By: Emily Bischoff

Posted: December 21, 2021
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Final Impressions: Fall in Panama


Why did you pick an SFS program? What were some of your favorite things about your program in Panama and what will you miss most?

I picked an SFS program because I was really interested in having the opportunity for active learning in the field and to be in a program that would include so many opportunities to be in nature. One of the best parts about the SFS Panama program is the people. The professors have all become mentors to me and have really helped me navigate a transitional period of my life as I approach graduation. The staff is really open and inviting and the best catalyst for learning about local Bocas culture. I think what I’ll miss most when I go home is the friends I’ve made here and living right on the ocean! 

The author holding a spider. Photo by Dr. Rosa Quesada.

What piece of advice would you share with a future SFS student coming to your program?

Come in with an open mind and make the most of every moment! I had never snorkeled or spent much time in the ocean so that was actually one of the aspects of the program I was most nervous for. Three months later, and I have not only fallen in love with snorkeling, but I also have my SCUBA certification! Every moment here, even if it’s getting caught in the rain during a field excursion or cuddling up in the student lounge to watch a movie, is an opportunity to make memories!

The author during Directed Research. Photo by Liv Demerath.

Now that Directed Research (DR) is over, how would you say it went? What kind of research did you conduct?

DR was one of the highlights of the program for me. Throughout this semester I have had an internal debate between natural and social science and luckily I got to do a socio-ecological evaluation of mangroves that represented the perfect combination. Although it has certainly been a lot of work, getting the opportunity to be out in the field snorkeling and also interviewing local community members has been incredibly rewarding and has really taught me how to do research. I hope to continue doing socio-ecological work in the future and DR has represented an excellent starting point for this! My DR group has also gotten really close throughout the process and I am super thankful to them for making the experience even more enjoyable.

The author on a snorkel during program. Photo by Liv Demerath.

Has your experience with SFS influenced your identity?

When I first arrived I was a little bit worried about fitting in with the rest of my classmates. I had never been out of the country and a lot of the shared experiences people had with travelling or doing outdoor sports like surfing or skiing were pretty foreign to me, as growing up I did not have those same opportunities. However, I quickly found my place within the group and realized that I still had so much in common with everyone! I am really thankful that my first time going out of the country was with SFS. Everyone should have the opportunity to travel and enjoy the outdoors, regardless of background, and we should all work to make these spaces more inclusive.


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.

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