IT MAY be half a world away, but in many ways the Beef Capital feels like home to Noelle Boyd.
A Texas native, Noelle was part of a delegation of American high school students visiting Central Queensland during their tour of Australia's east coast.
The trip was part of the People to People Student Ambassador program, which offers students a chance to meet others and explore new cultures through travel.
"It's merging together different parts of the country to represent what the United States is all about," Noelle.
The students yesterday attended a Livingstone Shire Council civic welcome at St Christopher's Chapel, where they learnt about the region, Australia's political system and had the chance to speak to Keppel MP Brittany Lauga.
For James McCoy, the trip was his first time outside the States.
James said he liked Central Queensland so far, with the warmer climate reminding him of his home in Orlando, Florida.
Noelle and James said they didn't know much about Australia before the trip, but had joked about people riding kangaroos.
"I came with zero expectations... because I knew, just because it's a different country, doesn't mean it's going to be vastly different," Noelle said.
James said an important aspect of the tour was pushing personal boundaries and trying new things, like tasting kangaroo or crocodile meat as well as learning more about Australian history and culture.
Noelle said the experiences on the tour would help shape her future.
"It's all about expanding your mind to encompass new things," she said.
"I think especially for those of us who don't go beyond our own doorstep or beyond the towns we grew up in, it's hard to encapsulate this visual reminder that the rest of the world isn't so different and people in those places aren't so different."
Delegate leader Gelinda Elder said the program taught students to be more open to new experiences.
"I've done this program a lot and they're here for the right reasons," she said.