An Extraordinary Field Experience January 15, 2022

By (Ecology, Evolution Biology, University of Colorado - Boulder) - abroad from 09/04/2021 to 12/17/2021 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 so much about field work and ecological research while on this trip. I learned how to create and execute my own research project and live by myself in a foreign country, which was an invaluable experience.

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.

This is an intense program with long hours of class during excursions, however, class is mostly field work, so you will be out snorkeling, or bird watching, or hiking most of the day.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everyone of the staff were super helpful in accommodating everyone's needs and making sure that we were all safe and happy.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We didn't have homestays this semester because of COVID, so we stayed in a combination of hostels, hotels, and dormitories, which were all very comfortable and safe.

* Food:

Since we didn't have homestays, we had go to restaurants for all of our meals while we were in Panama City, however, it was super easy. On excursions, we had people cook for us and the food was always incredibly delicious.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We were pretty isolated from the local culture, mostly due to COVID again, however, on my ISP I felt like I had more of a chance to meet the locals and hang out with them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare when on excursion is pretty bare minimum, with only clinics available in certain areas. I got very sick in Bocas del Toro and went to a few clinics before I had to be flown back to Panama City to be treated in the large hospital there. Once I got back to Panama City, I recovered pretty fast and was better within a week. Several other of my classmates ended up getting parasites (supposedly? It was never truly confirmed) and that was the only other health issue that plagued our group and caused some people to leave early.

* Safety:

I always felt safe when in the city and on excursion. There weren't many times when we were alone, so it also felt safer in numbers.

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

The opportunities on this trip were unparalleled to any other program. We got to see so many incredible places, ecosystems, and organisms. The activities we did were insane and absolutely amazing.


* 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)

During ISP, it was a little harder to stay within budget because you have to coordinate all your own housing, transportation, food, and any other necessities.

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? Save money on the front end for ISP.


* 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

It was harder to use constantly since we weren't doing homestays but we were always encouraged to practice with the staff and each other.

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? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 4
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? Always talk with the locals and the staff, they are incredibly nice and happy to help you learn.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Apartment
  • Hotel
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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 Experience
  • Alternative Learning
  • Outdoor Activities
* What could be improved?
  • More cultural immersion
  • More free time
  • Better healthcare protocols
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I feel like if I knew that class would be structured in modules that lasted for 4-5 days each, I would be better prepared for the expectations of the course and the professors.

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.