AFS Year and Semester High School Abroad in Panama

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Year & Semester: Spend a semester in Panama to skyrocket your Spanish by living with a host family and attending a local high school. With one of the highest literacy rates in the region (97%), you will likely be surrounded by peers who are eager to learn and teachers who are eager to help. During your time in Panama, your local volunteers will organize activities that may include trips to the San Blas islands on the Caribbean coast and the Panama Canal. Teenagers take school seriously for the most part, so you will have a good chance to grow close with classmates in particular. School friends usually form study groups that meet after school in their homes, especially before important exams. Your study group may organize weekend activities, too, as weekends are the time for parties and socializing.

Gap community service: The vast majority of Panamanians are mestizos, people of mixed indigenous and European descent. The remainder is a diverse mix of West Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and American people, a sign of the international commerce that the Panama Canal attracted. This program gives you the opportunity to share in and contribute to the life of a community in Panama by living and working alongside its members in a community-based service organization. You will be placed with an organization based on your personal interests and experience, and will have the opportunity to learn new skills that will be useful across a broad spectrum. Past participants in Panama have worked mostly at rural primary schools doing manual tasks, building and refurbishing classrooms and other facilities.

Summer community service: This four-week program will give you a glimpse into Panamanian life through working alongside friends to make a difference in a community. Panamanian food reflects the influence of the different cultural groups that have settled in the country. Rice is the staple of the diet and meals also may include meat, beans, platanos (a type of starchy banana) and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and cabbage. This program gives you the opportunity to share in and contribute to the life of a community in Panamá by living and working alongside its members in a community-based service organization. Community service will take place each morning at a nearby elementary school. Activities could include working with the students or helping with the upkeep of the grounds.

Summer global prep: This summer, join the AFS Group Program in Panama for a two-week international culture and service program. Take part in cultural activities, tour the Panama Canal, and visit the Emberá indigenous community. A truly life-changing experience, this one-of-a-kind program will allow you to transform community service into global service. You will have the opportunity to stay with a host family while in Panama. By spending time with your family in the evenings and on weekends, you will have the opportunity to further improve your language learning and learn about local cultures. This immersion offers a unique way to skyrocket your learning by placing it in immediate context.

Questions & Answers


based on 3 reviews
  • Growth 9.3
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 9
  • Safety 9
Showing 1 - 3 of 3
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Highly Recommended

My semester in Panama in high school started my love for languages and the world. It set me on the path to living in many other countries and studying cultures and languages in college. I learned the power of hospitality and tolerance and gained a second family and group of friends. AFS is so unique because it's a volunteer run organization and that means that the support staff and host families truly care. I miss Panama so much!

Yes, I recommend this program
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AFS Panama Set Me on my Path

This abroad experience in high school was formative in my growth as a teenager. I now work in international exchanges, because of the overwhelmingly positive experience I had on my semester abroad with AFS. Intercultural experience is so important - I learned so much as an exchange student, and while it wasn't all easy by any stretch of the imagination, through the challenges of going abroad I grew as a person.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Panama Community Service

Dolega Panama AFS went out of their way to give our group a fantastic experience. A great mix of community service, learning, culture, and fun. Can’t say enough good things about my experience. We cleaned, painted and scraped a classroom in an elementary school. We learned traditional dancing while dressed in traditional clothing. We visited a sugar cane production farm. Our host family has continued to be a part of our lives.

How can this program be improved?
I understand it no longer exists. How sad. I would love to be a group leader again.
Yes, I recommend this program


AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS...