Why I’m Glad I Did My Study Abroad in Panama
By Alice Beth Stankovitch
As an undergrad, I did my study abroad in Panama with Kalu Yala– a sustainable town-building start-up and academic institute in the jungle. While my time with Kalu Yala was invaluable, being in Panama infused these extra benefits into my study abroad experience.
Often called the “Hub of the Americas,” Panama is a surreal location to spend an academic semester. From white-sand beaches and primordial jungle to the dazzling skyline of Panama City, Panama offers the ideal mix of nature, culture, and opportunity. Studying abroad in Panama makes the best of all of it– delivering you into the heart of one of the most progressive and exciting countries in Latin America.
I get to witness a country’s fast progress.
It’s not often you get to experience a country in the throes of advancement. Being in Panama offers you front row seats to one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. This small yet mighty isthmus is an increasingly major global player– with a robust economy, strong government, and an explosion of emerging markets. Watching the evolution unfold is a rare privilege. You can literally see progress happen before your eyes. You can also take part in it. Part of Panama’s success arguably lies in its foreigner-friendliness, making this a haven for entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in the world.
I made countless international friends and contacts.
Panama is a super diverse country. You’ll meet interesting people from around the world– travelers, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, the creative class. They’re all here, more or less, for the same reasons. Whether passing through or setting up shop, it’s hard to resist Panama’s thriving economy, ambitious atmosphere, and supreme natural offerings. After a few weeks in Panama, you’ll have met people from just about every corner of the planet. Couchsurfing and (job hunting) just got a lot more interesting.
I traveled to some incredible places.
Whatever magical landscape you’ve been mentally inserting yourself into, Panama’s got it. (Except snow. Head north.) Insane nature, fascinating culture, islands and jungle and sloths oh my. You can surf in Bocas del Toro, go rock climbing in Boquete, dance with indigenous tribes in San Blas, and ride glass elevators up 64 stories to bougee nightclubs in the sky. As far as beauty and entertainment go, Panama has got you covered. Bonus: Panama’s relatively small; you could do all this in a few weeks and on the cheap. Minus the bougee nightclub thing.
I got a taste of Latin nightlife.
You know the song Despacito? (If you’re reading this in Summer 2017, of course you do.) Imagine Latin nightlife as one big Despacito song, except everyone around you actually knows the words. Seriously, Panama nightlife is wild. Panama City is a bangin’ metropolis complete with rooftop nightclubs, trendy restaurants, and the best kind of seedy bars. Elsewhere in Panama, surf towns like Bocas del Toro and Playa Venao offer their own flavor of after-dark vibes.
I worked on my Spanish en los calles.
Sure, in Panama City and tourist spots you can find someone who speaks English. Chances are, though, you’ll get so into it, you’ll be eager to practice your español. Pues, Panama is a great place to do it. With a super diverse population – incluyendo latinos– your ear begins to pick up on the nuances between different dialects. Doesn’t hurt that Panamanians are super friendly, either, and usually down to help walk a gringo through their first drink order. Anyway, as the old joke goes– if you can understand Spanish in Panama, you can understand it anywhere. Bonus: Kalu Yala offers Spanish classes for students of its study abroad program.
I could live and travel on a budget.
As a study abroad student, I was on a tight budget. My parents helped with my tuition (thanks guys!) but I was on my own for travel and spending money. If you have to be on a budget somewhere, Panama is a good choice. While luxury and long islands are around to tempt you, you can live and travel on the cheap in Panama. It’s less expensive than most U.S cities, and certainly anywhere you’d want to be in Europe. If you happen to be from the U.S, the convenience is real. A direct flight from most major cities, and the economy runs on the U.S dollar. Bonus: Kalu Yala study abroad is on average $456 / week less expensive when compared to nine popular study abroad programs. That helped.
Kalu Yala is building the world’s most sustainable modern town in the Panama jungle. We’re looking for students and entrepreneurs to help us do it. Download the guide below to learn more about Kalu Yala’s 13 academic programs.