14th Annual Study Abroad Program in Panama

“This trip has helped me to build confidence in being on my own and to not be afraid to explore the world. It showed me how much there is to experience in the world and that life isn't about staying comfortable with your position, but that it is far more rewarding to experience change and embrace it.” –Makenzie Ackermann

“This trip has also been incredible in terms of the food that has been provided for us whenever we go out and in the local restaurants. Before I came on this trip, I don’t think I had ever had food as fresh as I have had since being here. I cannot name a single meal in which I did not have the freshest food mixed with vegetables and other delicious and healthy foods.” –Dekoda Battoe

“In addition to what I have learned from the people here in Panama, I was also able to improve upon my Spanish language skills, in order to relearn what I have lost over the years.  I studied abroad for a year back in 2008 in Madrid and have spoken Spanish as much as possible, but not enough to be as proficient as I was before.  My confidence, as well as my ability in speaking the Spanish language, has been invaluable to my improvement.” –Hannah Bloomingburg

“One of the most striking things to me was how Panama just looks different. Palm trees are everywhere, and the further we got from the city the more we could just feel we were in a different ecosystem. Early in the program, we went to a place called ‘Gamboa’ and took a river tour, getting to see the edge of the forests. There were monkeys, sloths, and even infant crocodiles, not separated by glass or wire. Panama is a beautiful country and I felt like I was really in a new place without a safety net. The forests were beautiful and I’d be willing to go on another trip just to soak up the nature.” –Max Brown

“This was my first time out of the country and it has sparked a fire inside of me. I want to continue traveling and studying through the University of Louisville. I loved meeting Panamanian students and learning about their lives. I have formed close relationships with some Panamanians that I am sure will last. I believe that this experience has helped me grow as a person and will help me with the rest of my academic career.” –Jessica Carver

“The excursions that were planned were well-thought out, and relevant to all Panama Scholars, regardless of his/her major. Even as a Panamanian, I found that there were parts of the country that I had never seen before. From the beautiful ruins of Portobelo, to the island Isla Grande, every day I learned something new about the country I once thought I knew everything about.” -Vivian Doza

“My experience in Panama has broadened my perspective as a global citizen, and I have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of Central America, the Spanish language, and Panamanian cultural identity.  This experience was my first opportunity to travel abroad, and I will always cherish my time in the program.” –Seth Drake

“Some of my classmates and I were able to visit Gamboa Lake twice. On the first excursion, our whole group went on a boat to view the lake and see the large ships sailing from one canal lock to the next and we saw wild animals like monkeys, alligators and a sloth. The second trip, five of us students ventured to see sloths. There is a sanctuary there with two sloths, a jaguar and many other animals that we learned about and learned how to conserve the Earth.” –Olivia Eurek

“The study abroad trip to Panama has really inspired me and I really think it has infected me with a travel bug because all I want to do is travel to different parts of the world at this time and learn about different cultures. It also has inspired me to further my studies of the Spanish language and other languages to come.” –Alec Farrell

“My favorite daytrip was to Portobelo and Isla Grande. We traveled to Portobelo and had the opportunity to learn about the history in correspondence with the church of the Black Jesus Christ. After we learned about Portobelo we traveled to a beach (here I saw a woman with a real live baby sloth on her arm, which was surprising and adorable) where we took a boat to Isla Grande and ate lunch at a Rastafarian seafood restaurant. Pupy, the owner of the restaurant, made us a buffet style lunch with rice, fish, squid, and octopus. One great aspect of studying abroad is trying new things, like octopus! – It was delicious.  After we ate we walked along the beach and went swimming. It was lovely.” –Kathy Garcia

“By far the best experience of the trip was the trip to the indigenous village of the Emberá tribe. I was not sure what to anticipate prior to our arrival, but regardless anything I could have imagined would not have done it justice. It was this trip that inspired my final paper for the Panamanian culture course. I found myself leaving with more questions than I arrived with in regards to the access to health care in indigenous villages around the country. I was interested in focusing primarily on the alternative methods used for health care, and for what ailments would western medical attention be preferred. Our afternoon spent there provided me with many answers thanks to the medicinal walk we went on. One of the tribesmen led a hike around the outskirts of the village and described the plants and the ways to properly prepare and administer them. I felt like this excursion was the most beneficial for many of the students. The discussion following the trip focused primarily on comparing the village to the city and the gratefulness for having the opportunity to explore such an area.” –Tiffany Hippe

“My favorite part of the trip was spending the day at the orphanage. I had the privilege of meeting many wonderful children, talk to them about their lives, troubles, interests, and dreams. I came in to this trip having no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and after leaving the orphanage, I have realized the career path I would like to go down.” –Madison Holman

