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Queensland, Australia: Jeanette Blank, Agricultural and Extension Education

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Posted: August 15, 2012

Crocodile Dundee made me want to visit Australia…

From May 20 to June 12, I visited Australia in the state of Queensland to study Sustainable Tourism.  The focus of the class was to see how tourists impact the environment they are visiting.  We saw areas that were flourishing and others that have been almost wiped out because of human influence but are slowly coming back.  The highlight stops on the trip for me were the Outback, Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.

In each area we had a module assignment, which consisted of listening to speakers, going on guided rainforest walks, snorkeling and counting the number of a certain kind of fish we saw, among others, and then taking quizzes and writing papers about the experience.

Some of the new skills learned dealt with the environment.  On this trip, it became obvious to me how everything is connected.  Agriculture affects the Reef while various aspects of the Reef keep the rainforest healthy.  I never thought about that here in the US to the level we studied it in Australia, so that was the main take home message for me.

BlankAustralia2.pngAs you can imagine, I also learned a great deal about the wildlife; I came back wondering why ours was so boring!  The birds especially were very colorful and sounded so pretty.

The rest of the skills learned deal with travel and people.   I have barely traveled out of PA before, so this was a real experience for me.  I can now say that I understand how to navigate an airport and handle currency from another country (although them also using dollars and cents made it easy!). 

I have been put with people I don’t know for long periods of time before, but never for as long as I was around my classmates.  It was really 24/7 for 24 days.  By the end, I was ready for some time away from some people, but I still had to be respectful and get along with them for class projects.  That was one of the tougher lessons to swallow, but one I will face many more times in other situations.

To begin to explain this experience to a potential employer would be difficult just because there was so much involved with it!  I would say the top thing I’d tell them was I gained a little bit of an adventurous spirit while there.  Before, I was always one to “play it safe”, “keep my feet on the ground”, and stay to a schedule.  On this trip I went against all of these:  I zip lined in the rainforest, fed a kangaroo (and tried a kangaroo burger), snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef when I don’t even know how to swim and jumped out of a plane from 14,000 feet!  Because schedule conflicts continuously came up throughout the trip, I learned to just take each moment as it came.  This is not me at all, but I had a blast doing them and realized it’s okay to take chances and do things differently.  That can also be good in a business sense and a quality an employer might be looking for.

Now for some fun highlights from our educational trips:  I held a koala, saw a shark while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef (really in the EAC, dude!), was taught to spear fish and play a didgeridoo by an Aborigine, stood behind a waterfall, hand fed a kangaroo, took guided walks through the rainforest (day and night so we could have a chance to see all the animals), tried the paw paw fruit during our farm stay with an Australian family, toured a gold mine, and went night canoeing to look for tree kangaroos.

BlankAustralia3.pngIn our free time, we could do whatever we wanted in the surrounding town.  I went hiking, watched the “Super Bowl” rugby match at a local restaurant, zip lined, skydived, visited local shops, tried new food like kangaroo and different ice cream flavors, watched Australian TV shows (very few among mostly American shows like the Brady Bunch and Desperate Housewives) and slept under the stars in the Outback. 

There’s no way I can list everything, so this is just a brief list.  You need to check out the trip for yourself to see all the cool opportunities!

This trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I will probably never get to do it again and tried things that I will never have the opportunity to do anywhere else.  I am thankful to the College of Agricultural Sciences and my scholarship donors for helping me financially on this trip.