SIT: Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems

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About

Experience the critical environmental and social issues affecting one of the world’s most diverse ecological systems.

This program provides students an immersive opportunity to study tropical ecology up close in one of the world’s most diverse wildlife and plant environments. Topics of study include: tropical forest ecology; marine and wetland ecology; community resource conservation; indigenous resource use; human-natural resource interface; and the Panamanian environmental movement.

Engage in seven weeks of field study. Study at world-renowned research institutions.
The program includes courses at the highly regarded Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Toro and Barro Colorado Island and at EARTH University in Costa Rica, the foremost sustainable agricultural college in the hemisphere.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.75 Rating
based on 12 reviews
  • Academics 8.1
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 8 of 12
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Morgan
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Experience for Travel/Field Work/Friends

SIT Panama is an incredible abroad program for students who love the environment and traveling. You will learn how to do all kinds of field work, learn/improve your Spanish, and make incredible friends and memories for a semester. The program is very travel-heavy, and you'll likely only stay in one place for a maximum of one week. You and the other students will be learning in the field with professors who are at the top of their field. You will have plenty of time for exploring and relaxing in various towns and the City.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We saw so many tropical animals, like toucans, sloths, ant eaters, monkeys, parrots, etc.
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Katie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

SIT PANAMA: Adventure of a Lifetime

What I loved about this program is the extensive traveling and unique experiences that this program provides. We travelled all over Panama and even some of Costa Rica, seeing and doing just about everything you could imagine: hiking, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, sight seeing, and of course, learning. This program takes you beyond the traditional classroom setting and teaches you way more than coursework. It got me out of my comfort zone in the best way and taught me the importance of living in the moment.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be flexible and be able to go with the flow in order to maximize your enjoyment of this program!
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Bimini
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Panama will be a part of me forever, and I can't wait to go back!

This was everything I could have hoped for and more in a study abroad experience. I was nervous about leaving everything behind and coming to Panama, but it turned out to be the absolute best decision of my life. The program staff were extremely laid back and allowed us to have an authentic, incredible experience. Every day we did something incredible, exciting, and new that left me wiser than I was before leaving the US. I have a greater confidence in myself and have made forever friendships. I cannot recommend this program enough.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go with the flow and enjoy every moment for what it is. Choose joy in every moment, even the seemingly-tough ones. There is always something beautiful and new to see and learn in Panama.
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Jacob
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Fantastic Environmental, Social, and Life Experience

This program, which focuses on traveling and in-the-field learning, provides students with an incredible opportunity to not only study a diverse set of habitats and ecosystems, but also to live among and alongside the people who interact with them on a daily basis, displaying multiple sides to the education provided by this program. Aly Dagang, the program's director, is a true hero, providing unbiased, eloquent education while supporting social and personal activities/development. You will gain great confidence in yourself and abilities while learning in some of the most beautiful environments, spending the first two months of your program exploring the country with your fellow students and professors and the final month researching anything you could desire or imagine, developing independence and allowing for incredible self-exploration; I could not have asked for a better experience.

Lucy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life-changing, unique semester

This program was very travel-intensive, which I liked. We traveled around Panama (and briefly Costa Rica) to different locations to stay with homestay families, conduct interviews, and to learn about different ecological field research methods. My Spanish skills improved a lot, and the program allowed me to explore a wide range of fields. The program staff really encourages hands-on learning and experiences over stressing about grades. The independent study project was a very academically and personally challenging, but also very rewarding, experience. It was incredibly fun, rigorous, and unique! Looking at this program on the website can make it seems intimidating, but it is set up in a very manageable way that helped me learn and grow a lot.

What would you improve about this program?
I would try to improve the Spanish class; it could be boring at times.
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Haley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Study Abroad Experience of a LIFETIME

SIT Panama was exactly what I was looking for in a study abroad program. I wanted a program that really immersed me in environmental/biological field work and Central American culture. Being able to get hands-on experience working in all kinds of ecosystems like mangroves, coral reefs, and tropical forests was something that I really could not have done anywhere else. One of the best parts of SIT Panama is the 7 weeks of travel to various parts of Panama and Costa Rica, which exposed us as students to all these different ecosystems. It was an awesome way to figure out what kind of work and research I liked doing. My Spanish also improved IMMENSELY thanks to homestays and interacting with local people. I always felt safe during my time in Panama, and the staff on this trip are incredible. Aly, the academic director, is AMAZING and she is so invested in the success and well-being of her students. If you are looking for a study abroad experience to get valuable hands-on research and field work experience, truly get to know a country intimately, learn about sustainability, and improve your Spanish, this is the program for you.

What would you improve about this program?
Some classes could've been a little more structured and some of the professors could've been clearer in their expectations for the class. Other than that, I really have no complaints!
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Nora
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A good first travel experience

I had never traveled outside of the U.S. prior to attending this program. I absolutely loved my experience. This program offers the perfect mix of academics, fun, and adventure. I feel like I learned a lot more about conservation, humans in relation to the environment, and how to conduct environmental research. I came in with some hard science background, however, other people had a great time without that background. I would recommend that you only do this program if you are really interested in research and learning about different ways of doing science. There is definitely a huge social science component, which I really liked as an anthropology major. We were given the opportunity to engage with local communities. It was a challenging program is some ways and pretty fast paced. I felt like the time flew by because there were so many activities and places visited. It is really fun to get to see the different parts of Panama. I want to go to Panama. The program does a really great job of connecting you with local researchers and professionals. I loved the freedom of doing my own research project. As well all the staff are super helpful, supportive, and overall wonderful people. Our academic director was great. If you are worried at all about bonding with people, don't, you get to know people very fast and spend a lot of time in the group. Overall it was an incredible experience, that definitely affected my perspective and has impacted the way I live my life now.

What would you improve about this program?
I think the program could include more contact and time spent with host families. I got the opportunity to practice my Spanish a lot, but I would have loved to spend more time in one community to get to know people better.
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Elaine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A truly unforgettable experience that anyone can sign up for!

I cannot say more positive things about SIT and this program in particular. As a biology major, studying abroad in the tropics is a must, especially if you're interested in biodiversity. When I was considering programs, I was hesitant at first to go to Panama because it did not seem like an obvious choice. However now, I don't regret it at all. All SIT programs are incredibly well structured and defined - the courses follow the syllabi posted on the website very well and you will get a day-by-day calendar schedule of where you will be and what you are doing. SIT is also more "legit" in terms of its academic rigor - I spent a lot of time (especially on excursions) in class and in the field. The tropical ecology and related field methods course allowed me to learn from and do research with Panamanian scientists who are the best in their field in Panama/the tropics and oftentimes are affiliated with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The ISP, or Independent Research Project component of the trip gave me a unique opportunity to develop and propose my own project and was great preparation for writing scientific papers. We also had five homestays that were really amazing and manageable even for me, who came in with no prior knowledge of Spanish. You also take a Spanish class which is more like small-group tutoring, which improved my language skills immensely. The hands-on, experiential academic and cultural experience really immersed me into the ecosystems and cultures of Panama. I was taken out of my comfort zone, made life-long friends, and really developed my skills as a biologist. I wouldn't hesitate to do this trip again!

What would you improve about this program?
The program director, Aly, always seems overburdened with work - I wish that she had another assistant that could help her manage grading and other responsibilities.