Danny Urgelles

Class Year: 

Hometown: Miami, Florida, USA


Belen Jesuit Prep School


My study abroad experience has been better than I could’ve imagined. Living in São Paulo really places you in a fast-paced, dynamic environment, with so many opportunities and such a diverse population… Studying Latin American development within the actual region has given me a new perspective on the issue, and I am sure that I will continue to learn much more.

Why Huntsman?

The son of Cuban Americans, Danny grew up speaking both English and Spanish at home. His continued study of Spanish throughout his elementary and high school education helped reinforce his fluency in the language. Moreover, his family's Cuban background and his upbringing in Miami gave him a strong appreciation for understanding other cultures. While his initial college search did not lead him to Penn, after learning about the Huntsman Program, Danny knew that he had found the right fit: an academic program that offered the ideal balance between a traditional college education through the International Studies major and a practical business background from the Wharton School. The ability to continue his language studies and the flexibility of the Huntsman curriculum, which would allow him to pursue his interests in political science, all but fomented his interest in the Huntsman Program.

During his senior year of high school, Danny served as the student council president and realized that he truly enjoyed the practical aspects of his position: organizing events, delegating responsibilities, raising funds, learning to work through the bureaucracy, and actually getting tangible things done. His desire to be a ‘doer' made his decision to join the Huntsman Program an easy one, because the practical business skills it offered would help him accomplish his life goals. Here at Penn, Danny continues to be involved in student government as a member of the Huntsman Student Advisory Board and an undergraduate representative on the University Council Committee on Academic and Related Affairs.

Danny constantly strives to put his classroom education into real-world application. For instance, the Social Impact Consulting Group has given him a chance to work with various local nonprofit organizations. He has consulted for a West Philadelphia organization as to the possibilities for green business in the nearby area and for the Gesu Institute, an organization of Philadelphia Catholic schools, to develop a model for self-sustainability. Danny is also a teaching assistant for Management 100, the Wharton class that pairs groups of freshman with nonprofits to plan projects for the local community and that helps prepare Wharton freshman with the presentation, speaking, and team skills they will use during their four years at Penn.

Additionally, Danny has had the opportunity to conduct research in his first two years at Penn. As part of the Huntsman History 107 course, Danny pursued a research project investigating the achievements of import substitution industrialization in Latin America. Additionally, he is currently working on an independent study on the effects of the post-communist transition on Cuban labor unions.

Study Abroad in Brazil

Since Danny entered the Huntsman Program with a relatively high level of Spanish proficiency, he was given permission to switch his target language to Portuguese and take the opportunity to learn a new language. Through Penn's Portuguese for Spanish Speakers course, his immersion experience during the summer in Rio de Janeiro, and the Advanced Portuguese course at Penn, he was able to learn enough Portuguese to embark on his study abroad experience in the second semester of his sophomore year. Thus, he is currently studying abroad in São Paulo, Brazil.

His academic experience so far has been a fulfilling one. His courses include "Latin America: Economy and Political Economy in Recent Decades," "The Political Economy of Developing Countries," "State Intervention and Stabilization Plans in Brazil," and a Portuguese Language course. They've given him the chance to not only expand his ability to speak, read, and understand Portuguese, but to focus on pursuing studies on Latin American development, one of his areas of academic interest.

In addition, São Paulo has offered him a great opportunity to experience Brazilian social life, with baladas in nearby Vila Madalena and other various events. Carnaval in particular was an extraordinary cultural experience, especially when Danny got the chance to desfilar (march) in one of São Paulo's samba schools, Pérola Negra.

He also says that his experience with his host family has been great. "My host mom not only helps me practice my Portuguese, but she also has been unbelievably welcoming, which is nice to have in a city that can at times be overwhelming." After only a few weeks in São Paulo, Danny already feels at home in this previously unknown city, comfortably navigating the public transportation system to and from class and speaking with locals he comes across each day. He has also been able to travel to the remarkable Iguaçu Falls and the coastal town of Paraty. And, of course, he also makes some trips to the beach.