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  • Locations: Palermo, Italy; Rome, Italy
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Budget Sheets: Summer
Program Description:



  • 18 years of age or above
  • Good academic and disciplinary standing at Penn State
  • 2.50 cumulative GPA or better at the time of application review
  • Sophomore standing or above at the start of the program
  • Prerequisites: None

Program Description 

Palermo, and Rome Italy: Organized Crime in Film & Society

This program will provide students an immersive and experiential learning opportunity in an epicenter of organized crime, with a focus on films’ perspective(s) and continue with discussions and perspectives provided by the country’s experts on Italian organized crime.  The course will follow the genesis, rise, and continued global presence in traditional organized crime activities, such as protection, drugs, and environmental crimes. In addition, students will study one of Italy’s most important social movements, which minimized the effects of the mafia, and whose efforts exposed and condemned Mafia activities and the refusal to pay for protection.

To examine the historical and cultural importance of the Mafia, class and related activities will take place in Palermo. Palermo provides a unique setting for experiencing the history of organized crime. It is Sicily's varied history and multiple governments that led to the creation of the Mafia. Students will meet with faculty involved in research directly related to Mafia activities and tour Palermo and meet with individuals involved in the impactful social movement that severely crippled and disarmed the mafia. As a result of these immersive activities, students will be able to gain critical perspectives to contrast the films’ portrayal of the Italian mafia.

We will continue the learning journey in Rome, where American federal law enforcement agents, stationed in Rome, will provide examples of “real-world” cases and investigations on organized criminal activity. We will learn from Professors who are experts in the film portrayal of the mafia and dissect how film portrayal shapes and influences our view of organized groups.


Summer: May 14 - June 5, 2024

Program Note

This program may have limited space, so we recommend that you identify an appropriate backup program and complete the Education Abroad Backup Questionnaire in your Penn State Application when applying to this program.  Should you not be accepted for your first-choice program, you will automatically be reviewed for your backup choice. For help on choosing an appropriate backup, please contact your education abroad adviser.

Program Leaders

Program Leader Information

  • Debra Dreisbach, Assistant Teaching Professor, Criminal Justice, Penn State Lehigh Valley
    • Professor Dreisbach currently teaches in the Criminal Justice program, where she teaches courses, such as Organized Crime, Criminal Law, and American Policing.  Prior to her employment with PSU, Professor Dreisbach was employed for 25 years as a Special Agent and specialized in money laundering, public corruption, and organized crime.  Additionally, she spent a portion of that time in Dignitary Protection and was responsible for security measures for members of the President's cabinet and members of Congress on overseas excursions. As part of her duties, she conducted advances, which required her to meet with country officials to obtain necessary accommodations and resources for the official visit. Professor Dreisbach has great familiarity with Italy and its culture, traditions, and history.
  • Terri Kistler, Lecturer, Rehabilitation and Human Services, Penn State Lehigh Valley 


Course Description

All students will be enrolled in CRIM 225N: Organized Crime in Film & Society, for 3 credits.

CRIM 225N, Organized Crime in Film & Society, examines the relationship between criminological and justice theories regarding organized crime and the portrayal of the mafia in popular Italian American film. The course follows two simultaneous threads of inquiry: an examination of historical and theoretical models of organized crime in the United States and the state and federal laws that address them; and an analysis of how such models are depicted in American films and television about the Italian American community. Not only will students learn about the long history of organized crime from English-speaking Italian-based Professors, but will also learn outside the classroom, by visiting Italian institutions such as the court system, the police academy (Carabinieri), and the agency tasked with investigating organized crime.  You will see first-hand the grass roots movement that address organized crime and the impact it's had on the country and it's citizens.

This course addresses the needs of students who have an interest in organized crime and its relevant cinematic portrayals in the Italian American context. Students who have an interest in the intersection of film and "real life" will find the course particularly relevant. The course complements courses that students might take in criminology, film, sociology, and political science by providing students with a foundation for a theoretical and methodology approach to understanding criminal behavior.  This course is an interdomain course and meets the requirements of GS and GH and does not have any prerequisites. 

Course Selection

Students are required to take the prescribed course listed above as participants on the program. The Education Abroad Office will register you for this course. To determine how this course will fit into your degree requirements, you will need to work with your academic adviser. Suggested tips:
  • Research courses offered on your program
  • Meet with your academic adviser to discuss potential courses abroad and your degree requirements.
  • Complete your Course Selection Questionnaire in the ‘Post-Decision’ section of your application to choose the course you want from the cross-listed program options.
  • Keep in mind that courses abroad may change or may be unavailable for your selected term, so you will need to discuss possible back-up course options

Academic Policies

  • You must enroll in a minimum number of 3 credits.
  • You cannot take any courses abroad on a Pass/Fail basis
  • If you are studying abroad in your final semester at Penn State, please note that Penn State may not receive your grades in time for graduation

Housing and Meals


Dormitory/Student Residence: American University, Rome
Dormitory space in Rome includes a kitchen, shared bedroom, bath, and laundry.

Lodging in Palermo includes breakfast every morning, shared room bathroom, and laundry services.
Independent housing is not permitted on this program.


Students will be responsible for providing most of their own meals.

Costs and Funding

Program Costs

Summer Costs

For more information on program costs, please be sure to review the budget sheet. These budget sheets include information on costs that are billable to the bursar bill, as well as estimated additional costs. Costs vary by program, so it is important to review this information carefully.

Please note that tuition rates may vary depending on major and class standing.


The Education Abroad Office awards a number of grants and scholarships to students who participate in an education abroad program through Penn State Global. The application for the scholarships awarded through the Education Abroad Office is included with your program application. Eligibility is based on academic merit and/or financial need. You must have a current FAFSA on file to be awarded. There are additional scholarship opportunities through our partner universities, Penn State Academic Departments, and other sources. To view a full list of scholarships, eligibility requirements, and deadlines visit Funding Study Abroad.

Student Aid

Penn State students who plan to study on a Penn State approved program can use most forms of financial aid towards the cost of the program. Exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships. If you have specific questions regarding your aid awards, contact the Penn State Office of Student Aid.

Withdrawal & Refund Policy

Withdrawal and refund details are dependent on the timing and reason for your withdrawal from a Penn State Education Abroad Program. For specific details and steps on how to withdraw, read the Education Abroad Policies.

After Commitment

Once a student has committed to a Penn State Education Abroad program, they are financially responsible for any fees incurred on their behalf. Therefore, if a student plans to withdraw from a program it is their responsibility to immediately notify the Education Abroad office, in writing; email is preferred.

Regardless of the timing or reason for the withdrawal, the student will be responsible for paying the Education Abroad Administrative Fees. For faculty-led freestanding programs, there is a specific withdrawal penalty schedule. 

Education Abroad makes every attempt at keeping the program and administrative costs to a minimum. However, when you commit to participating in a program, Education Abroad begins to make financial commitments on your behalf. In case of withdrawal, the following fees will be charged to your Bursar account

  • Upon Commitment - 90 Days Prior to Departure: 25% Program Fee + EA Admin Fee 

  • 30 - 89 Days Prior to Departure: 50% Program Fee + EA Admin Fee 

  • 29 Days - Departure Date: 100% Program Fee + EA Admin Fee

Following the start of the summer semester, any adjustment of tuition charges will be made according to the Tuition Adjustment Schedule as determined by the Office of the Bursar. More information can be found on the University Senate Policy on Withdrawal and Leave of Absence.

After the Start of the Program

If a student withdraws after the start of a program, any adjustment of Penn State tuition charges will be made according to the Tuition Adjustment Schedule as determined by the Office of the Bursar. Students may be responsible for up to 100% of program costs. In most cases, partial credit cannot be awarded for leaving a program before its successful completion.

