Student Stories: Dream trip Down Under becomes a reality

January 22, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Ever since she was little, Jeanette Blank dreamed about traveling to Australia. After years of dreaming, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences helped her get there at last.

When she finally arrived, she was determined to learn as much as she could and take any opportunity presented to her. "Before I left on the trip, someone told me that if I came home and said, 'I wished I had done something there,' they'd kick my butt," Blank said. "So I was on a mission!"

Blank, a senior majoring in agricultural and extension education, traveled to Australia with a small group of students. Their goal was to learn more about the differences in natural resources and tourism between Australia and the United States.

"I was amazed by the diversity of plants in Australia," the Middleburg, Pa., native said. "One time, we walked about 100 feet, and our guide stopped to tell us we just passed more plant species than are found in all of North America."

The group journeyed to different parts of the country, including Blank's favorite, the Great Barrier Reef, where they went snorkeling. Numerous times, the students were told to be careful because so many of the animals are poisonous.

"One of our reef guides told us to just play it safe and not touch anything," Blank said. " 'You touch something, you die,' he told us. But no one on the trip was harmed by the array of creatures Down Under."

Blank spent her 24 days in Australia with an open mind and an eagerness to learn. She advised any other student considering making a trip abroad to do the same.

"I never have been one to be adventurous," she said. "I'm a picky eater but tried any new food I could. I'm afraid of heights but zip-lined and jumped out of a plane from 14,000 feet. I can't swim, yet I snorkeled in the ocean.

"I held a koala, hand-fed a kangaroo, went spear-fishing and saw rare animals most Australians never even see. I did everything I possibly could."

For more information about the agricultural and extension education major, go to


  • Jeanette Blank fed a kangaroo during her visit to Australia.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 09, 2015