Are you a college student or recent graduate looking for an intensely cool experience?
Have you seen ads in your campus to study abroad for anything, even for science (particularly biology and environmental science), but didn't know where to start?
Do you love Spanish, beaches, jungles, deep friendships, and being in harmony with the culture around you, while saving money big time for international travel?
If you answer yes to these questions, Kalu Yala is seriously the right place for you, no matter who you are and what people thought you could do with your life! You can reinvent yourself at K.Y. and grow to be the happiest person who can be, with a vision for success and a refreshed body from the stress of your hometown life.
My daily experiences in the biology internship group included the chance to build a water system to nourish local villagers from the ground up with close team members, and to establish your very own pilot project of science research at local hydrological companies including Indicasat and FSU's GIS department (I personally did this research alongside another team member for her study abroad program in hydrology, which involved collecting water samples throughout the country and analyzing their quality in the lab). This gives you the wonderful opportunity to tour Panama, learn to use its inexpensively good transportation system, speak good Spanish, and visit the most beautiful waterfalls and tropical forests you could have ever imagined!
Panama is one of the safest Latin American countries as it has the Panama Canal and plenty of revenue to eliminate crime and poverty in this fine nation. Plus, it rivals even Mexico for fine tourist destinations that you will have a chance to go to, including Bocas Del Toro, San Carlos, and San Blas.
If science internships are not your interest, you can still have other interesting opportunities such as business interning (affiliated with the TED-X Organization, a reputable movement for accomplishing the dreams of visionaries). My personal experience with those business interns has been to work together to sell the water plant I helped create to our new, sustainable village. Beyond the business and biology programs, many other great programs exist in Kalu Yala, including the Community Outreach program, where I personally joined 20 other soccer fans to play Latin-style soccer and to help teach English even. The Panamanians here are very welcoming to visitors from abroad, so please visit if you have a heart for adventure!
This internship is the most affordably priced program to live abroad for a full semester (3 months), and offers an alliance of coworkers who will give you the peace of mind of having a family abroad who will protect you if you get sick or need help. Other internships may include NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership Society), or Kumbaya, but the cost of NOLS may be about $5k compared to the $2k I invested in Kalu Yala. And, Kumbaya isn't even abroad (it is within the USA). For the hundred days you will spend in Panama via the Kalu Yala organization, the cost of living turns out to be about $20 per day, while having something worthy to put on your resume.
You will even have bragging rights to say that you survived living in the jungles of Panama should you choose the biology program, and to have genuine collegiate experiences that you may have missed out on in a smaller university or because you were too timid before your undergraduate years ended to be adventurous. No matter who you are (such as an Asian-American or other minority), I have seen firsthand how positive this place feels to catalyze your way to becoming a healthier and more sociable person.
If you are hesitating to apply for the Kalu Yala Internship program simply because you aren't sure if it is a legitimate program, then I reassure you that you will be fulfilled with its authenticity!
There will be tons of insects biting you and peer pressure to go beyond your comfort zone to be more adventurous than you might have previously experienced as a studious person. For example, a regular mile hike across the mountain is encouraged; I had difficulty to find a decent set of hiking boots prior to arriving. Nevertheless, Panama City has modern selections of Columbia sporting goods and even Gore-Tex boots. Be prepared to combat the mosquitos downtown with deet and the ticks in the mountains with permethrin cream and spray. Make sure to take some of these medicines with you to stay healthy; no man is strong enough to endure all the toxins of those insects!