The following post was originally recorded as an interview
Hello! My name is Toni and I am an SFS student. I am in my second year at Oregon State University and I study chemical engineering.
Why did you choose SFS?
This past year, my university had a study abroad fair. Various organizations came to my school to talk about their programs and SFS was one of the organizations present. There, I learned that SFS is a program based in the field and in nature. It helps students learn more about the environment because students are not limited to a classroom. I chose SFS Panama specifically because I wanted to learn more about tourism and its effect on the environment. I also wanted to learn more about marine ecology, and SFS Panama offered both learning goals.
What has surprised you most about Panama or SFS?
It feels like home here. Everyone is so welcoming and understanding.
What do you think is the biggest environmental issue facing our world today?
I think that we have the information, we have the research and we have the skills to combat climate change but the people in power do not want to put money into saving the environment. So I believe that we need to invest in education. We must change how we think about the environment, and not just think of it as only a resource and nothing more. We have the ability to preserve our environment but we all must decide that this is a priority.
Here at SFS, we have community engagement. This means that SFS students have the opportunity to participate in activities with various groups in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. This semester there are five different community engagement projects. Can you describe your specific project?
For my project, five other students and I go bird watching with a group of Ngäbe indigenous women from the communities of San Cristobal and Buena Esperanza. These women have a chocolate farm and they want this farm to be certified as a bird friendly chocolate farm. We go with the women to look at and identify birds. I enjoy working on this project because I am able to learn more about birds and also connect with these women.
What are your goals for the future?
When I return to the United States, I want to start looking for an environmental internship. But my ultimate goal or my dream is to open my own practice, many years in the future. I want to help solve environmental problems in underrepresented communities, problems such as not having potable water or a good sanitation system. As an engineer, I believe that I have the skills to help people on a grand scale, and that is my dream.