Executive Summary

In recent years, Penn Engineering has significantly improved its offerings for global immersion opportunities. However, a large cohort of students still feel that the course approval process for study abroad programs poses an unnecessarily large obstacle against such opportunities. Therefore, EDAB recommends that Penn Engineering create a formalized list of common courses taken at popular abroad universities divided by major to alleviate issues in the course approval process. Additionally, EDAB recommends Penn Engineering increase its offering of immersion courses, enabling students who are unable to study abroad for a whole semester to still experience global pursuits.


Because of rigorous curriculum requirements, engineers have always struggled to pursue global opportunities as compared to their peers in other schools. In some cases, the only feasible semester to study abroad is during freshman year. Although both the number of global opportunities and the level of administrative support have increased for students over the last few years, many students still feel a lack of opportunity available for pursuing global interests. This section discusses the accessibility and prevalence of study abroad and global immersion programs across Penn Engineering.

Study Abroad

Although Penn is regarded highly for its study abroad and foreign exchange programs, Penn Engineering has been historically lacking in throughput. Only 7.8% of all undergraduate Penn Abroad participants are engineers compared to the 17% of undergraduates that are engineers.

Prior to January 2016, Penn Engineering had no dedicated engineering-specific advisor to help with study abroad planning and registration. In a previously held focus group, many students noted that their biggest obstacle against studying abroad was getting appropriate XCAT approval for courses. Several students indicated that their course approval process took up to 8 months. Following the hiring of an engineering-specific advisor, the number of students studying abroad has increased.

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In the figure above, the positive trend of students studying abroad can be seen. However, as of 2018, most students still feel that course approval remains the biggest obstacle, a trend unchanged by hiring of an engineering-specific advisor. Towards solving this issue, many students indicated interest in a masterlist of commonly taken courses at certain target institutions, organized by major. This masterlist would provide students with a general guideline of how to approach XCAT course selection. This process would require a Penn-affiliated employee with access to student transcripts to aggregate and collect this data.

Global Immersion Programs

In the spring of 2017, Penn introduced its first global immersion program in the form of a technology-focused course that culminated in a trip to China. The majority of evaluations following the trip were largely positive and spoke to the efficacy of stimulating student interests in the field and region.

Due to the success of the inaugural trip, around 60% of applicants were not accepted for the 2018 trip. Students indicated that they would be interested in programs addressing a wider range of topics across different regions.

Wharton’s International Program (WIP), which offers several week-long immersion courses on a semesterly basis, has commonly been mentioned as a model to follow. Students from Engineering have gone on almost as many WIP trips as they have Global Immersion Program trips.


  • Determine and publicize a list of the most popular classes taken at target abroad institutions, broken down by major and year

  • Increase the number of week-long global immersion programs available