After flying over tiny palm tree beaches and driving through downtown Bocas, it still didn’t feel real that I would be living in this area for an entire month.
Coming into this program, I had no idea what to expect. I had never studied abroad before, and I had only been outside of the country once as a tourist. After flying over tiny palm tree beaches and driving through downtown Bocas, it still didn’t feel real that I would be living in this area for an entire month.
Aerial view of Zapatillas Island.
As an ocean lover, I have found it so exciting to be able to identify the fish that we learned about in the classroom while on our snorkels. Yet, I never anticipated that I would gain just as much, if not more, from my interactions with members of the community. Taking trips to local sites allowed us to see more than your everyday tourist attractions. My most memorable experience was when we visited Oreba, a local cacao farm. We got to learn about the cacao making process from the farmers and workers themselves. As a result, I now value the people that enable commercial goods to be produced and think about them while eating chocolate.
Our trip to Oreba with a cacao farm owner and worker.
Cacao fruits before workers ground their roasted beans into cacao powder.
In addition to recognizing the hard work that goes into manufacturing some of the foods that we eat every day, I also gained an appreciation for Boca’s relaxed way of living. Coming from the bustling Northeast, I found it hard to adapt to this mindset at first. At the SFS Center, we used the expression “living on Bocas time” very often to describe being a few minutes late. There were also many days that we would wake up and change plans due to the unpredictable weather, but it never phased anyone here. I can honestly say that as I practice living with this attitude, I have gained a greater appreciation for the simple things in life.
One of my favorite things each day was our chef, Hugo, and his cooking. We never rushed through our meals, which let us enjoy all of the rich flavors that he created.
That being said, come in with an open mind. I found that I got the most out of the things I wasn’t expecting from this trip. If you allow yourself to live in the moment, whatever it ends up being at the time, this will truly be a life-changing experience.
Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Panama Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.