Panama

The Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies
Programs
Housing
Research
Community

Study Abroad in Panama

Have you ever wanted to wake up to the sound of tropical birds greeting the day, or see the sunrise over the warm waves of the Caribbean? Are you ready to snorkel among coral reefs and mangrove forests, hike through lush green rainforests, and catch a glimpse of a lounging sloth?

Whether you’re an experienced traveler or looking for your first trip to another country, studying abroad is an important component of your college career. Living abroad gives you the opportunity to explore new places and learn about different cultures, gaining important global perspectives, discovering new things about yourself, and building lifelong friendships.

Our programs in Panama take place in the diverse environments of the Bocas del Toro archipelago – coral reefs, mangrove islands, inland rainforests, and sandy palm beaches. Courses and fieldwork focus on key environmental issues faced here such as climate change, biodiversity conservation, tourism impacts, and ecosystem health. Climate change and increased tourism on the islands have led to ecosystem and natural resource degradation while also threatening islanders’ traditional livelihoods. Our research on the environmental impacts of tourism and development on the natural ecosystems in Bocas provides the community with data necessary to support more sustainable policies and protect the beautiful islands so many call home.

Panama


Have you ever wanted to wake up to the sound of tropical birds greeting the day, or see the sunrise over the warm waves of the Caribbean? Are you ready to snorkel among coral reefs and mangrove forests, hike through lush green rainforests, and catch a glimpse of a lounging sloth? Whether you’re an experienced traveler or looking for your first trip to another country, studying abroad is an important component of your college career. Living abroad gives you the opportunity to explore new places and learn about different cultures, gaining important global perspectives, discovering new things about yourself, and building lifelong friendships. Our programs in Panama take place in the diverse environments of the Bocas del Toro archipelago – coral reefs, mangrove islands, inland rainforests, and sandy palm beaches. Courses and fieldwork focus on key environmental issues faced here such as climate change, biodiversity conservation, tourism impacts, and ecosystem health. Climate change and increased tourism on the islands have led to ecosystem and natural resource degradation while also threatening islanders’ traditional livelihoods. Our research on the environmental impacts of tourism and development on the natural ecosystems in Bocas provides the community with data necessary to support more sustainable policies and protect the beautiful islands so many call home.

Programs

Semester

Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

15 Weeks
18 Credits
Spring 2024
Jan 30 - May 10
In the Field
Fall 2024
Sep 6 - Dec 17
Filling Fast
Spring 2025
Jan 27 - May 9
Open

See Program Costs

Program Costs
  • Tuition$22,000
  • Room & Board$5,000
  • Total$27,000
Summer Session 1

Tropical Island Ecosystems: The Human Impact

4 Weeks
4 Credits
Summer 2024
Jun 3 - Jul 2
Closed

See Program Costs

Program Costs
  • Tuition$5,200
  • Room & Board$1,650
  • Total$6,850

My semester in Panama was awesome! It was so cool to have the ocean, rainforest, and archipelago as a whole as our classroom. All of the professors and staff at SFS are amazing and passionate people who truly make the program as special as it is.

- Bronya, Colby College

Studying with SFS was a unique experience that I couldn’t have received from any other provider. I was lucky to collaborate with beyond-amazing instructors who inspire students to get involved and be the change that we want to see. They were supportive in making space for me to speak my truth and express my passion for social and environmental justice.

- Olivia, University of Wisconsin-Madison

SFS provided me with an educational and personal experience that was even better than I had anticipated. I didn’t expect to leave with such a sense of accomplishment in the research we did, the impact we had on the community, and the vast amount of knowledge I gained and applied throughout the semester.

- Sam, University of Massachusetts

Where You'll be Living

The Center, once a hotel, lies among the slender palms and warm waters of Isla Colón. You’ll live, study, relax, and enjoy communal meals with your cohort, here. Across the street, you’ll find a beach with waterfront access for swimming and paddleboarding. The laidback hub of Bocas Town is a short taxi ride away, with access to shops, restaurants, and a vibrant culture that is as unique as the mix of people who live here.

