Panama: Feeling Connected

Submitted by Chloe Hundley on the 2020 winter session study abroad program in Panama sponsored by the Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures…

Our final week in Panama was extremely busy, but an amazing end to the program. During our last few days at Aldeas, I spent most of my time making friendship bracelets with the kids and teaching them to dance. We also went around to all of their houses to see what they needed us to buy for them so that we could get them gifts before we left. Overall, I had an incredible time at Aldeas and really learned a lot from the kids there and had so much fun playing with them every week. Even though a lot of them come from tough family situations, they were always so respectful and excited to be with us every day and taught us a lot about their culture. A lot of them were curious about the United States since they don’t get to leave the country often, so it was fun to compare both countries with each other.

Since this was also the final week of classes, we took a field trip to Mi Pueblito, which is a sacred area, so that we could recite the poem Al Cerro Ancón by Amelia Denis de Icaza, a Panamanian poet, in front of her statue. All of our professors came with us too, so they could teach us about the culture and history behind the poem. After that, some friends and I spent the weekend at Playa Blanca, which was about an hour and a half away from Panama City. While we mostly went just to relax, we also had a great time making friends with locals and practicing our Spanish with them.

On Monday night, we had our farewell dinner with our professors and host families. It was an amazing night to reflect on this past month with everyone and be together for the last time. On our way home, I talked a lot with my host Mom about everything that had happened, and we realized how even though Panama and the United States are different in a lot of ways, the people are still pretty similar. Although I don’t typically eat beans, rice, and plantains at every meal or dance to salsa in the United States, everyone was always so welcoming that I never felt too out of place. This was one of the best months of my life and, while I’m sad it’s over, I will appreciate everything I learned here for the rest of my life.

The view from Mi Pueblito
A group of students and our director at Mi Pueblito
The view at Playa Blanca