For Families

Congratulations! Your student is about to embark on a life-changing, transformative experience abroad. Penn strives to provide every student with a meaningful global experience as part of their education at Penn, and we look to partner with students to identify opportunities that fit their academic, professional, and personal goals. We hope you will support them from afar as they grow their confidence and independence while exploring new cultures, languages, academic perspectives, career opportunities, and ways of life. Part of the transformational growth is the ownership we expect students to take over their experience. To that end, Penn Abroad communicates directly with students about their experience prior, during, and after their time abroad, and we encourage students to share information about their global program with their families. The best way for you to be involved is to empower your student to engage in the application and orientation process, and proactively seek out advice and assistance when they need it. We are always here to help!

What types of programs are offered by Penn Abroad?

Penn Abroad serves as the hub of student global opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania. We currently manage three global program opportunities for Penn students interested in traveling abroad during their Penn career, as well as a robust incoming exchange program that welcomes over 200 international exchange students to Penn every year.

Our three programs for Penn students interested in traveling abroad during their Penn career are:

Each program web page above provides an overview of the program type, eligibility criteria, application process, and past participant testimonials. 

How do I find out more information about my student’s abroad program?

Every Penn Abroad program has an online program brochure on PASSPORT which includes a summary overview, location, eligibility criteria, funding structure, and housing/living information for a program. In addition to information on PASSPORT, parents and/or guardians are also encouraged to speak with their student about their abroad program and what the student is receiving direct from the abroad program. Most programs provide further information on arrival, housing, courses, etc., directly to the student once the student is accepted to the program.


PASSPORT is Penn Abroad’s searchable database of global opportunities at Penn. PASSPORT can be searched by program name, term available, or location. The “Advanced Search” option also allows students to find opportunities by program type, the language of instruction, credit type, or field of interest (for GRIP opportunities only). Students are encouraged to attend drop-in advising or contact Penn Abroad if they are experiencing challenges navigating the PASSPORT database.

How much does a Penn Abroad program cost? Are scholarships available?

Our Money Matters web page details funding information by program type, as well as how to access additional funding through Outside Scholarship opportunities.

How do Penn students apply for an abroad program?

The application process for each abroad program is detailed in the respective program page on our website (Semester Study AbroadGlobal Research & Internship ProgramPenn Global Seminars).

How competitive are admissions to Penn Abroad programs?

Penn Abroad strives to provide as many students as possible with access to global educational experiences throughout their time at Penn. Student selection and admittance varies greatly across programs and is explained to students as they consider their program options. For Semester Abroad (SA) programs, some destinations are more popular than others and therefore have a maximum number of students per semester that Penn can send. Other Semester Abroad programs do not have the same limitations, so this very much varies by location in any given semester. For short term programs including Penn Global Seminars (PGS) and the Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP), the level of competition these can also vary based on the total number of students applying and the number of places available in either a PGS course or a GRIP placement. Penn Abroad strives to ensure that students are aware of the selection process for each program and encourages back up applications wherever necessary.

What is the timeline to apply for a Penn Abroad program?

The application process timeline varies by each type of Penn Abroad program. 

  • For Penn Global Seminars (PGS), students apply one semester before their enrollment in the PGS course. The application period typically coincides with advance registration. The PGS application opens on the first day of advance registration and closes two weeks after that date. You can read more details about the application process on the Penn Global Seminars Funding & Application Process page.

  • For the Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP), the applications open in October. The application deadline is in early January for the upcoming summer. You can read more details about the application process on the Global Research and Internship Program Search Opportunities & Apply page.

  • For Semester Abroad (SA) programs, the exact deadline varies by program location and institution. Typically, we encourage students to plan their semester abroad one year prior to departure, to ensure their academic planning needs and eligibility requirements are met.  Generally speaking, the application deadlines for Spring Semester Abroad are early September to mid-October, but we encourage students to open the application in April. The application deadlines for Fall Semester Abroad are early February to mid-March, but we encourage students to open the application in November. There are some exceptions in highly competitive programs such as CambridgeOxford, and London School of Economics, which often require their students to apply nine months or more in advance. You can read more details about the application process on the Semester Abroad Application Process & Deadlines page.

