The Alps

Summer Abroad - The Alps

The aim of this 12-day summer program is to introduce inquisitive students to the nature, culture, history, and languages of the European Alps in Switzerland and Italy. We will be exploring the geology of the Alps and how it influences the development of wildlife, flora, history, religion, culture, and of entire regions; how humans have altered the environment; and how they are affected by, and respond to, climate change in Alpine ecosystems. We will learn how to observe nature in a spectacular landscape, visit cultural sites off the beaten track, and explore some of the well-known localities, such as Zurich, Valtellina, Bellinzona, and the Engadine.

Application Open

November 15, 2023

Early Application Deadline

January 31, 2024

Final Application Deadline

March 1, 2024

APPLY NOW >

Please read the important instructions on the Application Information page before starting your application.

After clicking “Apply Now” please select “School of Arts and Sciences, College of Liberal and Professional Studies.” You can then select “Penn Summer Abroad - Penn Students” or “Penn Summer Abroad - Non-Penn Students.”

During the program, we observe nature in a spectacular landscape, visit cultural sites off the beaten track and engage with urban centers, such as the city of Zurich. We also get our hands dirty at historical and modern stone quarries (guided by local experts); take in geological monuments (Bergell, Ticino, Rhine Canyon); visit important cultural sites (UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Bellinzona and Rhätische Bahn, Church of Zillis–"Sistine of the Alps"); hike across mountains, glaciers and rock glaciers; study plants and wildlife; and learn about local culture and languages.

Bring your hiking boots! Physical fitness is required as we hike several hours on most days on clearly marked mountain paths. Dr. Reto Gieré, the Program Director, is an experienced mountain climber and trekker trained in first aid.

Morning of Monday, August 12, 2024 Recommended arrival in Zurich
Monday, August 12, 2024 Program housing check-in date
Monday, August 12, 2024 On-site orientation
Monday, August 12, 2024 Classes start
Friday, August 23, 2024 Classes end
Saturday, August 24, 2024 Program housing last checkout date
August 12 August 12 - Zurich: Meet group at 2 p.m. for on-site orientation, followed by city tour

Zurich: Meet group at 2 p.m. for on-site orientation, followed by city tour

Study topics: Charlemagne and his influence in the Alpine region; from Roman city to world financial center

Overnight in Zurich, Switzerland

August 13 August 13 - Drive via Ruinalta, Viamala and Zillis to Monte Spluga

Drive via Ruinalta, Viamala and Zillis to Monte Spluga

Study topics: Rhine canyon and Flims landslide; gorges and Roman roads; language divides; Sistine of the Alps

Overnight in Monte Spluga, Italy

August 14 August 14 - Hike through Valle Cardinello and drive to Chiavenna

Hike through Valle Cardinello and drive to Chiavenna

Study topics: The Alps and their impacts on the Roman, Medieval and modern history of Europe

Overnight in Chiavenna, Italy

August 15 August 15 - Chiavenna

Chiavenna

Study topics: Strategic position and history of a key town

Overnight in Chiavenna, Italy

August 16 August 16 - Drive through the Bergell Valley to the Engadine

Drive through the Bergell Valley to the Engadine

Study topics: Bergell culture, people and architecture; continental divide; language divide

Overnight in Pontresina, Switzerland

August 17 August 17 - Cog railway to Muottas Muragl and hike to rock glacier

Cog railway to Muottas Muragl and hike to rock glacier

Study subjects: Permafrost; climate change and its effects on mountain villages; farming in extreme environments

Overnight in Pontresina, Switzerland

August 18 ​​August 18 - Explore the Engadine, walk to Morteratsch glacier, and climb Munt Pers (3200 m)

Explore the Engadine, walk to Morteratsch glacier, and climb Munt Pers (3200 m)

Study topics: Traditional architecture; Ice Age; glacial retreat and effects on ecosystems, landscape and culture

Overnight in Pontresina, Switzerland

August 19 August 18 - Explore the Engadine, walk to Morteratsch glacier, and climb Munt Pers (3200 m)