For additional information on withdrawal policies, separate and apart from financial consequences, please consult the University Senate Policy on Withdrawal and Leave of Absence.

Life Abroad

General Information

Studying abroad can be one of the most exciting and transformative experiences of your college career. It is an opportunity to develop independence, build cross-cultural competencies, grow as a person, and enhance your academic program. Entering a new culture can be challenging for everyone. You may ask yourself: is this the right country for me? What are their cultural norms? How will my identity be perceived there? What can I do to prepare for this experience? What will my daily life be like? Below are resources to help you answer these questions.

Accessibility Considerations

Penn State Education Abroad works closely with campus resources and our partner institutions around the world to ensure that students of all abilities reach their goal of studying abroad. While we cannot guarantee the accessibility of all program sites and locations, specific accommodations may be arranged on an individual basis. If you have accommodation needs or further questions please consult with the Student Disability Resources office and your Education Abroad Adviser. Additional resources are available through the Penn State Global Website. Disability information will not be used during the admissions process, but rather is meant to provide students with resources to help in planning a successful experience abroad.

Gender and LGBTQA Considerations 

There are dramatic and subtle differences in how gender, identity, sexual expression, and sexual health are perceived in different countries. Before going abroad, it is important that you research the specific country or countries you will be visiting and have a full understanding of their cultural norms. Below are some resources to help you with that research and provide guidance for your life abroad.

Race, Ethnicity, and Faith Considerations 

When choosing a study abroad location and preparing for your travels, you will want to be mindful of how your experience will be different than what you are used to in the United States. Your racial, ethnic, and spiritual identities may be interacted with and labeled by others differently than what you expect. Here are resources to help you prepare for these differences.

Non-U.S. Citizens

It is possible for non-U.S. Citizens to study abroad through Penn State. To do so successfully, you must plan early because this process may involve obtaining visas and other governmental procedures. Check with your DISSA Adviser prior to committing to a study abroad program and speak with your Education Abroad Adviser for specific information on the host country. If you plan on traveling to other countries during your study abroad experience, you will need to research and make plans to adhere to immigration policies for all of the countries that you plan to travel to and through. You are responsible for applying for visas for all applicable countries on your own. Advisers in the Education Abroad office cannot apply for your visa for you. Additional information may be available through your country's embassy and the consulate for your study abroad country.

Next Steps

Steps to Study Abroad

The planning stages outlined on the Penn State Global website will help you have the best study abroad experience possible. We recommend that you begin this process at least one year prior to the semester you plan on studying abroad. Visit the Steps to Study Abroad section of the Penn State Global website for more details.

How to Apply

Click the “Apply Now” button on this page to get started!

Application procedures can vary by program. Students should consult the application instructions available within each application. For more information, see the Application Process section of the Penn State Global website.


You must apply to this program by the Penn State deadline, February 1. For a list of deadlines visit the Application Process page of the Penn State Global website.

Contact Education Abroad

If you have general questions about Education Abroad opportunities at Penn State, please email

Peer Advisers

Education Abroad Peer Advisers are Penn State study abroad returnees who advise students on education abroad opportunities at Penn State. Each Peer Adviser can explain program options, give an overview of the study abroad process, as well as provide information about their experience abroad. Peer Advisers have walk-in hours in Boucke Building during the fall and spring semester when classes are in session. For more information, visit the Education Abroad Peer Adviser website.

Education Abroad Advisers

Education Abroad Advisers can provide information about courses, support services, application processes, housing details, program costs, cultural expectations, pre-departure requirements, and much more. For more information about how to meet with an Education Abroad Adviser, please visit the Penn State Global website.

Social Media

For information about upcoming events, scholarship opportunities, deadlines, and much more visit the Global Programs Events Calendar and follow us on social media!

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2024 01/24/2024
02/07/2024 05/14/2024 06/05/2024

Indicates that deadline has passed