Who should my student speak to for more information on global opportunities at Penn?

All students, regardless of the program they are applying to, are encouraged to attend a drop-in advising appointment to discuss program options that are most suitable to their academic and career goals.  Semester Study Abroad and the Global Research & Internship Program require an advising appointment with a Penn Abroad staff member as part of the application process.

In addition, students often find it helpful to connect with past participants to learn more about different global opportunities from peers of similar academic backgrounds. Penn Abroad Ambassadors and Recent Exchange Students are excellent resources for students to connect with as they continue to consider global opportunities at Penn.

What information do students receive in preparation for their abroad program?

All students participating in a Penn Abroad program are required to complete the online pre-departure orientation, which includes six general modules and then one program-specific module. Some Penn Abroad programs also require additional in-person pre-departure preparations prior to travel and/or additional on-site orientation after arrival. All students traveling on a Penn Abroad program are required to engage in all online and in-person orientation sessions, both pre-departure and on arrival.

How can I support my student in their global endeavors?

Prior to your student’s departure, we encourage students and their families to make a communication plan. Discuss how you will communicate, when, and in what frequency. Set expectations about when you should hear from your student on their arrival, along with a general communication plan of how frequently and when you will connect while they are abroad. As feasible, we also encourage at least one family member to have a valid passport for the duration of the time their student is abroad. In the rare event of an emergency requiring a family member to travel overseas, having a valid passport for the duration that your student is abroad is helpful. While your student is abroad, stay in touch per your communication plan. If your student is experiencing any challenges, support them in navigating these. Reach out to Penn Abroad for assistance if needed. On your student’s return from abroad, engage them in dialogue about their experiences and enjoy the conversations about where Penn has taken them!

What happens if my student gets sick or needs to see a doctor while abroad?

All students traveling abroad on a Penn Abroad program are members of International SOS, which includes travel medical insurance for the duration of a student’s global opportunity. Details on travel medical insurance coverage are available on the “Summary of Benefits & FAQ’s” page of the Penn International SOS portal.

I am concerned about the safety of my student’s abroad location. Where can I find out more information about how Penn assesses safety abroad?

The safety and security of students abroad is our top priority.  To understand how Penn Abroad assesses safety and how and when we communicate about safety incidents around the world, please review our Health & Safety page.  

My student is abroad and I am concerned about their health or well-being. Who should I contact?

If you have concerns about your student’s health or well-being, you may contact Penn for support in reaching your student and in providing resources to your student:

  • Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm ET: Contact your student’s Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager directly if you know who this is. If you do not know who your student’s Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager is, contact:

  • Outside of US Business Hours, Weekends, & During University Holidays: Contact Penn Police at +1 215 573 3333 and indicate your student is currently abroad. Penn Police will redirect your inquiry to Penn Abroad after-hours staff for assistance.

Does Penn Abroad provide regular emails or updates to parents and/or guardians while students are abroad?  

No, Penn Abroad does not provide updates to parents and/or guardians while students are abroad unless in case of emergency. Penn Abroad expects that students are checking in with their family and are sharing any relevant information with their family as they deem appropriate.

Should parents or guardians choose to directly call or email Penn Abroad to discuss their student’s abroad program, Penn Abroad is bound by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).  Unless the student has granted FERPA academic and/or financial access to their parent or guardian, Penn Abroad will be unable to share any information pertinent to the student with the family member. Students can provide consent to speak to the parent and/or guardian via their Penn in Touch “Consent to Disclose Academic and/or Financial Data” settings.

Does Penn Abroad host events for parents?

Every year, Penn Abroad hosts an informational meet-and-greet session for students and their parents during Family Weekend in the fall semester. The date and time of the session will appear in the Family Weekend schedule of events. We encourage students and their parents to attend this session even if they are unsure of the exact type of global opportunity (or opportunities!) they may pursue while at Penn.

I have a question that has not been answered here. Who should I contact?

If you have a question and it has not been answered above, please contact your student’s Global Programs Manager directly. If you do not know who your student’s Global Programs Manager is, then you may contact: