Republic of Panama
nt to S tuden t Guide
Study Abroad with Us! This guide compiled by the Florida State Univeristy International Programs office. Lead Guide Editors: Kyle Rausch, Quinton Campbell, and Katie Okonski Submissions from student participants by: Andres Bascumbe, Brian Burns-Foye, Quinton Campbell, Caleb Combs, Katie Fowler, Patrick Johnsen, Sarma Klimanis, and Luke Liddy Design by: Jennifer Ouzts
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Florida State University
Study Abroad with Us!
Letter of Introduction Congratulations on your acceptance to an FSU International Program! In a few months, Panama will soon be your home, offering you a unique perspective of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Instead of merely being a foreign traveler, you will be a resident as you attend your courses and work towards learning the Panamanian way of life. Studying abroad is a unique opportunity that affords participants a great chance of assimilating into one’s host culture while allowing for expansive personal and academic growth. This guide has been compiled by students like you who have participated on an FSU program in Panama. It is our hope that by reading through the experiences and suggestions of other students that your own time in the city will be maximized. There is so much to see and do and unfortunately, it will be over before you know it, so make sure you read through how to prepare for your time abroad and what to do once you arrive! Don’t forget to also take some great pictures and notes about new places that you discover. One of the best things about studying abroad is the memories that you will undoubtedly make about places that became all your own. If you find such places, make sure you let International Programs know so that way you can help future students to have as great a time in Panama as you will.
Table of Contents Letter of Introduction...........................................................................................................2 Chapter 1: Introduction.......................................................................................................3 Government Demographics.................................................................................3 Chapter 2: Preparing for Life Abroad..................................................................................3 Chapter 3: FSU Program Information.................................................................................4 Chapter 4: Practical Information.........................................................................................5 Transportation....................................................................................................5 Banking..............................................................................................................6 Chpater 5: Health, Fitness, and Safety..............................................................................6 Chapter 6: Things To Do....................................................................................................7 Nightglife..............................................................................................................8 Food...................................................................................................................9 Checklist of Things to Do...................................................................................10 Chapter 7: Diversity Abroad...............................................................................................11 Chapter 8: Travel................................................................................................................12 Chapter 9: Coming Home...................................................................................................12 Resume Building................................................................................................13 Garnet and Gold Scholar Society & Global Pathways Certificate......................13 Additional Resources.........................................................................................................13
By reading through these pages and eventually experiencing it for yourself you will soon see that Panama is one of our favorite countries in the world…so here’s why! Buen viaje! Kyle Rausch Panama Programs Coordinator
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Florida State University
Study Abroad with Us!
Chapter 1: Introduction “The center of the world, heart of the universe”, Panama is a hidden gem in the otherwise tourist-oriented region of Central America with a history instrumental to the progress and development of the surrounding countries as well as the entire world as a whole. In a country that connects not only North and South America but also the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, its numerous conquests, conflicts, and controversies have contributed to a melting pot of cultures as diverse as they come in a nation no larger than South Carolina. In addition to extraordinary cultural diversity, the geography and environment of Panama provide one with the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, climb one of Central America’s highest mountains, and explore the mystery of one of the densest rainforests in the world in a given weekend. The experiences to be had are truly unique to the rest of the world, and as a participant of any of the various FSU International Programs in Panama, the opportunities of all of these possibilities are at one’s fingertips.
Country/City At-A-Glance The country’s capital, Panama City is recognized as one of the economic centers of Latin America, largely stimulated by trade going through the canal. At first glance, one may look at its skyline and envision its assortment of skyscrapers as being necessary for economic expansion, but in reality the vast majority of Panama City’s high rise buildings are residential, helping to accommodate the metro area’s population of about 1,273,000, about 37% of the country’s population as a whole. While the city’s banking district has the allure comparable to some of the largest cities in the world, its historic neighborhood of Casco Viejo has a charm that truly needs to be experienced regardless of the length of one’s stay. Following the invasion of Henry Morgan in the 17th century, the residents at the time needed to seek better defense against potential future invasions, and the location of Casco Viejo provided that protection. Decades later, when early constructions of the Panama Canal began under French supervision, Casco Viejo served as the neighborhood for those working on the canal. As a result of such foreign influence, this fortified section of the city has an energy and architecture reminiscent of the French Quarter of New Orleans or Havana, Cuba. Home to some of the city’s best restaurants and museums, one truly feels as if they’re walking through history whether they’re just “Panama City’s population is diverse to the point that it allows visitors to experience all of the culture within the city itself as well as the cultural diversity of the countries in the surrounding region.” - Brian Burns-Foye, Biology
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
visiting Casco Viejo for the day or staying in one of its many hotels located in any of the historic buildings in the neighborhood.
