Leia Schultz is a student at Hofstra University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Leia is currently studying abroad with ISA in Panama City, Panama.
Everyone learns about its construction in a classroom as a young student, and is taught its historical significance for its capacity to link the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, cutting through the land that joins North and South America. Allowing massive ships to pass through its waters utilizing natural gravity and a system of gated compartments, called locks, the Panama Canal today is still a vital route used to interconnect trade ways of the world.
After hearing about the Canal throughout my life, I was eager to visit and see for myself this famous landmark in Panama. I went to the Miraflores Visitor Center, a place that allows visitors to watch vessels pass through the Canal. It was quite crowded the day I visited; clearly it is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the area. My experience at Miraflores began as I watched a short 3-D video presentation that briefly recapped the Canal’s history and how the lock system functions. The last part of the video presented future plans for the Panama Canal, which at this time is undergoing an expansion project to allow larger ships pass through its waters.
A visit to the Canal is a very slow-paced and relaxing trip. There are a couple different observation decks from which to watch a ship (or two or three or four, if you have the time) get guided through the Canal. This process happens quite gradually, so there is plenty of time to take photos. During my visit at the Canal I checked out the museum that is a main attraction at Miraflores. Made up of four levels, this museum is an interesting account of what made and today makes the Panama Canal so great. It not only recounts the construction of the Canal, but also highlights the necessity of the biodiversity and natural features that allow it to operate.
It was cool being able to see how the Panama Canal really works. Although I learned about it in school, actually getting to watch ships pass through the Canal at Miraflores was a special experience. Being at Miraflores I felt that I was at an important international site, witnessing the passageway that helps to link the world’s vessels and peoples.