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Programs : Brochure

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Fact Sheet:
Education Abroad Adviser:
Johnna Weston
Minimum GPA:
Class Standing:
3 - Junior
Language of Instruction:
Language Requirement:
0 semesters
Internship Available:
Fields of Study:
Environmental Studies, Global Studies, Sociology
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
  • Junior standing or above at the start of the program 
  • This program is only open to students in the Penn State Schreyer Honors College

Program Description 

This unique summer program in partnership with Monash University provides Penn State Schreyer Honors College students with the opportunity to study with Monash University students in Malaysia on a Palm Oil Study Tour as part of a Monash University course. This course, Leadership for Social Change, takes a global challenge as case studies for the students to investigate through the prisms of social change, social movements, leadership, and the global. In Leadership for Social Change, there is a strong emphasis on the key skills employers have identified as desirable in graduates – effective group work, intercultural competency, problem-solving, resilience, communication skills, etc – and these skills are developed and utilized in learning and assessment. 

The topic for investigation in the Borneo program is palm oil. Starting the journey in Melbourne, Australia, students will begin by considering how palm oil is generally viewed in Western countries today, and pervasive resistance to it (examples of British supermarket campaign, the Melbourne Zoo anti-palm oil exhibit, etc). This will begin with in-class discussion and short local field trips. Once students have located themselves in the very local here-and-now, they will “zoom out” to some decades ago and consider when, how, and why palm oil became such an important global commodity. Who were the main global players in kick-starting (or resisting) this need for palm oil, and what motivated them? Using Borneo as a case study, students will then consider all the different threads of impact of palm oil locally – on Indigenous communities, wildlife, the government, small independent farmers, small remote villages, and big palm oil corporations. What do they say about palm oil in Borneo? Students will hear from representatives from all of the above groups, as well as human rights lawyers and environmental activists, to reveal the complexity of issues, and particularly the complexity of trying to address all the disparate economic, environmental, social, and political concerns surrounding palm oil.

The unit will be immersive, theoretically and practically. Throughout the unit, students will be encouraged to consider first the “why” (why is this happening? Why do people feel this way?) and then the how (“How can this be addressed?), while always considering the Double Effect theory (“If we propose this change, then X, Y, Z, might happen. Is this ok?”) leadership models, and social change theories. All necessary theories students will use in the course will be covered within the subject, so no prior theoretical knowledge is required to participate.

Penn State students will begin this program in Melbourne, Australia with a pre-departure orientation, and will then fly to Borneo with Monash University students and faculty leaders for the remainder of the program.


Wednesday, June 26: Students arrive at Monash University, Melbourne
Thursday, June 27 and Friday, June 28: Pre-departure Orientation with Dr. Carland, Faculty of Arts
Saturday, June 29: Travel from Melbourne to Borneo
Sunday, June 30 - Thursday, July 11:  Borneo Program
Friday, July 12: Departure from Borneo to USA


The lush island of Borneo is the world's third-largest island. Lonely Planet describes it as having "some of the world's most wildlife-rich equatorial rainforests, incredible landscapes, and rich indigenous culture." Students studying on this program will be exploring all of this, and more, during their study tour into Leadership and Social Change with a focus on the global issue of palm oil. 

Students will begin their program in Kota Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu is Malaysian Borneo's second largest city, and Sabah's capital, with a population of around 600,000. It is modern (shopping centers sit close to great hawker-style street food), welcoming, multicultural, and multi-faith city. It lies right next to the beach and offers beautiful sunsets.

Approximately a three-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Tea (the second stop on the program) is located right near the mouth of breathtaking Mount Kinabalu. The only organic tea farm in Borneo, Sabah Tea's close proximity to the neighboring 130 million-year-old rainforest enables its tea to be grown pesticide-free (as the insect are drawn to the rainforest instead). The Sabah tea longhouse is a traditional Sabah-style of accommodation, complete with mosquito nets, fans, and misty sunrise. 

Around another three hour drive from Sabah Tea, students will arrive at their third destination on the program: KOPEL. KOPEL is a community ecotourism cooperative based in the village (or kampung) of Batu Puteh. It is located on the Lower Kinabatangan river within the rainforest and focusses on protecting the forest habitat, wildlife, biodiversity, as well as protecting the traditional lifestyle of the Batu Puteh kampung.

The final stop on the program is based in Sandakan (the second-largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu). Sepilok forest edge resort is a jungle retreat within easy walking distance of the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre. It also has a plunge pool, which is very welcome in the jungle heat! It is 30 minutes from Sandakan airport (the departure airport). 

Education Abroad in Countries with a Penn State Restricted Travel Designation

In order to comply with Penn State’s International Travel Policy, students interested in studying abroad in countries that Penn State has designated as “restricted” for travel, a petition for a waiver must be submitted. Once a petition is complete, and if the student is approved for study on the program in question, the student may be asked to meet with the Director of Education Abroad and the petition will be reviewed by the Penn State International Restricted Travel Committee (IRTC). The necessary petition will be included in the online application process for this program. To see if your program is taking place in a restricted travel country, please visit the Global Programs website.


Course Listings

Penn State students will enroll in Monash University's ATS3938: Leadership for Social Change 3 course. For more information about the course, students can visit Monash University's website.