The Government/Demographics • The Republic of Panama is a presidential representative democratic repub-
lic, meaning that the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government. • Ricardo Martinelli is the current President of the Republic of Panama, sworn into office in 2009 for a 5-year term. • The Republic of Panama’s population is 3,460,462 (CIA World Factbook figure) • The total metro population of Panama City is 1,272,672. While a week in Panama City wouldn’t be enough to experience all that the city and its neighborhoods have to offer, there’s a culture in the rural part of the country that is completely unique and unlike life in the city. Upon leaving the urban environment of the city and entering the rural landscape (known in Panama as the “interior”), an unmistakable difference is encountered, this change in scenery signaling the change in culture and way of life that comes with the sparsely populated agricultural region of the country. As mentioned earlier, the population of Panama City represents a sizable portion of the country’s citizens, and when the population of the next largest city, Colon, is added to that total, the population of those living outside of these two major metro areas only leaves about 57% of the population living in the rural countryside. Most of these people live in towns and small cities scattered throughout this land, the majority of which are located along the Pan American Highway. Originally planned to traverse the entire landmass that consists of North and South America, it stretches from the northern most parts of Alaska to the very edge of Patagonia. This impressive highway is the longest roadway in the world, except for the fact that there is a section that remains unfinished that is occupied by the Darien rainforest in the east of the country. However, it extends through the entire country west of this forest, and it is as much a part of the culture of the interior as the small towns that are scattered along it.
Chapter 2: Preparing for Life Abroad The idea of studying abroad can be intimidating especially if it is your first time traveling out of the country or perhaps your first semester of college, even for seasoned travelers. For any travel experience it is important to learn at least a little about the culture and history of the country you are going to visit. When you learn about the country you can learn about which areas interest you as well as what particular sites you may want to travel to during your time abroad. A guidebook such a Lonelyplanet book or Moon can be a comprehensive guide not only of what activities are available, but what places are a must see. Even reading the Wikipedia page for Panama can give you new and interesting information. Florida State University
Study Abroad with Us! Before you start packing take a look at what you really need to pack and what can be purchased readily in Panama. There is a limit on the number of bags and their weight that varies with each airline so make sure to find that information ahead of time. Also keep in mind that there are many great crafts and souvenirs to take home, so that having extra space in your bags on the way abroad will be greatly appreciated when you start packing for your return home. Learning about what is taboo or considered inappropriate conversation will help keep you on the good side of Panamanians while abroad. An example would be to not engage in a political conversation unless you are thoroughly versed in the goings on in Panama, especially as an American. Also daily attire is much more conservative than most think of for a tropical climate. Full length pants and dress shirts are common on even the hottest day and shorts and tank tops are almost exclusively seen at the beach. Even though you’ll be sweating as you travel, you will need those extra layers once you get inside any buildings as they are almost all very intensely air conditioned. Planning out your time to make sure you see every part of the country is important but it is also important to plan out your funds. A budget is in integral part of your life abroad as a way to make sure you will not be eating ramen noodles for your last three weeks abroad. Planning for travel and groceries ahead of time will help make your experience much more enjoyable. Take the amount of money that you have put aside for your time abroad and divide it by the number of weeks you will be there. If you know that one weekend you will be going on an excursion with the university you can be more lenient the next week. If you are not exactly fluent in Spanish there is no need to worry. Many students start their time abroad knowing very limited or no Spanish but being submersed in the culture you can easily learn some phrases. It is also good to know that many people in the city do speak English but once you leave the city the number of English speakers drops drastically. Panamanians tend to be very helpful and patient with people who are learning Spanish so even if you are a little intimidated, the effort is appreciated. Learning basic phrases before leaving is helpful, but know that Panamanians speak a different type of Spanish. Each country has their own words or phrases, like each state in the US, and Panamanians are notorious for making up new words by mixing things together. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Some fluent Spanish speakers have trouble understanding what some consider mumbled Spanish. It is a great place to learn Spanish because if you can understand Panamanians, you will be able to understand Spanish from anywhere! Some common phrases that will be good to know before you arrive in Panama include:
• Buenas: Common greeting when entering a store or even to passers by • Que sopa: This is a very Panamanian word that basically means “what’s up.” Normally it would be said, “que paso,” but the Panamanians switch parts of the word around to reverse pa-so to so-pa.
Another way to be prepared and get information on what to expect when you study abroad is by talking to people who have been there! They will be able to tell you about sites or activities not necessarily in your guide book and can also give valuable tips for foreigners. If you are already attending FSU there are many Panamanian students that are studying abroad in the United States and they can be a great resource to find out what unique things there are to do around the country. If not, you can ask for the contact information of recruiters from the International Programs office who have been there, and they will be more than willing to answer any questions you may have. Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Chapter 3: FSU Program Information FSU Panama moved the campus in 2009 to a beautiful location in an area called Ciudad del Saber or City of Knowledge. It was once an American military base but now houses our campus, schools covering students from ages K-12, and many international non-governmental organizations such as UNICEF, WWF, Doctors Without Borders and many more. In addition to being an area of historical importance, the canal is only a few meters away and visible on the walk to school. Searching around at www.ciudaddelsaber.org will give you a better understanding of what the campus will look like. It is on the outskirts of the city which makes taxis slightly more expensive but the benefits of living in this neighborhood outweigh the slight cost difference. The housing in Panama consists of one story town houses with four bedrooms, a living/ dining room and kitchen. Each student has their individual room complete with a bed, linen, desk, chair, lamp, and safe. The housing for students is in an area dominated by offices so there are no families in the immediate area. There are many athletic fields for soccer, ultimate Frisbee, football, baseball and tennis. Ciudad del Saber is a very active place and there are many opportunities to meet Panamanians from outside of the university setting while participating in team sports. The housing is located about a mile from the main university building and a quarter mile from the nearest bus stop. On the walk to school, aside from the possibility of seeing parrots and toucans in the palm trees, you will be able to see ships passing through the canal. On the walk to school there is also a very small store that sells small snacks and beverages. There are also several small restaurants in the same complex that have sandwiches, pizza and even baked goods. One small restaurant that is less frequented but equally delicious is the Rincontico that serves a full Costa Rican style lunch for less than five dollars. Once you reach the study center the FSU library is only a building away. It is always very heavily air conditioned and the staff is always very friendly. It is a great place to study in the evening as very few students use the space. As is the case with the dorms, the internet is not always reliable and when it is functioning it is very slow, sometimes slower than dialup. Understand this going into your experience and realize that the university does everything it can to keep the system up and running and this will help you enjoy your experience. With this, if you have any assignments due online it is best to make sure they are completed and submitted ahead of time because not all professors will accept that the internet was not functioning as a valid excuse. Florida State University
Study Abroad with Us! In the library there are mostly old but interesting books and an up-to-date selection of textbooks in the reference section. It is highly recommended to look to see which books are available at the library before purchasing any from the bookstore. There is a small bookstore within the main building on the first floor that also makes copies. On the second floor is where the main offices of International Programs are and also where you will be able to pick up your mail. It is important to note that mail is the least effective way of communication in Panama and there is a very high chance that you will not even receive mail. Many students that are sent care packages never receive them because they are either lost in transit or arrive after the students have already left (mail can take over three months). It is important to have an emergency backup plan that does not involve mail in the event of lost credit cards or ID’s. A community in and of itself, the City of Knowledge provides students with all of the amenities that facilitate learning, student recreation, and the opportunity to broaden their horizons outside of the classroom. - Quinton Campbell, Exercise Science
There are laundry facilities available but in the event that they happen to be out of service, it may be difficult to get your clothes in as there are two washers and dryers shared by the students living in the town homes. Another option is the lavaderia near the restaurants where laundry can be done if the machines there are available. Although hang-drying clothes may work in United States, it can take up to two or three days for laundry to dry in the Panamanian humidity. For the most convenience possible, it would be best to bring a lot of quarters for laundry as well as to be aware of and to be flexible to the fact that technology and facilities are not the same wherever one may travel. Students that remain aware of this and accept it as part of living in another culture will find themselves less often irritated by inconveniences such as these and find their overall experience to be more enjoyable. All classes are taught in English except specific foreign language classes. The schedule is similar to that of main campus in that classes are offered between 8:00 AM into the late evening and you can build your schedule based on your class needs. On the top floor of the main building there is a computer area and study area for students in between classes, but it is rarely quiet there so if you have serious studying to do your best bet is the library. There are also two vending machines, one with food and one with beverages. There is also a large TV and ping-pong table on the other side of the top floor that is always bustling and provides a great opportunity for meeting other students.
