SIT Panama: an unforgettable experience! Past Review

By (Tropical Ecology, Washington University in Saint Louis) - abroad from 08/25/2015 to 12/07/2015 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned many environmental research methods, made some great friends, and learned about my own independence and capability for traveling.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

SIT demands a fair amount of students while offering resources and emotional support.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

As happens with planning in Latin America, challenges arise and time is not as much of a priority there than in the U.S. That being said, SIT staff schedules things well and students are never left without having their needs met.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We stayed with 5 different host families throughout the country, which was an incredible experience! Many homes were in more rural areas and not of the quality we're used to in the U.S., but all the same the families were incredibly friendly and made us feel at home. We also sometimes stayed in hotels or hostels, all of which were nice.

* Food:

There isn't a lot of variety in food, and being a true vegetarian is tough. But rice and beans are delicious, as are the friend plantains and the spiced Panamanian ketchup.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Our Tropical Ecology professors were Panamanian, which was a great experience. On the program, integration into local culture can be at whatever level the student wants. If you take advantage of getting to know local panamanians, you will feel quite integrated!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I was never unwell. Some other students were, and the program staff was responsive, taking them to see a doctor when necessary.

* Safety:

Panama City has more and less safe neighborhoods, but staff tells you a lot about where you should and shouldn't travel. Tourists could be the victims of theft, but if you are responsible and keep track of your personal belongings you will be fine!

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

I loved the travel that we did across the country and our subsequent exposure to the different areas and ecosystems that Panama possesses. The variety of lessons, professors, and the number of field work skills that I gained have given me such a good sense of what I can do in the ecology research field.


* 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)

Food is quite cheap in Panama. All of your housing is paid for by the program, so extra weekend travel is likely your only cost, but even that is quite manageable.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50


* 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

Staying with host families really encouraged our use of the language. Spanish was vital for getting around. Most assignments for Human Ecology required us to talk to a few people in each location where we stayed and ask them questions about their life and culture.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? A 400-level Spanish Linguistics class
How many hours per day did you use the language?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • 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?
  • traveling
  • classes
  • adventures
* What could be improved?
  • communication about logistics
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? We spent a lot of time traveling and I was surprised by that, but it was incredibly valuable for learning.

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.