Tiffani Lewis-Lockhart is a student at the University of Richmond and an ISA Today alumni guest blogger. Tiffani studied abroad in Panama City, Panama, on the ISA Summer 2 2012 program.
1) Try Everything. The food, the places, the activities. Try it all! Take in as much as you can, because it’s new. You might not like all of it, but that’s the worst-case scenario. But you’ll be glad you tried it. I know I was!
2) Talk to Strangers. This is something that initially made me uncomfortable, as I’m not big on talking to strangers. But Panama’s a foreign country, and everyone is a stranger. You’re going to have to talk to people, and people here are extremely warm and friendly. Obviously use your discretion, but part of your experience should be getting to know locals and getting to hear their stories.
3) Take Taxis. Taxis are going to be pretty essential to getting around in Panama City. Save the phone numbers of one or two that you are safe and you like, and you won’t have to stand around waiting. If possible, try to talk to your taxi drivers. I mean some of them are quiet and stone faced at first, but most I met were talkative and friendly. Doing that will not only make the ride go by faster, it may also help determine your rate.
4) Take Tons of Pictures! This goes without saying.
5) Expect the Unexpected. There’s more than a good chance that studying abroad in Panama will be different than what you’re expecting. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. Embrace it.
Panama was definitely an experience I won’t forget, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted, but that’s just an excuse to come back! I’m currently planning a shorter trip for next summer. I learned a lot about myself, my family and the world in general. And with Vanessa Holness, I had the best Resident Director in the land!
I’ve caught the traveler’s bug, and now I want to travel the world. Mexico, Sweden, Italy, Japan, I want to do it all. But I suppose I’ve got to get this graduation thing out of the way first!