Drive via Bernina Pass, Cavaglia and Poschiavo to Chiareggio

Study topics: Glaciology; glacial geomorphology; history of emigration

Overnight in Chiareggio, Italy

August 20 and 21 August 20 & 21 - Daily hikes from Chiareggio

Daily hikes from Chiareggio

Exact program depends on weather conditions, but we will choose from the following activities:

Rifugio del Grande, Vedretta di Vazzeda, Val Sissone
Study topics: Genesis of igneous rocks and effects on surrounding mountains

Val Ventina – Lago Pirola
Study topics: The Earth’s mantle at today’s surface; flora and fauna of the Alps

Quarries and mines in Val Malenco. 
Study topics: Importance of stone quarries for the population of the Alps

Overnight in Chiareggio, Italy

August 22 August 22 - Drive through Valtellina and along Lago di Como to Bellinzona

Drive through Valtellina and along Lago di Como to Bellinzona

Study topics: Where Africa meets Europe (and the World)

Overnight in Bellinzona, Switzerland

August 23 August 23 - Bellinzona and return via Gotthard Pass to Zurich

Bellinzona and return via Gotthard Pass to Zurich

Study topics: Unesco World Heritage castles; Alpine landscapes; historic trade routes

Overnight in Zurich, Switzerland

August 24 August 24 - Individual departure and return to US Individual departure and return to US

All students register for a total of one course unit (c.u.)*. Course offerings are subject to change. Course registration is completed by the Penn Summer Abroad office for students who confirm their intent to enroll and submit the required pre-departure documents.

Penn-in-the-Alps

EESC 3003 (1 c.u.)

Taught by Reto Gieré

In this course, students explore natural phenomena through direct field experience and gain hands-on experience with methods used to study our environment. Students study the geology of the Alps and how it influences the development of wildlife, flora, history, religion, culture and entire regions; how humans have altered the environment; and how humans respond to climate change in Alpine ecosystems. Students prepare presentations on specific topics which are held during the field trip.

Students are housed in various hotels, hostels, and mountain cabins.

Tuition and fees are subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and may change without notice. Tuition and fees below reflect rates for 2023 or estimated rates for 2024. Rates for summer 2024 programs will be available in spring 2024.

  • Tuition for summer 2023: $5,012/c.u. General Fee: $432. Total: $5,444
  • Program fee for summer 2024: $2,350
    • Penn Summer Abroad deposits ($500) will be credited to students’ accounts when final program costs are posted
    • Includes administrative costs, accommodations, all breakfasts and dinners, and excursions
    • Program fee does not include airfare

Download: Estimated Cost Sheet (PDF)

Penn-in-the-Alps Fellowship 2024

Penn undergraduate students with financial need who are interested in participating in the summer 2024 Penn-in-the-Alps program can now apply for the Katherine and Josh Lauder Summer Abroad Fellowship for Penn-in-the-Alps. 

Learn more about the fellowship >

Apply for the fellowship >

Penn Summer Abroad disclaimer

The running of all 2024 Penn Summer Abroad programs is dependent on approval from the Committee on Travel Risk Assessment (CTRA). Please be advised, CTRA approval may also be rescinded at any time prior to the running of the program. Programs may also be canceled independently of the CTRA process. Any of these scenarios would result in your summer 2024 Penn Summer Abroad Program not moving forward. All PSA students are strongly encouraged to consider the consequences if their summer 2024 program is canceled for any reason. Cancellations carry financial risks as well as academic risks, including the potential impact on academic progress.

Contact Information

For details about the program, courses, or location including academic advising, travel dates, housing, and orientation:

Program Director Reto Gieré

Program Director
Reto Gieré
Professor and Chair, Department of Earth and Environmental Science
University of Pennsylvania 
Tel: (215) 898-6907
giere@sas.upenn.edu

For assistance with the application, financial questions, pre-departure, or other general information:
Penn Summer Abroad Office

Penn Summer Abroad Office
College of Liberal and Professional Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Fisher-Bennett Hall, Room 101
3340 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19104-3335
Tel: (215) 573-7016
summerabroad@sas.upenn.edu


*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.