Criminology students travel to Curacao to learn about organized crime

Criminology major Kayla Clements appreciated getting to compare the criminal justice system of the small island country to that of the United States. Credit: Kayla ClementsAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of the Liberal Arts offers many embedded courses to Penn State students. Embedded courses are semester-long classes that include an optional short-term international experience related to the course content.

Students enrolled in CRIM 425 Organized Crime had the opportunity to travel to the island of Curacao over spring break. The program focused on the theoretical explanations behind the nature of law enforcement and organized crime. The course is primarily taught online, and the trip, which is mandatory for all enrolled students, was led by Howard Smith, associate teaching professor of criminology, and Eric Baumer, professor of sociology and criminology.

While in Curacao, which is located just off the coast of Venezuela, students had the opportunity to visit many local sites. In addition to seeing all the beauty Curacao had to offer, students discussed criminology topics affecting the island, like drug smuggling, gangs, crime in prisons, and criminal investigations. This allowed students to compare the criminal system in Curacao to the criminal justice system in the United States, as well as to realize the benefits and downsides of having a smaller government.

“This experience really helped me visualize how little the island of Curacao is and how the size impacts them, compared to a large country like the United States,” said Kayla Clements, a criminology major. “Over the week we were able to see basically the whole island. They only had one prison and it was interesting to see how the island size impacted their criminal justice system.”

The opportunity to see the justice system of a foreign country helps students have a broader perspective and to think outside-of-the-box about their future careers.

“I have the ability to say that I have now studied the criminal justice systems of two different countries outside of the United States. I think this will really benefit my career goals because I’ve had amazing experiences. I am able to compare our systems and use my experiences in the other countries to evaluate our systems,” said Clements.

Embedded courses are available in many different departments and on various topics. To learn more about Liberal Arts embedded courses and see more programs, visit

Last Updated April 05, 2019