Posted: February 14, 2018

As the Spring 2018 SFS students begin to settle into their new homes around the world, we asked them to share their impressions of the experience so far. Caleb Amstutz had this to say about SFS Panama:

Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
While pursuing a career in science, I have longed for an opportunity to directly apply knowledge in classroom to practical and relevant research. SFS offers the perfect combination of scientific immersion as well as a wholesome personal and experiential journey.

What are your first impressions of the country?
Stepping off the plane in Panama City rocked my whole world. The places I had imagined became incredibly real and quite different. Abstract became concrete, faces emerging one by one from the crowd. Panama clearly has a rich but scarred history, full of triumph and struggle. Never before have I entered a country where my primary language does not typically ring out across the streets. I already realize how much I do not know, and it strangely excites me.


What are your first impressions of the field station?
Big city life quickly faded into gentle breezes and an endless sky. The astounding beauty of the center pierces my soul every time I step out of my room. Caribbean yellows and blues contrast the evergreen background of palms. Life sings and calls from every corner, coupled with the sounds of beautiful laughter. Smiles keep brightening, eyes keep opening. It will not be long before I call this place my home.



What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you this semester, both academically and culturally?
The abroad experience inherently presents numerous challenges to its participants. For me personally, finding ample time to not only prepare for my courses but experience this new world. The unknown continues to intimidate me, from the learning of new phrases and expressions to planning ahead for time away from the station. One day at a time, I tell myself again and again. You are here, so be here. In being here, and in being present, I am challenged to be accepting and adaptive of the changes washing over me, embracing every new moment with open arms.

What are you looking forward to the most about the semester?
What has excited me the most in this relatively short period has been the group. Every one of us has already contributed so much to the learning experience. I believe that we will all find ourselves quickly changing in the best of ways as the semester progresses. I feel as if I have known this group for years, and that is a rare occurrence. To put it simply, it is a blessing that we are all here and sharing this incredible place together.

Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
I would currently describe myself as challenged, exuberant, and grateful.







→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Panama