First Impressions of SFS Panama

Posted: February 10, 2014

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad, and when I came across The School for Field Studies it was like a dream come true. The idea of studying in a different country with students from all over the US in a “more than just classroom” setting was unreal. The School for Field Studies offered the chance to both learn from extremely qualified and knowledgeable professors who are passionate about what they are teaching, as well the ability to study outside of the classroom in the beautiful environment we all love. It truly is the best of both worlds, and the decision to study with SFS was practically made for me!

What are you first impressions of the country?
From the moment I arrived in Gamboa, I have felt nothing but warmth from this country. Not only is Panama one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, but the people are some of the nicest I have ever encountered. Every time I stop and think about where I am and what I am experiencing, I have to pinch myself because it seems to good to be true. I can say with 100% honesty that I have nothing but amazing things to say about Panama, and I have never felt more at home in another country.

What are you first impressions of the field station?
I have now been at the field station for 4 hours and I am already in love. The food, the views, the rooms, and the staff are more than I could have ever imagined. I never would have expected Isla Solarte to be as beautiful as it is, and the station already feels like a home. I can’t say that I know the ins and outs of the island quite yet, but the more I explore and learn, the more I fall in the love with this magnificent place. I have zero complaints so far, and I truly see none that will come in the near future!

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
As of right now, I can think of two big challenges. The first is an academic challenge. As I mentioned before, this island is absolutely breathtaking. As much as we can use the island and the natural world around us to study from, I can also see how it might be a little bit of a distraction. I consider myself a pretty dedicated student, so I don’t foresee this being a huge problem, but I may have to put in extra effort during class to not gaze out the window at the beautiful ocean rather than the professor. The second challenge is more cultural. Though it is not necessary for our classes (other than Spanish), the fact that I don’t speak Spanish might be a challenge this semester. I am going to do my best to learn as much as I can, but I think that being able to communicate in Spanish would make my time a little easier.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I must say that it is impossible to pick one thing that I am looking forward to most for the semester. However, two things that I think might come neck-in-neck for first would be the opportunity to make real relationships with the professors and having the opportunity to learn about the culture and the environment while I am living in the middle of it. The small community that SFS creates at the Center makes relationships with other students, staff members, and professors extremely easy, and allows for more than just the typical teacher-student relationship present at most schools. In terms of living in the environment and culture that I am learning about, all I can say is that even the few days of experience I have with this system have made learning incredibly simple, and have allowed information to stick in my mind a little better than it has in the past.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Excited, inspired and WARM.