  • Dorm living in ~4-person bunkrooms
  • Indoor/outdoor classroom and study space
  • Student lounge space
  • Casual al-fresco dining area and on-site cooking staff
  • Swimming pool, kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling
Read Stories from Students, Staff and Faculty 

PRogram Costs

Study abroad is an investment in yourself – you’ll return home with new experiences, skills, knowledge, and friendships that will stay with you for the rest of your life. SFS program costs cover a variety of expenses, including:

  • Pre-program advising and on-site orientation
  • Tuition and research fees
  • Housing at the field station and on excursions
  • Daily meals and snacks
  • Airport transfers (for arrival/departure)
  • Field excursions and cultural activities
  • Student success and wellness team on site
  • 24/7 mental health and well-being support
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance
  • Official transcript processing
View Panama Program Costs

Financial Aid

We know cost can be one of the biggest barriers to studying abroad. At SFS, we’re committed to making our programs accessible to students which is why we award a generous amount in need-based financial aid each year. Our Admissions Team has worked with thousands of students and are here to answer your questions about the SFS aid process, aid available through your home school, and funding from external sources.

SFS Financial Aid: Need-based aid packages typically consist of a combination of scholarships, grants, and zero- and low-interest loans. SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.

Home School Aid: Be sure to ask your home school study abroad office or financial aid office what financial aid resources might be available to support your study abroad experience.

External Funding Opportunities: Organizations such as the Fund for Education Abroad or the Gilman International Scholarship Program award scholarships to students going abroad. These can be a great opportunity to reduce the cost of your program even more.

Learn More about FInancial Aid

Research

Research at the SFS Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies focuses on environmental conservation, tropical ecology and natural resource management approaches in the face of threats like climate change and impacts from increasing tourist activity. Students and faculty engage with Indigenous entrepreneurs, NGOs, fishers, farmers, and business owners as they explore sustainable tourism models and the future of these fragile ecosystems and the surrounding communities.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Rainforest and marine biodiversity
  • Tourism impacts
  • Ecosystem health
  • Community livelihoods and perceptions
  • Climate change impacts
  • Marine protected areas

Community

Bocas del Toro, Panama

SFS is an active part of the Bocas del Toro community, where we have been based since the early 90s.

We have built long-term, collaborative relationships in the communities around the Center, and developed our research plans based on the environmental issues they and the surrounding ecosystems face. Throughout the program, students organize a snorkel and swim club for children, work to help support local Indigenous entrepreneurs, and take part in other projects such as urban birding festivals and educational talks. Students attend area events and festivals, frequent the shops, markets, and restaurants of Bocas Town, and compete in a local volleyball match.

At the end of each semester program, we host a Community Research Night where select students will present their research findings to the community. SFS research data is shared with the community, local NGOs, and the Panamanian government.

Read Stories about OUr Community in Panama

Program Partners

SFS is committed to providing robust learning and research opportunities for our students. One way we do this is through in-country collaborations with a variety of organizations, community groups, and government agencies. We support our commitment to these groups by sharing our research findings and contributing to shared goals.

Featured Partner: Ciudad del Saber (CDS)
Just a few minutes from Panama’s city center and across from the Panama Canal, the 120 hectares and over 200 buildings of the former Clayton military base have been transformed into the City of Knowledge. Here, entrepreneurs, scientists, thinkers, artists, community leaders, as well as experts from the government, NGOs, and international organizations work together to develop initiatives that trigger social change.

City of Knowledge is an innovative community that imagines, researches, learns, teaches, experiments, invents, creates and inspires; proving that a different Panama and a different world are possible. A private, non-profit Panamanian organization is responsible for leading this project: The City of Knowledge Foundation.

Learn More

Meet the Panama Team

Cinda Scott, PhD

Center Director
Meet Cinda Scott, PhD

Leon Mach, PhD

Associate Professor in Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values
Meet Leon Mach, PhD

Dago Venera-Ponton, PhD

Professor of Tropical Coastal Ecology
Meet Dago Venera-Ponton, PhD

Sydney Rubinstein

Student Health and Wellness Manager
Meet Sydney Rubinstein

Holly Hummel, M.S.

Community Coordinator and Cultural Liaison
Meet Holly Hummel, M.S.

Chelsea Archibold

Cleaning Technician
Meet Chelsea Archibold

Enilsa Prescott

Cook
Meet Enilsa Prescott

Cais Migar

Security
Meet Cais Migar

Mauricio Rojas

Site Coordinator
Meet Mauricio Rojas

Adrien Perez

Garden Technician
Meet Adrien Perez

Isidro Francis

Head of Security
Meet Isidro Francis

Daniel Medina, PhD

Resident Lecturer in Tropical Forest Ecology and Resource Management
Meet Daniel Medina, PhD