Semester Abroad

Petition Programs

We recognize that a student may wish to study abroad at a university or program that is currently not affiliated with Penn Abroad. If you seek to study abroad and obtain academic credit toward your Penn degree on a non-affiliated program, it is critical for you to first make an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager. We will guide you in determining if your study abroad program of choice is an appropriate option, and discuss the steps required as part of the formal petition process. A formal petition is necessary in order to receive University of Pennsylvania permission to attend the non-affiliated program and obtain one-time, non-permanent recognition of the program. Completed petitions are reviewed in collaboration with Penn Abroad and academic advisors from the relevant undergraduate home school.

If you are seeking academic credit for an independent study or research conducted abroad, you will also need to pursue the petition process. 

1.  Make an advising appointment with the Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager responsible for the region in which you seek to study. During this initial meeting, you can expect to discuss your academic intentions to petition to study abroad at a particular non-affiliated institution or program.

2. If appropriate, a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager will open your petition application within the Penn Abroad application portal. You will be required to follow the next steps:

  • Provide information about the study abroad program or university of interest. Information should include but is not limited to, details regarding the university or program of interest, the program application deadline, lodging and meals, insurance, program start and end dates, exam dates, and any special university or program attributes (research, reputation, etc.).

  • Make an appointment with the relevant home school academic advisor for study abroad and receive academic approval from the advisor. It is critical that you receive home school academic approval as you may not proceed without this approval. If you are a dual-degree student, you should seek approval from your primary school first and then seek approval from your secondary school.

3. Upon receiving academic approval from your home school, you may complete your petition application, which will require the following in addition to the standard Penn Abroad application:

  • A detailed statement of purpose (2-4 pages, double-spaced) that explains your academic reasons for studying at the institution or program of interest. The statement should address why this study is integral to completing your academic program at Penn and how it meets your academic needs like no other existing approved program.

  • A letter of support from your major advisor, stating that you have departmental approval to apply at least one half of the credit earned abroad to meeting major requirements. Please note that petitions for only elective credit are not normally approved.

  • A letter of recommendation, provided by a professor who has taught you here at Penn, highlighting your academic performance.

  • Pre-approval of all intended courses in XCAT by the relevant academic departments.

It is important to understand that petitions for study on non-affiliated programs are not routinely approved.  Only petitions with clear academic objectives and compelling academic reasons will be considered. Petitions for programs that largely duplicate or are in competition with existing Penn Abroad program locations will not normally be approved. Your program of interest should be academically rigorous and provide a high degree of linguistic immersion (when applicable) and cultural integration. Students seeking approval of independent study/research must demonstrate that they have or can acquire the linguistic and disciplinary skills necessary to accomplish the independent study or research project before the study abroad program begins. Such petitions should include a detailed project outline to be developed in consultation with the major advisor.

If your program of interest is in a Heightened Risk Region, your petition will undergo an additional review by the Committee on International Risk Assessment (CITRA).  As part of their petition application, students will respond to additional application questions about their itinerary, preparation, travel risk awareness, and in-country contacts. In preparation for this, students should review the health, safety, or security risks involved with their travel. Please review the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings and Alerts, as well as International SOS (Penn Member ID: 11BSGC000012) guidance, as appropriate. Students will also be asked to sign an Acknowledgement of Risks for Heightened Risk Regions form.

Students must meet all published application deadlines for Penn Abroad concurrent with the petition process. There are no exceptions. If your petition is approved, your study abroad program will be administered in the same way as all other Penn-approved study abroad programs. All Penn Abroad academic and financial policies will apply.

Application deadlines for petition programs are the following:

  • Spring Semester: October 1
    (begin your application process by April of the previous academic year)

  • Fall Semester/Academic Year: February 1
    (begin your application process by November of the previous semester)