Course Selection

To find appropriate courses that will fit into your degree requirements, you will need to work with your academic adviser. Suggested tips:
  • Research courses available on your program
  • Meet with your academic adviser to discuss potential courses abroad and your degree requirements 
  • To register for courses on this program you will work with Monash University

Academic Policies

  • Students will receive 3 Penn State credits of CED 499 
  • You cannot take any courses abroad on a Pass/Fail basis
  • World Campus courses should not be taken in addition to or as a substitute for courses offered abroad
  • You may not take sport or physical activity courses (e.g. sailing, bowling, yoga, etc.) abroad
  • 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 

Course Equivalency Process

In order for courses from abroad to appear on your Penn State transcript, each course must be given a course equivalency. Please visit the Academics section of the Global Programs website for information on the course equivalency process.  

Courses can be submitted for course equivalency before, during, or after the education abroad program, however, you should begin this process as soon as possible as it can take on average 2-4 months or more for courses to receive a Penn State course number. In some cases, it can be difficult to obtain syllabi from abroad before the start of the term, but when possible, courses can be submitted for review before departure. Talk to your Education Abroad Adviser about requesting syllabi.

Grade and Credit Conversion Scale

Grades and credit conversions from your host institution cannot be changed. They will be converted to Penn State credits and grades based on the following scales:
Grade Conversion Scale
Monash University Grade Penn State Grade
100-80%  A
79-70%  A-
69-67%  B+
66-63%  B
62-60%  B-
59-55%  C+
54-50%  C
49-45%  D
44-0%  F

Housing and Meals

Housing and Meal Information for Pre-departure Orientation in Melbourne and Program in Malaysia

Melbourne: Hotel
  • For the few nights in Melbourne, Australia for the pre-departure orientation, students will stay in the Gryphon House (part of Mannix College), located across the street from Monash Clayton where the pre-departure session will be delivered. The nightly fee includes continental breakfast, lunch, and dinner (buffet-style) in Monash's dining hall, with the exception of Saturday night's dinner when the dining hall is closed. Students also have access to all of the Monash University facilities, including wifi. 
Kota Kinabalu: Hotel
  • The hotel will be located right in the heart of the city with seafront views, making it a great place to explore on foot. Students will be in twin or triple rooms, and accompanying adults will have their own single rooms. All bedrooms come with air-conditioning, private attached bathrooms with hot water, safety deposit boxes, and TVs.
Ranau: Sabah Tea Garden
  • Students will share individual longhouse rooms in twin or triple capacities, taking up one whole longhouse for our group. Accommodation is simple but ‘authentic’, with sleeping mattresses on the floor with a mosquito net, and adjacent bathroom facilities. Outside the bedrooms is a large communal space, which enjoys natural breezy ventilation from the bamboo design. Accompanying adults will stay in nearby cottages which come with a small lounge area, a private attached bathroom (hot water), and air-conditioning. Between all accommodation is a communal dining area where we’ll share meals together and run educational activities at this space.
Batu Puteh, Kinabatangan: KOPEL community-tourism project
  • The first three nights at Batu Puteh will be in the modern Manda Stay accommodation. These stilted concrete houses include spacious dorm style rooms with air-conditioning and private attached bathrooms for students, and comfortable double rooms for accompanying adults. During our stay here, meals will be shared at the communal hall, on picnics, and possibly 6 at a host family’s home. The final two nights at the community will be at friendly homestays. Although a simple style of accommodation, it offers a great cultural experience to stay with a local family. All guests have their own private room on single, twin, or triple occupancy – fan only. Bathroom facilities are usually a simple bucket shower (cold water) and squat toilet, and bedrooms include mosquito nets and bedding.
Sepilok: Sepilok Forest Edge
  • Set in beautiful gardens overlooking a verdant green rainforest, this resort boasts comfortable accommodation surrounded by nature. Students will share dormitory rooms in groups of up to 6, with clean bathrooms inside and adjacent to rooms. Accompanying adults will have their own private wooden chalet with balcony, air-conditioning, and indoor/outdoor shower facilities. The communal areas are open and picturesque, with a beautiful dining space to celebrate our final evening. There is also a small dipping pool for free time, and on-site walks.
Independent housing is not permitted on this program. There will be no exceptions. 

Costs and Funding

Program Costs

Summer Costs

The cost of a program is based on Penn State tuition rates and partner institution fees. Due to the variety of locations and partner institutions, costs will vary depending on the program. Education Abroad works closely with our partners to ensure the most accurate cost estimates, however, fees can change quickly and without prior notice. Consult the cost sheets for your chosen program often and if you have any questions please contact your Education Abroad Adviser


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.

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. Additional fees from the partner institution will be assessed according to their withdrawal and refund policies at the date of the withdrawal notice.

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.


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 Program 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.

Program-specific Accessibility Information

This program is described as physically challenging, and outlined below is a full list of physical considerations for students interested in studying on this program:
  • Occasional sitting on the floor for group discussions/community meetings
  • One night sleep on a mattress on the floor; some bunkbed accommodation on other evenings too
  • 'Rickety' stair access to longhouse accommodation and homestays
  • On and off riverboats/lake flotilla with no stairs
  • Walking to tree planting location through short (often muddy) forest clearing - accessed by boat only
  • Access to palm oil plantation is over uneven terrain (short trek)
  • Regular squat toilet facilities with some bucket shower opportunities
  • Bus travel for up to 4 hours at a time

Gender and LGBTQA

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

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. 


You must apply to this program by the Penn State deadline. 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:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2019 02/01/2019
02/13/2019 06/26/2019 07/12/2019
NOTE: Start date marks arrival in host country. End date marks departure from program. Confirm arrival date with Monash University.
Summer 2020 02/01/2020 02/12/2020 TBA TBA

Indicates that deadline has passed