“The campus is a short taxi ride (15 minutes) away from downtown Panama City. It was easy to get a cab. You can call a taxi service or hail one on the street.” – Sarma Klimanis, Nursing
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Chapter 4: Practical Information Transportation Taxis An important thing to have before you get to Panama is a chart that lists taxi prices based on distances traveled between sectors around town. It is good to have this on hand and to be able to use it in order to get fair rates from taxis around town. Bargaining is encouraged with taxi drivers because if you appear American some will try to charge you a higher price than what might be fair. It is critical to determine a price before you get into the car to eliminate confusion or arguments once you arrive at your destination. Making small talk with taxi drivers is one of the best ways for students to practice their Spanish. Buses The buses themselves are a sight to see, typically decorated in graffiti images of Jesus or soccer players and many other flamboyant decorations. These ‘Diablo Rojos’, as they are called by locals, are the most efficient way to get around the city and the country for that matter, if you know where you want to go. Directly outside of Ciudad del Saber a more local bus called the Coopsaca comes about every half hour during the day, but the bus schedule is by no means regulated. This bus will take you to Albrook mall for only a quarter, which is also the bus terminal for the country and services buses that travel as far as Costa Rica. It is always safe to double check with the bus driver when entering to make sure the bus going where you want to go. These buses are not ideal to use when returning from grocery shopping unless you only have a few bags because they are often very crowded. The sight of a bus packed with three people to every seat and the middle aisle full of bodies is something that it is difficult to describe until is seen firsthand. When on buses it is very important to keep your valuables close to your body because it is a very crowded area. On occasion, a kind person will offer to hold one of your grocery bags if you seem to be struggling with it, so if help is offered don’t hesitate to accept it. If you are claustrophobic it would be best to opt for the extra two dollars to take a taxi unless you see an emptier bus. Aside from the Coopsacas, other buses run in routes around the country stopping at popular beaches for a very good price. By going to Albrook Terminal you can simply tell any of the ticket-counter workers where you want to go and they will direct you to the correct ticket booth. If you look especially confused or American you may possibly get a personal escort to the correct bus. The terminal does not accept credit cards so it is important to withdraw money before a trip. It is also fairly simple to travel to Costa Rica from this bus terminal, however tickets for the bus must be bought early. It is a twelve-hour overnight trip and these buses are typically full with passengers. One stipulation of crossing the border is that you have a copy of your ticket from Panama back to the United States because they want to make sure you are not just crossing the border for visa purposes and that you are going to return home at some point. On all buses, but especially longer trips where you may take a nap, it is important to keep all valuables in your lap or on the floor between your feet. By placing a bag in an overhead compartment or shelf, the security of your luggage is compromised so it is best to not risk it and keep your things close.
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Study Abroad with Us! Banking Although Panama is very modern in some aspects, the use of credit cards is not widespread. Whether you’re traveling or eating out at a restaurant, do not assume that you’ll be able to charge your bill or that there will be an ATM or Clave close by if you are outside of the city. It is best to carry small bills with you because some locations may not be able to break a bill larger than a twenty. It is important to note that the currency in Panama is the American dollar, and although they have their own coins, American coins are accepted as well. When withdrawing money from an ATM, you can expect to incur a minimum $4 fee for every transaction. It is highly recommended to open an account in the US with a company that has a branch in Panama, such as HSBC, in order to reduce these fees, especially if you will be staying for longer than a semester. Regardless of your banking situation, you will want to notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel and inquire about international fees, particularly for ATM withdrawals and purchases made with credit cards. Failure to notify your bank that you will be out of the country might lead them to believe that you are a victim of fraud, thus eliciting a stop to be placed on your cards.
Weather There are really only two seasons in Panama: wet and dry. Both seasons are hot and tropical but during the wet season it can be expected to rain for around an hour every day in the early afternoon. Of course days will go by without rain and maybe a few days will pass without sunshine but it really doesn’t change much in your travels. A nice day at the beach will normally be achievable, but on some days you may have to leave earlier in the day. During the dry season, from about January through April, the weather is a little less humid and the chance of rain is still present, but much less expected. Pack appropriate gear for cooler, rainy days and also for sunny beach days. If you make it to the areas of El Valle or Boquete you are in for some very cool weather according to Panamanian standards, and layers will be necessary. If you plan any trips, such as hiking Volcan Baru near Boquete, make sure to research the climate and pack clothing as if you were going winter-like conditions. One of the great things about Panama is that its physical diversity offers everything from the cold mountains to the hot, sandy beaches.
Communication Staying connected to home is very easy: from using the internet and Skype to buying a calling card and using your house phone. Staying connected to other students in Panama is also simple, especially if you have a phone in the United States with a SIM card. If you can get your phone unlocked before you go, you can buy a SIM card that will work within the country and you just recharge the minutes. If you do not have a phone with a SIM card then you can buy one at Albrook mall for around $20. Either way it is important to have a local number because you are unable to call a cell phone from a house phone in Panama. The connection must be between two cell phones or a cell phone can call a land line. You can determine if the number someone gives you is a land line or a cell phone because all cell phone numbers are 8 digits long and begin with a 6, while land lines are the standard 7 digits.
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Chapter 5: Health, Fitness, and Safety Health As with any experience one may have traveling, health is undoubtedly bound to rise as a concern. In the event problems do arise, all students will be covered by the health insurance included with every program fee, and an additional convenience is that Florida State has a long-standing relationship with one of the most renowned hospitals in the city, providing superior care to anyone that may need it. That being said, choosing to study in Panama poses no immediate danger to one’s health. Famous for having some of the world’s cleanest water, one can drink tap water without concern. Also, while it was infamous during the early 20th century for having mosquitoes carrying disease such as yellow fever and malaria, transmission of those diseases is nearly unheard of in the Panama City area and is so rare in the rest of the country that use of mosquito repellent is sufficient to prevent illness. That being said, the transmission of disease is noticeably more common in the Darien Rainforest region, and should one choose to travel in this area, the current precautions should be researched and exercised. As far as daily steps to maintain one’s health, a key part is staying hydrated. Panama is a very hot, tropical country, regardless of the time of year and it is important to make sure to drink plenty of water whether simply walking outside or taking advantage of the many fitness facilities available near the study center.
Fitness Along with the study center and the student housing located in the City of Knowledge, there are a variety of other luxuries accessible to any student studying abroad. In addition to a weight room and basketball court, the City of Knowledge also features outdoor running paths, athletic fields, tennis courts, and even a full size outdoor pool, all within minutes of the student housing. While simply being able to take advantage of these facilities is a privilege, the fact that locals from around the community are also always using them provides such a great opportunity for further cultural experiences, whether it’s joining an ultimate Frisbee league or just joining in a pick-up soccer game with kids from around the neighborhood.
