What was an average workday like? Did you get a chance to mingle with the locals?
Posted by Ken Williams 7 years 6 months ago
For a business intern that stays in the city most of the time you really set your own schedule with approval from your program advisor. The expectation is that you will work on a project(s) 9-5. There is a good chance you may change, modify, or create multiple projects. A few times a week there are group meetings to go over ideas and to provide teaching moments. We were given a great book to read a chapter a week and discuss. You will really be bonding with your city family so time flies as you all help each other and explore the city.
You have the freedom to make your schedule as long as it makes sense to your project.
A normal day would be making it to the 9am meeting where we discuss or daily goals together. Then breaking off and working on a project/research - meet again for lunch (provided on site) talk over ideas with the group and to continue research. That might be taking a after lunch trip to a location or some days you might work out of a cafe in Casco Viejo. There are often field trips etc. Often the advisors will try to find events/people that fit what you are interested so you will meet or visit them.
I can't express how awesome the Panama City location is. It is in the heart of the city with bus routes, grocery stores, malls, etc. So yes you can mingle with the locals here. Kalu Yala has a ton of connections and one of the best things to do was roam the city. Parque Urraca is right across the street and that has access to the new Cinta Costera which is a huge water front exercise area and social area. If you need to go somewhere taxi's are plentiful right at the front of the building.
Panama is so vibrant right now and being in the city there is so much to see. Weekends are free to do as you please and we usually took trips to the beaches or mountains each weekend.
My average workday during that Panamanian dry season was a dream in paradise. The dry season months are about January to May, when the rainforest stops raining nonstop, so you can enjoy the sun everywhere. I don't know what the wet season feels like for interns, but I heard it's more difficult to enjoy the sun (although you definitely won't get sunburns, and still enjoy city life at much cheaper costs than the USA for similar quality).
The average workday out in the jungle was fun. All the fun features of a group of college-age interns in the jungle are there, while still getting many good works done. From outdoor recreational interns working alongside me as a biology intern, I focused on building a water plant to sustain a new village of 500 people, as well as building ornithology studies of bird count stations. The recreational (physical education) interns would make beautiful hiking trails into the jungle, and bamboo rafts or archery targets with tropical hardwoods.
Definitely many local campesinos (farmers living in the jungle) came to meet us and have good times every evening. Ramon and Dario would come with their tame parrot of the jungle, and they would be riding donkeys and wearing straw hats, just like in the story of Don Quixote. The evenings would be free to drink Balboa and Abuelo (Panamanian spirits), and have jolly good times with both the jungle locals as well as city locals for the city internship side (I would travel there and meet them there too in the capital). We would camp out in the jungle in the huts we built. Those buildings were our progress to making this ecotourist village with American interns.
I definitely feel very positive to have had that awesome experience. I had also wanted to try Australia, but most internship programs there cost more than double (I heard it's $5000 to be in Australia while it's $2000 to visit Panama). Just make sure to have a bit of mosquito spray and everything will be okay. Mosquitos are in Australia too.
I look forward to another chance to travel big in the spring of 2017 after graduation for sure. I would gladly visit Panama again at Kalu Yala.