“I am an upper level Spanish student at the University of Louisville and until this trip had only been to Spanish-speaking countries for vacations. I did my best the entire trip to speak Spanish wherever possible and I really think it bettered my speaking abilities. I forced myself to order my food in Spanish, ask for directions, and always ask people questions.  I may have made a fool of myself but it was definitely a learning experience. I really look forward to getting back to my Spanish classes in the fall and seeing how much I have actually improved.” –Kayla Kress

“The way the government has upset people in this country in the past has made for some really colorful political graffiti. I saw some beautiful and moving images painted on the walls of abandoned buildings and street corners. I realized that no matter what happens in a community, art will always find its way out of the people’s minds.” –Theresa Men

“Panama is a country that every student should experience once in their lifetime. A nation which holds a treasure chest of rich history full of the struggles and perseverance of its people, Panama has taught me many things I would have been oblivious too had I not traveled here.”
–Melanie Mullins

“My favorite experience was the SOS orphanage. I work at a summer camp and I absolutely love working with children, so I felt very comfortable running around playing soccer, doing Zumba, and playing tag with the kids. When we left, a little girl that had developed a close bond with a few of us began to chase after the bus and it’s safe to say that it was quite moving and tear inducing.” –Kylie Nethers

“In Panama I took two classes, a Panamanian Culture class as well as a Central American Politics class. Most college classes consist of going to lecture, taking notes, reading a textbook, and writing essays as well as taking exams. While my classes in Panama incorporated these necessary elements of study, the difference that enriched my learning magnitudes above other classes was the complete immersion in the topics. What better way to learn about Panamanian culture than to interact with everyday Panamanians in Panama? What better way to learn about Central American politics than to visit the law-making body of a Central American country? While the time period for the semester of classes is significantly shorter than usual, the quality and quantity of knowledge gained through the complete immersion in the subjects is far above any ordinary classes.” –Art Parola

“In the past three weeks, I have gotten the opportunity to be immersed in a culture and traditions that I was unware of before this trip. I have participated in activities and events I thought I would never do. This journey has open many doors for me and a whole new interest in exploring the world. Before participating in this I was really afraid to follow my dreams and make them come true. The duration, price, and benefits of this program were a great way to start working on my dreams.” –Yusra Shabbir

“On this trip I got to do a lot of cool things. I have a lot of favorite or highlight experiences. My study abroad friends, Panamanian friend and his family, and I went to Cerro Azul (Blue Mountain) and it was the best experience. We toured Panama on the way there and explored the nature of Panama. There were beautiful waterfalls and animals everywhere. We got a chance to jump off the little bridge into the river. We got to take tons of pictures and learned a few cultural aspects of Panama. With my friends, I learned that some Panamanians are very family oriented, and I really admire that. That trip was by far the best for me but I still enjoyed a lot more things after that.” –Jasmine Thomas

“As a native Spanish-speaker, I naively thought that Panama would be a breeze when it came to the aspect of communicating. Although it was relatively easy, it was also quite the challenge! A lot of the words I know are not the same here in Panama, which was confusing at times. For example, when ordering fried plantains (my favorite snack), I called them “tostones” instead of “patacones”; a small error, but extremely awkward when the worker has no idea what you are talking about.  Overall, I improved my Spanish and learned new words!” –Bianca Velez

“Learning the history of Panama is very interesting. In the United States we have some similarities as Panama. Of all of the things America did, involving Panama, I am very surprised we don’t learn more about Panama in school. I knew that the Panama Canal existed, but I was unaware of the impact that the United States had in digging the canal. Nor was I aware of the history behind the canal.” –Madison Wills

“While here I was able to learn the history of Panama, how the United States has impacted the country, and how each different major ethnic group in the country today has ended up here and the influence they’ve had on the culture. I’ve learned about the Chinese migration, the migration from the West Indies, I’ve learned about the lives of the indigenous peoples who lived here in Panama before the Europeans came over and about how they live and are perceived in contemporary society. Learning about these cultures has helped me to better understand the culture of Panama, both on its own and relative to Latin America. It has also helped me to consider the ethnic and racial composition and societal situation here in Panama compared to in the United States.” –Wylie Wolfson

“Another experience that I really enjoyed was the visit to Colón because it exposed me to the black culture of Panama. I learned a lot about how African culture has greatly influenced Panama. Throughout life you are taught that African slaves were brought over from Africa by the English or Spanish while in reality Panama has had over five hundred years of African presence since 1509. There were many free African settlements in the Province of Darien and Colón before the arrival of the Spaniards. The impact that this excursion gave me was that it opened my eyes to the diversity of Panama and the beautiful history of this country.” –Anoa Zakee