A wonderful, eye opening, incredible adventure! Past Review

By (Environmental Studies, Gettysburg College) - 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?
I learned field research skills, a lot about biodiversity in the tropics, how to design and implement my own research, how to live on my own in another country and so many other things. It is SO worth it.

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.

Through this program I was exposed to so many new topics and issues that I would never have experienced in a traditional classroom setting. While some of the courses themselves may have not been as rigorous as a typical college class, it allowed for more exploration and interaction with the people that lived in Panama and they were challenging in other ways. The professors and staff are amazing and incredibly knowledgeable in their fields.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Superb! The staff were always willing to assist with anything that we need and really became like our family in Panama. You could tell that they really cared about the well-being of all of us and wanted us to have the best experience possible.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We got to stay in a variety of locations (5 different homestays, hostels, hotels) and all of them were great. I absolutely loved living with my homestay families, who were all so incredibly generous and welcoming.

* Food:

As someone with multiple food allergies, this was one of my main concerns at the beginning of the program. The staff in Panama made sure to communicate with families and restaurants to ensure that there would be food that I would be able to eat. Sometimes, we would not get as much food as I would have liked and they were often very limited in variety, but all tasty. There are plenty of grocery stores and small markets around to buy extra snacks, which was nice to have on many of the excursions. Many of the stores in Panama City had the same brands and types of food as in the United States, so I was able to find allergy friendly food when we were there.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with a homestay family made it easier to feel like part of the local culture. We got to participate is some local traditions at a couple of the excursion locations which was a very memorable experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I always felt safe whenever we were with the group. We had a safety staff person with us when we went on excursions. When in the city or traveling without the group make sure to use common sense and try to go in groups.

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

Yes, Yes Yes! This program was incredible. I gained so many new skills, grew as a person in ways that I couldn't have imagined, and had a great time doing it. The staff of this program as stellar and I will forever be thankful for this experience.


* 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)

It was very easy to not spend too much. The dollar goes quite a long way in Panama. I spent about $300 over the whole semester on snacks and souvenirs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? less than $10/week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Budget out how much you want to spend. I brought a specific amount of cash with me into the country and tried to only use my debit card to pull out a little more cash when I really needed it (which was only once).


* 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

All classes were in English so we mostly only spoke in Spanish to our host families and whenever we exploring on our own. We were encouraged to practice as much as we could with our host families.

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? 200 level spanish
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? Take time to talk to your host families. Be confident in what you do know and ask if you don't know. Most of the families really did want to help students learn the language. Look for ways to talk in Spanish as much as possible.

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?
  • The people- my host families
  • The Place- this country is gorgeous
  • The subject- biodiversity conservation is my thing
* What could be improved?
  • more time spent on certain subjects, some lessons were only covered in 2 days
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program is very field intensive, you are outside in the rainforest or swimming in the ocean. You are also constantly changing locations which allows for being able to see more of the country than most Panamanians do, but it is also a bit exhausting, so be prepared for that.

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.