8th Annual 2010 Study Abroad Program in Panama

Program Director: Dr. Rhonda Buchanan
Assistant Program Director: Dr. Al Futrell

“Through side-excursions to places that locals would frequent, (such as strip-malls, food/restaurants and the university) I was able to perfect my understanding of the Spanish language, and was able to engage in conversations that opened my eyes to see that wherever we are, we are all the same.”
-Sheila Bates

“While in Panama, in the short time that we were here, I have been to so many places that it has absolutely been the experience of a lifetime. My first and foremost experience has been attending the University of Louisville here in Panama.  Every day at the university has been a learning process unmatched by any other studying opportunity I have encountered. Ricardo Acosta has been our Panamanian Culture instructor, and made learning the culture here in Panama very fun and interesting. He had many guest speakers to show us just how the culture works down here.  We have tried authentic food, learned about the indigenous cultures, and demonstrated how people dress and act in Panama.”
-Max Cooper

“What I have learned is that in order to really experience something, you have to be immersed into it.  We learned about the culture in class, but there is no way to justify what is being said until you are able to experience it for yourself.”
-Shari Cooper

“To be honest, the only thing I knew about Panama before we started our classes was that Panama was the home to perhaps the most well-known canal in the world.  However, after only a few short weeks of being here, I feel I have learned an invaluable amount about this great country with such a unique and rich culture.  I rally enjoyed learning about Panama in the Panamanian culture class and then getting to experience what I learned firsthand by getting out and exploring the city and meeting Panamanians.”
-Abby Corbett

“The classes in which I enrolled were interesting and contributed to my overall understanding of my surroundings both in Panama and the United States. Our similarities, as well as differences, from other cultures and peoples is something that can only be learned through first-hand experience, and this period of travel truly opened my eyes to this fact. I also was given the opportunity to use my lessons in the classroom, particularly those from my Spanish courses over the years, in an authentic Spanish-speaking environment. As a result, my language skills have improved immensely, and I hope to continue to use the language in order to communicate with native speakers both in their countries and ours.”
-Jhalak Dholakia

“I also enjoyed my independent adventures to El Valle and Taboga, both of which provided breathtaking views and encounters with various aspects of Panamanian culture.  Perhaps my favorite of these were the daily interactions with taxi drivers and vendors.  These conversations may have been taken for granted, but they were priceless for allowing me to converse in a practical environment.  Of course, there were pauses, misunderstandings, and many mispronounced words, but there were also laughs—representations of the pure joy that can be found in understanding and communicating with an individual who may not be so different from myself.”
-Ali Farrell

“Since my arrival in Panama, I have had the benefit of seeing some extraordinary sights and meeting some incredible people.  Some of the activities I have been a part of include hiking through the rainforest, witnessing a boat slowly make its way through the Panama Canal, visiting an indigenous tribe in their native land and observing their traditions and way of life, and playing soccer with players who have a love for the game, among many other adventures.  The people in this country are extremely helpful and friendly.
-Kerry Griesinger

“I learned so much in my classes as well I studied Panamanian culture and Spanish.  Panamanian culture is so interesting and I hope to return to the country very soon.  Not only my Spanish class, but also the day to day usage of the language with the local people allowed me to reach new levels of my knowledge regarding the language.”
-Steve Hinkel

“Through our excursions to Monkey Island, the Parque Metropolitano Rainforest, remote towns and cities situated snugly in the jungle, indigenous villages, and the colonially inspired ‘Casco Viejo’, I feel I’ve had the opportunity that even many Panamanians have not had of truly experiencing what Panama has to offer in the way of culture, tradition, wildlife, and hospitality.”
-Sarah Khayat

“Our group took some very interesting excursions during our stay in Panama. As a pre-medical student, I have taken my fair share of biology classes, so my favorite expedition involved an extended hike through the Metropolitan Rainforest. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and showed us everything from giant trees to a line of tree cutter ants scaling said trees. The trek came to fruition when we reached the top of a mountain, despite the oppressive heat and humidity, and admired the gorgeous view of Panama City and the ocean. The entire journey was exhausting yet invigorating, and it was so interesting to see plants and animals that I have read about in books since fourth grade. Panama certainly is a country brimming with natural beauty, with an almost unfathomable amount of diversity that anyone can appreciate.”
-Caitlin Medley

“I first decided to study abroad when I had heard stories from other students about how great of an experience it could be.  They were absolutely correct.  Study Abroad in Panama has been a highlight of my life.  I’ve gained new friendships with people from home as well as with some local Panamanians.  My knowledge on cultural diversity has greatly increased due to this experience.  This program has really sparked my interest in cultural differences as well as communication.  I am now even considering a minor in Latin American Studies.”
-Matt Metcalf

“I know that for me, this entire experience has been a lesson in how to ‘go with the flow’ as they say, and to be more flexible.  In Panama I have learned to expect the unexpected and to live in the moment.  The Panamanians live very much in the present; they do not dwell on the past nor do they worry about the future.  While their sense of time was quite a culture shock for me at first, in that they do not adhere to the strict time schedules that Americans do, it has taught me some valuable lessons about what is most important in life.”
-Tara Metts

“From my first Spanish class during my freshman year of high school, I knew that I wanted to become fluent in the language. Despite five years of grammar and vocabulary lessons, I still found myself frequently feeling doubt when speaking Spanish in class. Coming to Panama has lessened, if not eliminated, this fear. I entered the country with hesitations of my proficiency in conversation. However, I feel that I will leave with the knowledge and confidence I need to speak Spanish with ease. Being a part of the Panama 2010 study abroad trip has allowed me to not only improve on my language skills, but it has also given me a first-hand experience with the rich culture that this country has to offer.”
-Deepa Patel

“Our class was able to witness firsthand the simple but very fulfilling lifestyle of an indigenous Panamanian tribe known as the Emberá.  They live in a village on the Chagres River in the North of Panama and make a living by fishing, farming, selling their handicrafts, and educating visitors on their history and culture.  The stark contrast to our U.S. lifestyle intrigued me and has shown me the benefits of living a simpler life.”
-Jesse Payne

“Another highlight of the program was our service-learning project at a local orphanage.  When we arrived, we weren’t really sure what to expect, but the children were happy to see us and by the end of the afternoon, no one wanted to get back on the bus to leave!  Personally, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of the trip!”
-Natalie Schuetz

“This program has exceeded all I had hoped for and has only helped to augment my love of Panama by giving me the opportunity for deeper cultural immersion.  I have had the occasion to live Panama City the way that Panamanians do; I have learned my way around this city as if it is my home; I have even participated in the curiosity that is the Panamanian census.  Through my time here, I have come to feel at home in Panama, and that is when a culture really comes to life.”
-Rosslyn Steinmetz

“Even though Panama provided a wonderful and convenient laboratory for me to practice my Spanish and delve into cultural studies, the classes that I took provided great reinforcement for my learning.  In the classroom, many of the phenomena that I experienced were explained and placed into an academic context.  This was extremely helpful in making sense of the entire experience and understanding why things happened in the way they did.  The professors were knowledgeable about Panama and culture in general and were willing and eager to integrate our own experiences into class discussions.  This influenced my learning exponentially and encouraged me to not only be critical of the things I saw in Panama but to embrace them and to gain a qualitative understanding of them.”
-Le’Keldric Thomas

“The trip to Panama is one that I will never forget. I have experienced a wonderful city and I have many memories that I will always cherish.”
-Lesa Varie

“Although I have been abroad, traveling and studying, I had only been to Europe.  This was my first time visiting Latin America.  The differences between my own culture and the cultures in Europe are amazing.  The entire viewpoint of life is so very different than our own.  The people in Panama seem to be much more relaxed and accepting of life than we are in the states… This trip has opened my eyes to an entire new world and new way of looking at life.”
-Alex Wells

“During my stay in Panama I not only participated in my Panamanian Culture and Intercultural Communication classes, but I also had many rewarding travel and interaction experiences as well. From traveling to an indigenous village to experience the traditions and daily happenings of the Emberá tribe first-hand to spending three hours playing with children from a local orphanage, my trip to Panama has been both informative and fulfilling. The camaraderie I forged with my fellow students, my absorption of the local flavor, and the overwhelming sense of intercultural unification made my study abroad in Panama an unforgettable experience.”
-Rebecca Wells