Reflections on My Time in Panama December 27, 2021

By (Environmental Science, Brandeis University) - abroad from 08/30/2021 to 12/10/2021 with

The School for Field Studies / SFS: Panama - Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
One of the best parts of the program was the directed research component. From writing a grant proposal to planning a budget to interviewing people to performing transects on coral reefs while snorkeling I really learned a lot about how to conduct research.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The educational experiences was very hands-on and field work oriented which was really useful for learning.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All of the staff were incredibly approachable with any issue and supportive.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The campus was incredibly beautiful and all the dorms were set up well and cleaned regularly.

* Food:

The food was one of the highlights of the program! All of the meals were delicious and a lot of the meals reflected local traditions and cuisine.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I think without having a host family I was as integrated as well as possible to local culture. All of the staff are very knowledgable about local traditions, language, and customs and many aspects of the program center on cultural integration.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to visit the hospital once for an ear issue and the process was very easy. Staff accompanied me and the total cost of the visit and medication was under 20 dollars. The only vaccine I got was the typhoid vaccine.

* Safety:

There were no issues with pickpocketing or petty theft or any other safety issues.

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

Although this program was not my first choice I would do the whole thing over if I had the chance. I was incredibly close with the people on my program and professors. I also learned a lot and really pushed myself to take advantage of opportunities available in the host country.


* 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)

The costs were all optional and resulted from going out at night or taxi costs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 20


* 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

We had two weeks of intensive Spanish at the beginning of the program and we listened to Spanish a lot but we were not forced to use it often. However, the program is more centered on environmental science education than language immersion.

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? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 30
How many hours per day did you use the language? 0
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? The staff are all fluent in Spanish so if you want to take advantage you can ask them to talk to you in Spanish instead of English at meals.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* 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?
  • My classmates
  • Snorkeling
  • Direct Research
* What could be improved?
  • The wifi wasn't great
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You will be entering your best semester ever!

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!