First Impressions of SFS Panama

Posted: September 13, 2015

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
I chose to study abroad with SFS because it is an incredible opportunity to both immerse yourself in a completely different culture while also getting valuable hands on experience in the environmental sciences.

What are your first impressions of the country?
Panama is a beautiful country. The landscape is completely different from that of the United States, and I find myself at a loss for words when I try to describe it to friends and family. I look forward to embracing the different culture and learning what it means to live in Panama.

What are your first impressions of the field station?
The field station used to be a hostel. The buildings are arranged in a u-shape looking out towards the ocean. Our classroom lectures are held on a dock that is right on top of the water with an incredible view. The rooms are just the right size and it is easy to make it work with one’s roommates. The food is better than what I have at home and at my college which I was not expecting for being out in the field. There is a pool, great trees to set up hammocks, and plenty of beachfront to explore and use recreationally. All in all, this site is a tropical paradise.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester both academically and culturally?
It is going to be hard to focus on academics when there is so much to do and see here. It takes a lot of restraint to settle down and focus on assignments when you have the option to snorkel or hike through the jungle. If I prioritize just right, I’m sure I can do both just fine!

The culture here is definitely different than that of the United States. The national language of Panama is Spanish and so that will be a challenge to adjust to. I have taken 3 semesters of Spanish in college so I have a basic foundation to build from, but in no way am I conversationally competent. I really hope to challenge myself and see my Spanish drastically improve over the next 3 months!

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
I am looking forward to getting to apply what I learn in the classroom to our field trips and experiments. SFS offers the amazing opportunity to actually do field work and get to see hands-on exactly what one could do in this career field. It’s definitely nice to get out of the boring classroom and jump into the crazy biodiversity in Panama!

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
I would say I’m feeling excited, open, and eager. Excited to be in Panama, open to all of the experiences during my study abroad, and eager to learn and be challenged!