Marine Biology and Environmental Science post graduate student Kareem Bahlawan lived undetected in bushes on campus for two years. Picture: Shae Beplate.
Marine Biology and Environmental Science post graduate student Kareem Bahlawan lived undetected in bushes on campus for two years. Picture: Shae Beplate.

How a JCU student lived permanently on campus undetected

A JAMES Cook University student has revealed how he evaded security while he lived in the bushes and used campus facilities for two years.

Kareem Bahlawan is a postgraduate international student from Lebanon. He moved to Townsville to study marine biology and said the challenge was about "self-discipline".

"I just spent all my time at uni and did not need to go home, so I thought why not just sleep at uni," Kareem said.

"I couldn't leave my mark on the grounds so I slept in a hammock that I could carry around in my backpack. I eventually upgraded to a swag, because the mosquitoes were biting me through the net."

Kareem said his lifestyle choice had a positive impact on his grades.

"I never wasted any time watching Netflix and went to all my classes and I was soon getting high distinctions for my subjects," he said.

"I also balanced a job at Nando's with my studies."

Kareem, 23, would use the university change rooms to shower and wash his clothes, and the staffroom kitchens to cook food.

"I'd go to IGA and buy my food for the day and then go to the staff kitchen with all the lecturers and use their microwave and make my food with them," he said.

"I was president at the uni's Sustainability Club, we had a community garden and I used to pick as much as I could to try to live off the land."

Kareem said during the hotter months, some of his friends suggested he sleep in the airconditioned thesis lab. "I would just borrow a mattress and when security would come to check in, I would hide behind the tables," he said.

"My family still doesn't know that I slept in the bush. It was pretty full on … but I knew I'd come out OK."

Friend Abed Shawar said he would shake his head at his friend's decision to be homeless.

"I would drop him off in the bushes, in the darkness and be afraid for him," Abed said.

Kareem has finished living off the land and is continuing his studies.

A JCU spokesman said the university would be concerned if a student was living in bushland for safety and wellbeing reasons. "JCU provides kitchen and showering facilities for staff and students on the Townsville campus," he said.

"It also provides a high level of security across the campus, 24 hours a day, including regular vehicle and foot patrols."