Student Stories: Forest science major studies Aussie ecosystem

Darcy McKinley Lester does not like baked beans and spaghetti on toast for breakfast, but she said that dish is hard to avoid when you study abroad in Australia.

The Mechanicsburg, Pa., native studied at the Australian National University in Canberra last spring. Now a senior studying forest science, Lester wanted to travel to Australia because she considers the ecosystem Down Under to be fascinating. "The Australian ecosystem is different from anywhere else in the world," she said.

"Many of Australia's plants and animals are truly unique, and the country houses one of the most inhospitable habitats, the Outback," she said.

"I also wanted to study at the Australian National University because it is one of the best schools in Australia, and it has a great forestry program. However, it is a little different from Penn State."

The lectures all are recorded, so it is possible for a student to have several classes at the same time, go to one, then listen to the other online and stay on top of the work, she noted.

"My classes were a lot more gender-equal than at Penn State," she said. "Forestry classes in the states tend to have more men than women, so it was nice to have more girls to talk to."

Before starting her semester, Lester traveled through Australia for two weeks and saw a diversified group of animals, ranging from koalas to kangaroos.

"My friends there took me many places I wouldn't have thought to go, and they tolerated my ridiculous excitement every time I saw a kangaroo, which was pretty much every day in Canberra," she said.

It was a trip Lester will not soon forget. "I loved my classes, I loved the university and I loved my new friends. Australia truly is an amazing, beautiful and welcoming country."

Learn more about the forest science major.

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Last Updated March 29, 2013