A Fantastic, Crazy, Eye-Opening, Difficult, Life-Changing Experience Past Review

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/31/2016 to 05/14/2016 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Experiencing a new culture, learning about environmental issues in the field rather than from a book in the classroom, meeting new people through the program, expanding my Spanish skills. Definitely all worth it.

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.

The academics were not very rigorous but the schedule tended to be very rigorous. While there were not many tests or examinations, schooling through this program was generally an all day (8 AM- 5 PM, sometimes longer) experience. Overall, learned extensively about the environments and the people that we were interacting with. The integrative field experience really facilitated this learning.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program director and other staff were amazing. They were all really welcoming and caring people and it was clear from the beginning that they would be there for anything they needed.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

All homestays were wonderful. The hotels that we stayed in were all very nice as well.

* Food:

While for the majority of the time there was sufficient food, there was a few times throughout the program that we weren't getting enough food, particularly given the sometimes strenuous activities that we were doing throughout the day. It was really necessary to have snacks with you at all times and supplement the provided food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We got to experience and interact with a huge diversity of the different cultures that exist in Panama but I didn't feel particularly immersed or connected with any particular group of people because we moved around so often and didn't really get a chance to immerse ourselves in any one place.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We moved around a lot so usually we had an EMT traveling with us which was good. However there were some issues with how medical issues were dealt with, which might just be a cultural issue. Often people were not told what types of medicines they were being given, which I found to be somewhat problematic. Also, occasionally illnesses were not taken seriously enough and were somewhat downplayed when they should not have been. Overall, I would say that medical services were easily accessible but the quality care wasn't fantastic.

* Safety:

I always felt safe when traveling with the program. They really went to great lengths to ensure that we stayed in safe areas and housing.

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

I really liked how field based and interdisciplinary this program was. It really made students look at environmental issues from multiple different angles. We got to see a huge expanse of the country due to the mobility of the program which was fantastic. Some of the more negative parts were due to the people in the program rather than the program itself. The program itself was great.


* 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)

Cost per week really depended on what type of week we were having and where we were. It rnaged anywhere from $50 per week to $200 per week. I would estimate that I spent about $1500-$1700 on the total trip.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Keep track of your spendings in an Excel sheet. Also check and record your bank accounts prior to going abroad as well as after so you can know exactly how much money you spent. I felt that my spending got away from me because I wasn't sure of how much I'd spent,


* 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

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? HISP 32 at Brandeis
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?
  • Mobility
  • Field based aspect
  • Interdisciplinary look at environmentalism
* What could be improved?
  • giving students more details about schedule
  • 2 rounds of Spanish class
  • smaller program size
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew more about Panama going into the program

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.