I love Kalu Yala. This internship was an incredible experience and easily one of the best and most impressionable experiences of my life. That being said nothing is perfect, and to expect Kalu Yala to be a perfect community perfectly mingled with nature would simply be untrue. There are many problems with Kalu Yala, but come on, if you're applying to build an experimental town in the jungle, how can you possibly expect the place to be 10/10 perfect?
Program effectiveness: (Business program)
The business program is what you make of it. It has the potential to be amazingly good for your business acumen or it has the potential to be almost pointless. If you use your time wisely you will learn a lot about small business management and be able to play a part in the businesses around you. Programs are divided into two major components: Director-led projects and independent projects. The first feels a lot more like a traditional internship where you get assigned tasks and you have to work in teams to get that completed (thankfully, no mandatory need to grab coffee for anyone). This is where you can learn how mundane business tasks are important to a business and this is probably what you can put on your resume for future employers. Your independent project is much more for you. The way the program lays out your independent project is very good for entrepreneurial development. It forces you to seek help where you would need it and provides you with business principles you will need in any business. This is very good for practical applications in future jobs, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Once again, how much you learn on a professional level is completely based on how much time you're going to invest in thinking about the projects put before you and how much you actively invest in your projects. Personally I found it very difficult to put some of the things I learned onto my resume, but it was very helpful in interviews and actual on the job applications.
Infrastructure of Kalu Yala is lacking in terms of modern first world comforts. Logistics are often confusing and technology (wifi, electricity, etc.) is unreliable. But you're in the middle of the jungle. Don't apply if you aren't willing to step away from technology a couple times a week (I for one, desired a break with technology). Also, some things will seem very rudimentary (like the "laundry" system, or the compost toilets), but hey if it works it works. They've hired a lot of staff to help you in anyway that you need it, whether it be physically, spiritually, or if you need help with your project. Staff is very willing to help and are a great resource. However, executive management and short-term decisions of Kalu Yala is questionable at times. You will question the decisions or short-term trajectories of Kalu Yala and how it will affect the community. However that is a problem in every quick growing start-up and every organization trying to change the world for the better. You just have to trust the company and do your part to make it better. Oh and Panama is expensive for a Central American country. They use the US Dollar and there are SO many things you will want to buy - especially in the jungle, so be prepared for that.
Health & Safety:
There aren't any major health or safety concerns that should worry you too much, however when you get here, you'll feel like there are problems. Jungle stuff will happen. Infections, rashes, bug bites, jungle rot are going to happen to some people in your community, but really, it's not that bad and staff will deal with it, even if it feels like they aren't - and there will be times where it feels like they aren't.
I loved daily life here, maybe too much. Like I loved it so much that I just didn't know how to adjust back to the States. You won't have another experience where you are so deeply in tune with nature and like-minded people. However the jungle life is not for everyone. Small things like 8 different flies trying to commit suicide on your leg at once is going to get to you. Things will mold, and you will always be dirty (don't bring white clothes). There are times where you think people aren't as professional as they should be (that's an issue to some, and a plus to others). You're going to be upset by the trash accumulated around camp. But at the same time, you're going to learn to love rain, love dipping in the river, love planting trees, hiking and exploring the world, playing soccer with locals, sleeping in a hammock, and eating the most delicious vegetarian food you've ever had. And the people, oh the people. They will instill in you a sense of love, connection, and confidence that you'll crave for a long time. And I'm sure it wasn't just my semester where amazing people came together. The type of people this place attracts are seriously just extremely conscious, lovable, talented people.
I wanted to post an in-depth, unbiased review because I really wish I had one when I was researching this place. Viceland & reddit told me this place was a scam, while online reviews were all too good to be true. It was confusing and it almost made me not go. But I am so glad I went. If you feel an urge to come to Kalu Yala, do it. You won't regret it, just don't come in with expectations that this place will be perfect - it won't be. Kalu Yala wasn't everything I dreamed it would be, but it became the place of my dreams (seriously, when I got back, I couldn't stop dreaming of Kalu Yala for 3 weeks).