A challenging, exciting, and incredibly meaningful experience. Past Review

By (Environmental Science, Washington University in Saint Louis) - abroad from 01/25/2015 to 05/09/2015 with

SIT Study Abroad: Panama - Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
The experience was absolutely worthwhile! I gained so much perspective and grew academically as well as personally. This program made me much more independent and also exposed me to so many aspects of environmental science and policy that I could never experience first-hand at home.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program offers a great balance - challenging and rigorous, but not so intense that it prevents you from fully experiencing the culture. Also, the independent study project was truly an academic highlight for me!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All the help and support you could possibly need, in any situation.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I absolutely loved my long-term homestay in Panama City, and also thought the short-term homestays and hostels outside of the city were great experiences.

* Food:

My homestay Mom's food was incredible, but elsewhere food quality varied. In rural areas, food tends to be super basic and can be challenging for those with dietary restrictions (but the admin team will make it work!).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Since this program doesn't involve classes taken alongside Panamanian students, you do feel slightly removed from the local culture in terms of other people your age. But, the homestay environment definitely contributes a lot.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Others in my group had health problems from time to time, and each event was taken care of promptly and with the absolute best medical care available. While Malaria medications are sometimes recommended given the travel aspects of this program, no one in my group took them and we were not recommended to do so by administration. Definitely not a major concern! Water purification is definitely a necessity, though.

* Safety:

While Panama City may seem less glamorous than your average U.S. city and feel intimidating at first, it can be very safe as long as you use your head. We were provided with a list of areas to avoid as well as a list of areas to avoid passing through alone. Otherwise, general safety rules (don't walk alone at night, etc.) apply and were perfectly sufficient. Once I got used to the cat calling, which is a strong tradition and usually is nothing more than a show of machismo, I never felt in danger.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

SIT provides students with cash to cover food expenses (when meals are not provided) and also provides a sufficient budget to cover all expenses during the independent study project. Most expenses incurred by students are optional expenses, such as snack foods, souvenirs, and additional travel (e.g. to the beach), which is not expensive in Panama.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $20 or less (depending on location at the time)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We did not have classes in Spanish (except for a few here and there), but were encouraged to speak Spanish in our homestays, with program staff, and in our free time when possible.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 201
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Watch movies in Spanish with English subtitles to get used to the speed and various accents. Otherwise, don't stress too much. It will get better when you're there!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The opportunity to travel with the group
  • The homestays
  • The independent study project
* What could be improved?
  • Sometimes things were a little less than organized, but such is the Panamanian way
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Panama is a safe place to study abroad! You don't need to stress about Malaria, and you will be able to eat all the fresh fruits and veggies your heart desires without worrying about sanitation or unsafe water.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.