City Semester Pittsburgh

Questions and Answers for Penn State Students

Why Participate in City Semester Pittsburgh?

You’ve probably heard about study abroad programs where students spend a semester living and studying in a foreign country, so you know how impactful such an experience can be. Penn State offers City Semester Pittsburgh, a career-enhancing experience closer to home, in one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Global 100 Resilient Cities.

Pittsburgh is well known internationally for its leadership in addressing issues of urban sustainability and resiliency. It is an ideal place for faculty and students to work with Penn State Center Pittsburgh’s community partners.

City Semester Pittsburgh can provide you with an exceptional immersive experience in urban sustainability. While living in the heart of Pittsburgh, you can participate in a rewarding internship, take relevant online courses, and join your cohort of City Semester students in the 3-credit 497 Urban Sustainability course taught at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh.

Through your work as a City Semester student, you will be an active participant in Penn State’s efforts that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to improve quality of life in metropolitan areas.

If you are considering Pittsburgh as an option after graduation, City Semester Pittsburgh not only offers you valuable work experience, but it also can help you build a professional network within the inner circles of those reshaping Pittsburgh’s future today.


Penn State students holding a sign read Penn State in Pittsburgh

Who Can Apply?

All majors and minors, including Sustainability Leadership minors: Meet with your academic adviser

This program is open to Penn State undergraduates in good standing from any major, who will have achieved sophomore standing by the semester in which they will participate in the program.

“There is not a single academic pursuit that does not need sustainable development.”
Kim Kipin-McDonald, Head of Sustainable Development North America, Covestro
Opening remarks at the SCC 2018 Annual Conference


If you are interested in participating in City Semester Pittsburgh, you are encouraged to meet with your academic adviser to determine how the credits for this semester will fit with your specific major or minor. The program is designed to be flexible and meet the needs of a variety of majors and minors at Penn State; it is especially well suited for the Sustainability Leadership minor.

What Does Participation in City Semester Pittsburgh Entail?

City Semester Pittsburgh is built on three core components:

1. An embedded field experience, interning with a community partner. Although typically the internship is 20 hours per week, this experience can be tailored to meet the requirements of your academic program. Through the application process, Penn State Center Pittsburgh will work to find you the best match with a community partner, based on your placement preferences, career interests, and applicable skills.
Examples of our community partners include Allegheny County Conservation District; Center for Victims; Fourth Economy; Green Building Alliance; Pennsylvania Environmental Council; PPG Paints Arena; The Pennsylvania Solar Center; and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh

2. Online course work or independent study to fulfill major or minor requirements to round out the balance of your semester course load

3. Enrollment in the 3-credit 497 Urban Sustainability course taught at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh with your cohort of City Semester students. Featuring domestic and international readings and videos, prominent guest speakers, and engaging field trips, this course builds on your internship experience and shares the relevance of sustainability across all disciplines.

How Can I Apply?

Penn State students must submit an application online and attach the following (as a Word or PDF document) by the application deadline:

1. A two-page personal statement outlining your area(s) of study and your career interests. Please explain how City Semester Pittsburgh could benefit your academic work, what you would contribute to the program, and what your ideal internship experience would be.

2. Your résumé, including prior work experience, previous community experience, skills (research, communication, technical and analytical, foreign language, etc.)

3. A letter of recommendation from a faculty member in your major or minor

What is the Timeline/Deadline to Apply?


  Spring 2020 Semester Fall 2020 Semester
Student Application Open: Now Now
Student Application Priority Placement Deadline: Wednesday, October 23, 2019 Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Students Applications Will Continue to be Accepted Through: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Accepted Students Matched with Community Partners by: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Orientation, Classes, and Community Placements Begin: Monday, January 13, 2020 Monday, August 24, 2020

What Does the Program Cost? Is there Financial Aid?

Students enrolled in City Semester Pittsburgh will pay Penn State University Park tuition and fees. There is also a modest program fee to cover the costs of field trips. Meals, books, and incidental expenses are not included in the program fee and are the responsibility of the student.

Additional financial aid is available from various sources, including:

  • The PepsiCo Urban Sustainability Fellowship
    The Sustainability Institute and Penn State Center Pittsburgh invite City Semester students to apply for one of several PepsiCo Urban Sustainability Fellowships, a $2,500 stipend exclusively available to City Semester students. To apply, simply check the fellowship box on the program application form.


  • Engaged Scholarship Grants
    The Sustainability Institute and Penn State Center Pittsburgh invite City Semester students to apply also for Engaged Scholarship Grants, $2,500 to support experiential learning endeavors outside of the classroom. Several grants are awarded across Penn State each semester. To apply, simply check the fellowship box on the program application form.

What is the Student Health Insurance Requirement?

The insurance requirement for students taking courses off campus is the same as students taking courses on campus.