An Experience I'll Never Forget January 08, 2020

By (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo) - abroad from 08/27/2019 to 12/09/2019 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 an incredible amount about the intersection between humanity and the environment, the way that relationship plays out in society and politics, and how we can act within those dynamics. It was definitely worthwhile.

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.

The workload was totally manageable and didn't detract from our ability to experience the country at all (if anything, it added to it by increasing our understanding of Panama's history and current social/ political/ etc. dynamics).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Adjusting to the homestays wasn't easy, but it was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip. My Spanish improved drastically and I have amazing memories of all my homestay families.

* Food:

Amazing.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There were definitely points that I felt more connected or more removed (just because of the nature of the trip and how much we moved around) but overall, I think this program does a great job of integrating students into Panama without forcing it.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

If you can handle yourself in really any U.S. city, you'll be totally fine. I never once felt unsafe.

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

The hands-on learning and focus on field work made this a very unique program.

Finances

* 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10-$15
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Create a system of keeping track of cash that works for you.

Language

* 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

Beyond Spanish class and homestays, you pretty much got out what you put in. Students that pushed to learn as much as they could developed their language skills steadily, but for others it wasn't as much of a priority and that was totally fine as well.

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? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 2
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? Talk to people...it's really that simple. I was terrified of speaking because I knew how bad my Spanish was and I don't like looking dumb, but every single person I spoke to was understanding and encouraging. Sometimes people want to practice their English, too, so you can Spanglish your way through some very interesting conversations.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
  • 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?
  • Field work
  • Variety of topics and ecosystems
  • Spanish!
* What could be improved?
  • Consistency of field units (in assignments and expectations)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Not every moment is going to be perfect and that's alright.

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.