Posted: May 19, 2016
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Final Impressions of SFS Panama


What did you like most about the SFS experience?
This is so hard, but I think that what I loved most about this experience was being able to wake up every morning, on the beach and spend the day with 23 of my best friends. When you live in such a close-knit and tight community, you really understand what it means to be part of something. Every day we would have a new adventure in Bocas del Toro and I got to experience it along with people who shared my same passion for the environment.

You’ve been in the country for a full semester – tell us your impressions of it now.
I came into this experience with an open-mind and really no idea what I was getting into. However, Bocas has become a second home and a place that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The archipelago as a whole has so much natural beauty, and there was something new to explore every day. One of my favorite parts was the diverse range of communities, both human and non-human, that inhabit this place. However, the small size of the archipelago made it easier to get to know the communities fairly quickly and we always had someone to say hi to when in town!

What is life at the field station really like? What are the best and the most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?
I was expecting to really be “roughing it” at the field station. However, I was shocked to find out that we had air conditioning, each room has its own bathroom, we have the most stunning ocean and forest views and the sunsets are unreal. One of my favorite parts was the the fact that animals, such as monkeys and birds, would visit our center! The campus as a whole is rustic yet comfortable, with lots of places to both hang out and step away if you need some alone time. Having the pool was definitely nice for those really hot days and when taking breaks in-between classes. However, we are on a small tropical island and this poses some challenges. You do get pests such as flies buzzing around when you are trying to eat, our dock classroom does get hot at times, and the Internet is not totally reliable. Being prepared to go-with-the-flow will serve you well here!

What ended up being your biggest challenge this semester both academically and culturally?
Not speaking Spanish definitely posed its challenges for me. Though this was not a language immersion program and SFS worked hard to translate during cultural activities, I often felt that my cultural engagement would have been heightened by knowing Spanish. Academically, it was intimidating at times being around students and faculty who were so knowledgeable about a variety of subjects. However, this challenge made this program all the more interesting as I was able to learn from their experiences and grow as an individual.

What is the best memory you have from the semester? Give some highlights.
It is really really hard to just pick one! However, one memory I have is at the beginning of the semester when we all made a bonfire out on the beach. We had only known each other about a week but we knew that it would not take long for us to get close. We quickly bonded over music and sharing stories about what we were excited to experience. I could not be more grateful to have experienced what I have with such an amazing group of 23 and all the professors and faculty at SFS.

Do not blink, enjoy every last moment, and take advantage of every opportunity, these semesters fly by!

Give three adjectives that best describe how you are feeling right now.
Reflective, Appreciative, Bittersweet!

→ Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Panama

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