Monday: Waking up bright and early, a few of my friends and I started our week off on a bright note by doing sunrise yoga on the center’s dock. After getting our books ready for the day’s classes, we had a beautiful breakfast with fresh fruit and Johnnycakes, a popular coconut bread, prepared by the center’s wonderful kitchen staff. Fueled up and ready, we made our way to the most beautiful classroom on earth. It sits on the dock outside the center with beautiful ocean views surrounding you all day.

Tuesday: Tuesday morning was filled with learning about various fish species and their identification for our Tropical Coastal Ecology course. Though I never before was able to quickly memorize information, these topics quickly sunk into my brain, as we were surrounded by the environment we were learning about! In the afternoon, we took a short forest hike for our Principles of Resource Management course and walked down the street to a path into the rain forest, where we were shaded by giant palm trees, bromeliads, and ferns double our size!

 

 
Wednesday: This Wednesday, we started our first day at Habla Ya! Habla Ya is an organization in Bocas Town that helps locals and visitors alike to learn and practice their Spanish skills. Each SFS student was able to enter into a class that fit their exact level of experience, and it really allowed me to become more comfortable speaking Spanish and understanding it while in town and working with indigenous communities.

Thursday: Field Day!!! Thursday, we jumped in the boats and headed out to the field for an awesome excursion to Solarte Buoy. This beautiful snorkel spot was filled with dozens of the same fish species we were learning about just days prior. From four-eyed butterflyfish, to stoplight parrotfish, to tiny Colon gobies, it was so incredible to watch our class lectures come to life before our eyes.

 

 
Friday: Friday, our morning was filled with our Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values course. In this class, we dove into the positive and negative aspects of volunteer tourism, and how this can impact local communities and local environments. After class, we had another delicious lunch made in the kitchen, consisting of kebabs, salad, cilantro rice, and veggies! We soon hit the water for swimming and paddle boarding to end the school week on a great note.

Saturday: Each Saturday, my group for Community Engagement hops in the center’s boat and takes a trip to Isla Popa, an indigenous community in the archipelago. This Saturday, our morning was filled with team building games with the children, fruit punch, coloring, and lots of laughter. After getting to know our group a bit better, we all left the community’s classroom to venture out on our birding walk! Binoculars and bird identification sheets in hand, it was a blast to learn with the kids and keep our eyes and ears tuned for local wildlife.

Sunday: On our day off this Sunday, we decided to explore another island, Isla Bastimentos. A short water taxi ride away, this beautiful island is filled with lots of adventurous activities. This day, we saw the rainforest from a whole new perspective—a bird’s eye view! We took to the trees and tried ziplining, which was such a thrill and an awesome bonding experience. We finished off the day by relaxing on the beautiful palm-tree-covered beach nearby.

 

 
→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Panama