famous for its copper, lead and zinc deposits,'' says Keppie.

Students studying at Regent Language School in Port Douglas, in the far north of Queensland, are in a prime position to learn about the unusual geological formations that exist nearby. ''Students are often unaware of how diverse our

area is,'' says David Hurford at the school. ''Tropical rainforest, volcanic lakes and waterfalls, beautiful rivers with white-water rafting, caves and lava tubes are all within one or two hours' drive from Port Douglas.'' The school is also situated five minutes away from Four Mile Beach, where students can swim all year round thanks to nets that protect the beach from stinging box jelly fish, which can be found in the sea around northern Queensland between October and June.

Spotting some of the area's more unusual wildlife is also a popular pastime with language students. Some students may be lucky enough to see some of the Australian wildlife in its natural setting but for those with less time or patience, Queensland has a number of wildlife parks where visitors are assured a glimpse of rarer species. Elizabeth McDade from Queensland University of Technology International College in Brisbane says that the local Lone Pine Koala sanctuary, which rescues and rehabilitates injured koalas, is a famous Brisbane attraction, while Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo and Crocodile Park can be found further afield.

Whatever their interests, students in this area have numerous entertainment options on their doorstep. ''Within Brisbane and its surrounds, students can visit wildlife and theme parks, and world-class surf beaches are less than an hour away,'' says McDade.

Agent viewpoint

''[Students choose to study in Queensland because] they want excellent preparation for a more remunerable future employment plus the best value for their money. They love the relaxed atmosphere, warm climate and healthy [lifestyle of] Australians. [Students] are glad that part-time work is legal and many are very excited about the amazing Great Barrier Reef nearby and try to visit that as much as possible. Others catch the spirit of the very physically fit Australians and take up new sports activities.''
Catherine Torres, Via Lenguas, Mexico

''The main reason our students choose Queensland is the fantastic climate. Even in winter, the weather is almost perfect. And while students are studying or even after they have completed their studies they can explore the exciting sites of Queensland. From the Great Barrier Reef to the world's largest sand island (Fraser Island) and from World Heritage-listed Cape Tribulation to the wonders of the Outback.''
Ian Stutchbury, Australian Tour Specialists, Japan/Australia

''Having been an international student myself, both in Australia and the USA, I have to say that Queensland has everything to offer. [Studying in Queensland] was possibly the most influential step I have taken, and ultimately the reason why I now live permanently in Queensland. The state has an excellent standard of education combined with a relaxed and fun lifestyle. The people are friendly and many major centres are still being discovered by international students, making them an ideal location because it is easier to integrate into the community.''
Joe Seong-Wook, Going Global, Australia

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