Overall worthwhile experience Past Review

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 08/29/2017 to 12/11/2017 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was worthwhile. Before I was hesitant, but now I know that I really want to work in the field of conservation.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

For me, the most valuable experience came from the people that we met and interviewed as well as the places that we had visited. Also if you are really interested in conservation, you'll have a lot of opportunities to learn about and reflect on current conservation issues, human/nature interaction and how the policies may have affected the local. As for the Tropical Ecology course, it really depends on the instructors. Some were not so good while the others were enthusiastic about what they were teaching. On the website, it says that this program is intensive and it is true. We were traveling most of the time and for the bird module (for 3 days), we had to wake up at 5 am and would work in the field until 12 pm. Then at 2 pm we went out again and did not return until 5 pm.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We lived in a total of five host families. And during other time, we lived hostel/hotel. Sometimes there was no hot water so be prepared for that

* Food:

Better than the food in my school's dining hall

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with host families was a memorable and precious experience. We were able to become part of the family and also interview them about their perspectives on conservation issues. However, it was the most cultural integration I had got. Due to the nature of the program (we were constantly traveling), it was difficult to meet the local and become friends with them. We took Spanish classes at a local university for three weeks. I wish that I had had the courage to venture out of the group and go talk to other people. Advice: don't sit with the group all the time if you truly want to meet the local students

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

During the excursions or field work, we had a paramedic with us and he was super friendly. When we were in the city, the directors were also reachable if anything happened and if you ever need to go to the hospital, they will accompany you so you are never left alone. I think the program fee also includes travel insurance, so it's not like you're going to pay an outrageous amount of money for healthcare.

* Safety:

Use common sense and you'll be alright. Remember though that Panamanian culture is different so there are certain clothes/behaviors that are acceptable in the US but not in Panama. During the semester, there was no major incident and I had never felt unsafe

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

There were times when I felt like I shouldn't have chosen the program but looking back at the overall experience, the good outweighed the bad and I'd definitely go if I were to choose again. I just wish that I were able to practice my Spanish more than I had. If practicing Spanish is your main goal, then I'd say that this program is probably not for you.


* 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)


* 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? Spanish 104
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? Venture out of your comfort zone! Meet the local!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Traveling
  • Host families
* What could be improved?
  • Chances for practicing Spanish
  • Quality of instructors
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Don't use Lifestraw water bottle if you have other options because it LEAKS all the time