Oliver Starkey

Building a life in the Tropics is a dream that has become a reality for Master of Tropical Urban and Regional Planning graduate Oliver Starkey. The US citizen, born in Bahrain, fell in love with the Tropics after travelling through Belize, Mauritius and Central America. He knew he wanted to live and work in the Tropics and decided the best way to prepare himself was to study a Master’s degree in a tropical location.

“After my last trip, I decided that I wanted to make living in the Tropics a full-time reality,” Oliver said. “At the same time, I felt that if I was going to live in such a beautiful place, I had to be doing meaningful work. After spending some time researching universities around the world, James Cook University was the best choice.”

Oliver completed a Bachelor of Social Science at Portland State University. After doing a variety of work in Central America, Oliver returned to Oregon and was offered a management position for a construction project in Belize. He also had the opportunity to work for an upscale custom home building company in Oregon.

“However, despite these very tempting possibilities, I knew that in this day and age having a Master’s degree was ever more so necessary,” Oliver said. “Upon this realisation, I dedicated some time to researching jobs and different Master’s degrees and universities, both in the United States and overseas.”

After investigating his options, Oliver moved to Cairns in 2016 and started studying the Master of Tropical Urban and Regional Planning. He liked the range of subjects on offer, particularly the subjects on conservation and development.

“This was a desirable factor because I wanted to enhance my knowledge and skills in both of these fields,” he said. “The most interesting aspect about this course has been the unforgettable experiences that I’ve had throughout the process of completing my degree, which I don’t believe I would have been able to have anywhere else. This has been a result of the beautiful location, the amazing people, and the one-of-a-kind opportunities available here at JCU.”

These opportunities have included field trips, which gave Oliver the chance to get out of the classroom and to see the places, people, and issues that he was learning about. He also enjoyed attending TESS seminars and volunteering with scientists, which increased his awareness about environmental issues that might be affected by development.

“In addition to what I was learning, it’s been terrific to work with and get to know the other international and Australian students,” Oliver said. “The staff at JCU have also been really supportive, which has made being here a welcome learning environment.”

Oliver graduated in mid-2017 and hopes to work in sustainable development around tropical coastal areas. He encourages prospective students to dive in and make the most of the chance to study at a higher level.

“You’re better off having a Master’s degree than not having a Master’s degree,” he said.  “If you decide to make the commitment, come and study at a reputable university where the environment is complementary to the course content.”