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Program Description:





  • 18 years of age or above
  • Good academic and disciplinary standing at Penn State
  • 3.0 cumulative GPA or better at the time of application
  • Sophomore standing or above at the start of the program 
  • Students must complete a pre-field 4-credit course, BIOL 497, beginning in mid-Spring semester prior to fieldwork travel.
  • This program is open to all majors, but a curricular match for students interested in environmental sustainability, water research, scientific research, international diplomacy, and/or conservation. 

Program Description 

The CHANCE Program

Humanity faces this reality – the environment is broken, most of which is a result of negative human impact on the health and biodiversity of our world's ecosystems.

CHANCE (Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences) is a Penn State accredited interdisciplinary environmental education program whose overarching goal is to teach conservation biology and global sustainability at the front line. To do this, CHANCE creates unique learning environments through its short-term study abroad international field courses that immerse participants, students and teachers, in real-world environmental research and conservation efforts.

The ultimate goal of CHANCE is to prepare global-minded citizens who understand the importance of restoring and protecting the biodiversity of our planet's ecosystems, and who are equipped to address the challenges of our time such as energy, air, food, water, and climate change in their lifetimes.

Since ecosystems cross national borders, CHANCE strives to view and to define sustainable answers for environmental realities from a global perspective.

CHANCE in Romania

The Danube River, which runs for 1800 miles through ten countries (including Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia), has a distinctive history of sustainability. Heavily polluted when bordering countries were industrializing under Soviet rule, the river began to recover in the 1990s, but is now threatened again, particularly by the presence of micro-plastics, pesticides, and industrial waste. In this hands-on embedded course series, students will make a significant contribution to the scientific research that is seeking to preserve the ecosystems of this vital waterway. You can read more about the biological, economic, social, and political challenges the river faces online.

In this unique and groundbreaking course series, students will work together with a group of students from the University of Bucharest, Romania to develop their skills in navigating complex, inter-disciplinary challenges with global implications. These are not like problems from a textbook, rather they are real-world challenges that students will engage in directly by visiting research sites along the river; working side-by-side with scientists to carry out undergraduate research to save it; and creating opportunities to advocate for change with politicians, international agencies, and university leaders. 

Throughout both courses, students will work in binational teams mentored by top research scientists. By the end of the field practicum, students will be working collectively in their groups to devise and report out potential solutions for the sustainability of the Danube River and Delta per the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs) at an international Undergraduate Research Symposium held at the University of Bucharest.

The short-term study abroad academic experience is divided into three primary sections and two bi-national courses, one online and one on site in Romania. Students will first participate in an online Spring semester pre-field course for 3.0 credits, and in summer will complete the field practicum for 4.0 credits (with a post-field assignment.)



Spring (required pre-travel course): March 13 - April 27, 2023
Summer: July 1 - July 16, 2023

Days 1 – 4: Bucharest, Romania 
Days 5 – 9: Sfântu Gheorghe (Saint George), Danube Delta 
Days 10 – 14: Bucharest, Romania  
Day 15: Day trip to Bran (Transylvania), Return to Bucharest
Day 16: Depart from Bucharest

Program Leaders

Program Leader Information

  • Dr. Jacqueline S. McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Biology and Penn State CHANCE Founding Director, Penn State Lehigh Valley
  • Dr. Kathleen Fadigan, Biology Educator and CHANCE Co-Instructor, Penn State Lehigh Valley



Course Descriptions

All students will be enrolled in SC 497 for 4 credits in Summer. Students can choose which course number they prefer, but the academic content is the same.

Students are also required to complete BIOL 497 for 4 credits in the Spring semester prior to travel. Students will be enrolled in the Spring course after they have committed their applications to the Summer program.

Three Distinct CHANCE Romania Components: 

Spring Pre-Field Course
BIOL 497 - Special Topics: Water Sustainability (4 credits)
Before they leave for Romania, students will engage in research and scientific inquiry, using a team-based learning approach. Each multinational team (one student from each of the 5 countries participating per group) will undertake a mini-research activity using authentic data on nutrient overload, water quality and/or land use issues in the Danube River, and identify, develop, and present a mini-project related to select United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Both exercises are intended to give students practice with the skills they will need to successfully engage in a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) once they are on site.

Summer Field Course
SC 497 Global Conservation: Environmental Challenges Facing the Danube River (4 credits)
While students are in Romania, multinational team members will be assigned a CURE related to a water issue affecting the Danube Delta. Over the course of a two-week period, each team will develop their scientific research skills relevant to their CURE, design a unique experiment, then head out to the field to carry out their experimental work. Throughout all stages of their research, students will be mentored directly by leading scientists who are engaged in research in their selected area. When students are not working in the field or analyzing their data, they will have ample opportunities to learn more about the economic, environmental, social, cultural, and political factors that contribute to sustainability challenges facing the Danube River through a series of professional lectures, guided tours, one-on-one meetings with Romanian government and non-governmental stakeholders and U.S. Embassy of Bucharest officials, and panel discussions with experts. At the end of their CURE experience, each research team will be expected to present their work to a group of Romanian and U.S. leaders and stakeholders and to the Penn State community via participation in the  CHANCE Romania Undergraduate Research Symposium to be held at the University of Bucharest before departure to U.S.A. The evidence students collect and present will be included in a database of research data to be shared with members of a network of scientists and scholars who are continuing to work on restoring the ecosystem of the Danube waterway.

Post-Course Assignment
Following the departure of American students back to the United States, all students will independently complete a post-field online assignment that will allow them to reflect not only on their experiences, but their gains in areas such as intercultural competency, global learning, sustainability, research skills, workforce skills, and environmental advocacy.

You will receive credit for all academic courses taken at this institution, and all of your grades from abroad will count toward your Penn State cumulative GPA. You may not take any courses overseas on a Pass/Fail basis. To learn how the courses on this program can work into your individual degree audit, meet with your academic adviser.

Course Selection

Students are required to take the prescribed courses listed above as participants on the program. The Education Abroad Office will register you for these courses. To determine how these courses 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.
  • 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 4 credits for the summer portion of the program
  • 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


Student lodging is included in the program fee.


In Bucharest, students will stay at Hotel Trianon, Bucharest.

While in the field students will be housed at Green Village Resort, Sfântu Gheorghe (Saint George Village), Danube Delta. 


Most meals will be provided.

Costs and Funding

Program Costs


Program costs are estimates and subject to change up to the program commitment deadline. If Penn State tuition rates are adjusted, then the education abroad program fee would be scaled accordingly to arrive at the same total billable amount listed on the budget sheet.

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 Global Programs. 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.

Additional funding support may be available to students and interested applications should reach out to the program leader, Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin, for more information. 

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 Global Programs 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 Global Programs 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 Global Penn State website.

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 Global Penn State website.


For a list of deadlines visit the Application Process page of the Global Programs 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. Education Abroad Advisers have two types of meetings - scheduled appointments and walk-ins. For more information about how to meet with an Education Abroad Adviser, please visit the Global Penn State website.

Social Media

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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 2023 02/01/2023
02/11/2023 07/01/2023 07/17/2023
NOTE: Start date marks arrival in host country. End date marks departure from program housing.

Indicates that deadline has passed