Course offers first-generation students the opportunity to study abroad

First-generation student Jillian Barskey, a junior majoring in environmental resource management, traveled to Costa Rica during spring 2018. Credit: Jillian BarskeyAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For many first-generation college students, study abroad experiences seem out of reach. However, a new course offered by the Environmental Resource Management (ERM) program in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences aims to make that aspiration a reality.

The course, “ERM 499: Costa Rica Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources,” is supported by the ERM program and the college’s offices of International Programs, Multicultural Affairs and Undergraduate Education.

The college’s first embedded course designed primarily for first-generation students will focus on sustainable agriculture and natural resources in Costa Rica. Travel will take place over spring break 2021.

The course will give priority enrollment to current ERM students (major, minor and change-of-campus) who are the first in their families to go to college. First-generation students enrolled in other majors in the college also may apply. All applicants must be attending the University Park campus in the spring 2021 semester.

Ketja Lingenfelter, assistant director for student global engagement, said there are several funding options for qualified students and pointed to the college’s website as an excellent place to learn about those opportunities.

“The idea behind the course is to reach students who had not thought about studying abroad as a possibility they could explore,” she said. “We want to make it as affordable as possible.”

Some benefits of studying abroad include developing and strengthening interpersonal and intercultural skills, according to first-generation student Jillian Barskey, who traveled to Costa Rica during spring 2018.

“Coming into college, I didn’t know much about study abroad programs or if I would even be able to afford to study abroad,” said Barskey, of Wernersville, a junior majoring in environmental resource management. “Once I learned about scholarships through the college, I felt the chance to study overseas was possible for me.”

Barskey advises other first-generation students interested in studying abroad to learn about available resources. “You never know what is possible if you don't dive in and find resources and information on different programs,” she said. “It is affordable when you apply for grants and scholarships.”

Applications for the course are now being accepted. For more information or to apply, contact course instructor Tammy Shannon at To support the “First in Family to Study Abroad” program, visit


Last Updated November 14, 2019