New Latin American summer study-abroad program open to all majors

October 5, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students from across the Penn State system now have a unique opportunity to study abroad in Latin America, thanks to a new Global Penn State summer program in Lima, Peru.

“Cross-cultural Engagement and STEM,” a six-week, Penn State faculty-led, interdisciplinary program, was developed through a partnership between the Office of Global Engineering Engagement in the College of Engineering and the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese in the College of the Liberal Arts.

The new program gives participants an opportunity to learn how science and engineering connect with other disciplines in a mixed cohort of Penn State and Peruvian students, while studying Spanish, experiencing Peru’s rich culture and earning six Penn State credits.

“Although this is a STEM program, it’s open to students in all majors at all Penn State campuses,” said Patrick Tunno, director of the Office of Global Engineering Engagement. “In addition to engineering and Spanish majors, we’re hoping to take science majors, education majors, liberal arts majors and more.”

The goal, he said, is to bring together Penn State and Peruvian students from a variety of disciplines. “They’re going to learn how disciplines intersect, how they connect,” he explained.

The Penn State faculty team includes Akhlesh Lakhtakia, the Charles Godfrey Binder Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics; Esther Obonyo, associate professor of engineering design; Julio Urbina, associate professor of electrical engineering; and Fernando Pacheco, postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

Classes will be held at a local university. All participants will take ENGR 399, Global Engineering Culture and Society. This 3-credit class will be team-taught by Penn State and Peruvian faculty, utilizing local resources as an integral component of the academic experience. Students will explore global engineering culture and social issues through multidisciplinary, cross-cultural teams.

Tunno explained, “The course will address STEM challenges. What are the opportunities in the U.S. and Latin America? What are the challenges? Students will analyze these based on the expertise of the different faculty and then complete group projects. A student majoring in Spanish or education might focus on those aspects while a student majoring in engineering might focus on the engineering aspect. They’ll put them all together in one cohesive project with a local Peruvian on the team as well. So it will mimic real life, with interdisciplinary teams and people from different cultures working together.”

In addition to ENGR 399, all participants will take one 3-credit Spanish language course: SPAN 199, for students with little or no background in Spanish, or SPAN 499, for students with at least four semesters of college-level Spanish. Students in both classes will learn about Peruvian history and culture while acquiring basic Spanish language skills or improving upon the skills they already have.

“What’s nice about this is that students with more advanced Spanish can help the students who don”t speak Spanish well. And those students will have someone to rely on,” said Tunno. In addition, the Penn State and Peruvian students will participate in planned social activities together. “They’ll begin to develop networks, friendships and hopefully professional partnerships,” Tunno stated.

While in Lima, students will stay in local homes in the Miraflores neighborhood, allowing them to experience life as local residents do while practicing their Spanish and enjoying Peruvian cuisine prepared by their host families.

“Miraflores is the nicest neighborhood in Lima,” said Tunno. “It’s right on the Pacific Ocean on cliffs overlooking the beautiful blue sea where people surf. There’s a wonderful area nearby to walk around with lots of shops. There’s lots of culture right at hand. This program is all about cultural immersion at its core.”

The application deadline for the summer 2018 session — which runs May 6 through June 16 — is Feb. 1, 2018. Students can learn more about the program by attending a “Study-Abroad Summer in Peru” information session on Nov. 8, Nov. 14 or Jan. 18. Times and locations are listed on the Global Engineering Engagement website at


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


M. Jane Harris

students at study abroad fair

Julio Urbina, associate professor of electrical engineering, discusses the new study-abroad program in Lima, Peru, with a prospective student at the Global Engineering Engagement Study-Abroad Fair held on Sept. 6, 2017.


Patrick Tunno

Director, Office of Engineering Global Engagement



The mission of Global Engineering Engagement is to create an environment that embraces the values of international education, where access to global exposure and opportunities to develop cross-cultural competence is pervasive. We believe that it is within our reach to ensure that all engineering students can become internationally engaged.

Global Engineering Engagement

College of Engineering

The Pennsylvania State University

208 Hammond Building

University Park, PA 16802