At the beginning of the spring semester, we asked student Caleb Amstutz about his first impressions of Panama. Now, as the semester comes to a close, he shared his thoughts with us again.
Why did you choose to study abroad with SFS?
SFS seeks to immerse its students in culturally-rich explorations of science and ingenuity. In choosing an abroad program, I sought something that would rejuvenate both my personal and academic growth while presenting challenges to my global perspectives. I never imagined that an abroad experience would engage such comprehensive personal and social evaluations.
What are your final impressions of the country?
Panama encapsulates a rich assortment of people, cultures, and experiences. While the Bocas del Toro Archipelago has given life to this abroad program, our travels to the Pacific and Boquete cemented our bond to this place and our love for what we have uncovered. The undeniable beauty Bocas has revealed to us comes with many deep underlying problems that we have explored over the course of this semester. Through this process I feel an incredible bond with this area and I hope that I have left this place better than I have found it.
What are your final impressions of the Center?
SFS is home. The Center has provided a unique living and learning experience that facilitates strong relationships and connections with the natural world. We have become accustomed to new lifestyles here and have enjoyed the company of numerous dogs. Happiness radiates from these walls, and I know that I will be devastated to leave this place.
What do you think was the biggest challenge for you this semester both academically and culturally?
Given the differences in academics here, it was expected that many changes would prove difficult. For me, the intensity of the schedule wore heavily as the days progressed. Additionally, the closeness of the environment here at the station proved difficult when stress levels were high. Being willing to accept each other’s differences (both personally and academically) had to be kept in the forefront for the whole semester, as adapting your own lifestyle to the culture of Bocas and SFS was necessary to better support one another.
What did you enjoy most about the semester?
This semester was like nothing I have ever experienced. Getting to know everyone so intimately proved wonderful, not to mention the practical applications of material learned in the classroom. While each of us struggled at times, I believe that this experience has steered my academic path back in the right direction. I hope the same is true for my companions. At the end of the day, we will always be connected through this experience. And that makes me feel elated.
Give three words that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Upbeat, sanguine, trepidation