No other country in the world connects the Atlantic and Pacific the way that Panama does. This Central American country links the two oceans with the help of the Panama Canal, a manmade waterway that cuts through the country and is considered to be one of the most important boons to modern maritime trade. This unique East-meets-West setting makes Panama the perfect study abroad destination for students interested in a broad range of courses like international relations, tropical ecology, biodiversity, and conservation studies.
Geography & Demographics
After hundreds of years in turmoil — from the time of its earliest settlers (the Chibchan, Chocoan and Cueva peoples) through its conquest in the hands of Spain, to the dawn of its independence — Panama is now a bustling melting pot of races. Thanks in part to the government policy of offering price discounts to foreigners, particularly retirees, Panama is a popular destination for seniors and travelers on a budget.
Studying in Panama
Panama has 88 higher education institutions, including the University of Panama, the West Coast University-Panama, the Technological University of Panama and Florida State University-Panama. Its Ciudad de Saber (City of Knowledge) is a government-sponsored cluster of educational institutes, technology companies, and international organizations like the United Nations and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Florida State University has several international education programs in Panama City, including one that caters directly to those who want to spend their first year at FSU studying abroad. In Panama, classes are taught in English although the campus does offer courses in other foreign languages.
The School for Field Studies has a pilot semester program at Bocas del Toro, a province of Panama discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Under the Tropical Island Biodiversity and Conservation Studies program, students learn about the different species of plants and animals found on the Panama isthmus. Bocas del Toro provides the perfect setting for such a course with its myriad reefs, mangroves and rivers … not to mention wide white-sand beaches.
If staying at a more urban location while studying tropical ecology, marine ecosystems and biodiversity conservation is more to your liking, go and check out the SIT Study Abroad program in Panama City. The course offers students an opportunity to study diverse wildlife in dense tropical forests and deep tropical waters. This includes trips to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Bocas del Toro.
Panama offers lots of options for learning Spanish. One notable institute is the Habla Ya Spanish School, which has a program in Boquete that is split into different sub-courses catering to a wide assortment of travelers. There’s a 6- to 20-week crash course for beginners, and a Latin cultural and Spanish immersion program. They even offer an eco-adventure Spanish pack that can be taken up with any course. The pack includes a zipline canopy tour in Palo Alto, a whitewater river-rafting run in Chiriqui Viejo, and a rock climbing and rappelling trip to Bajo Mono.