Safety As with any major city, Panama City comes with its fair share of neighborhoods that are considered dangerous. Fortunately, the City of Knowledge is located in one of the safest neighborhoods of the metro area, and if safety was ever a concern before arriving at the study center, efforts are made around the clock to ensure safety in and around the community. In addition to the fact that a separate branch of the Panama City police force has a station in the City of Knowledge, the university has an agreement with a security company that is on duty 24/7, ensuring that nothing is out of the ordinary in the Florida State University
Study Abroad with Us! surrounding neighborhood and community. Both the police and security are only a call away, and upon arrival at the study center all students will be given numbers to reach local police as well as security personnel. Until recently, individual numbers were required to reach the fire department, police, and ambulances but Panama is in the process of adopting a 911emergency system similar to that of the United States. The most current contact information regarding emergencies will also be given to students upon their arrival at the study center. While safety is of the highest priority in the community surrounding the study center, it should be emphasized that, as in any other major city, common sense should be exercised at all times when exploring the city outside the City of Knowledge. As mentioned before, every city has its dangerous neighborhoods. In Panama City, they can be dangerous to the extent that any visitors are advised against entering them. Fortunately, these areas are far out of walking distance, and in the event that a taxi chooses to drive through these neighborhoods, the driver will always advise passengers to exercise caution. That being said, it should be emphasized that nobody, men or women, walks alone at night in any part of the city. Most parts of Panama are relatively safe, however as in any other travel situation, being distinguished as a tourist can result in being a larger target for petty crimes. Of the most severe of these crimes is pick pocketing, which is fairly rare in the city but should never be something that one loses conscience of. Again, if one makes an effort to not stand out as a foreigner and become labeled as someone that’s unfamiliar with their surroundings, problems will rarely arise and personal safety will be of less concern.
Chapter 6: Things To Do
Given its history, Panama has a variety of museums covering topics that range from the country’s political history, the life of its indigenous people, as well as the construction and current function of the Panama Canal.
Museums Miraflores Locks Museum An in depth, hands on experience covering the history and impact of one of the wonders of the world, the Panama Canal. Located in the Miraflores Locks, which are visible from the City of Knowledge, a taxi ride will not only be short but very cheap. Museo de Historia Panameña A museum that has a collection of documents that date back to the colonial era, the union and secession with Colombia, and the signing of the treaty between Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos. Located in Casco Viejo on Calle 7 and Avenida Central Museo de Ciencias Naturales A museum pertaining to the animal and plant life of Panama and the surrounding region, as well as the geological development of the isthmus as its impact today. Located downtown on Calle 30 and Avenida Cuba
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Attractions Aside from being able to walk with a view of the Panama Canal every day, there are a variety of attractions within the area that are completely accessible for your enjoyment. While they are all beyond walking distance, these attractions or further transportation can all be reached by taxi from the City of Knowledge.
Beaches Panama is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in Central America. While Coronado is one of the most famous beach towns, it is one of many and there are a number of beautiful beaches on the Pacific Coast of the country, all of which can be reached by way of the Pan American Highway. A hot spot for real estate, Coronado is famous for its beautiful views and white sand beaches. However, if a quieter, more secluded beach appeals to you, locations such as Pal Mar and Santa Clara are only minutes down the highway and lack nothing in beauty compared to Coronado. All of these locations can be reached by taking a bus from the Albrook bus terminal, a 5 minute taxi ride from the City of Knowledge. Isla Taboga A 45 minute ferry ride from the Amador Causeway, this island is home to what’s considered to be the 2nd Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere and served as a trading post for pirates as well as for explorers during the Colonial era. Its beautiful beach, assortment of small, charming restaurants, and distance from the mainland in its lifestyle and its location make it the perfect opportunity for a day away from the fast-paced lifestyle of the city.
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Study Abroad with Us! Parque Natural Metropolitano Located north of the City of Knowledge, this park was created as a refuge for natural wildlife in the area. It provides the opportunity to see animals of the rainforest just minutes outside of the busy neighborhoods of El Dorado and west of downtown.
Holidays and festivals There are many holidays and festivals around the country that range from fairs of flowers and coffee in Boquete to the worldwide celebration of Carnavales. In order to know what is going on, the best resource is The Visitor or El Visitante, which is a weekly publication in English and Spanish with events happening around the country.
Sports As A Spectator As mentioned previously there are constantly sporting events happening around Ciudad del Saber by intramural teams but there is also the opportunity to see professional sporting events. Surprisingly, Panama is one of the few countries besides the United States that considers baseball to be their primary sport. A variety of Major League players have come from Panama and you’d be hard pressed to find a local who doesn’t have some form of baseball knowledge. El Estadio Nacional, the prime venue for baseball near the city, is located a short ride on the Corredor Norte, and teams from all over the country play games there in the Panamanian Professional League from late January until the middle of May. There are 11 teams, each representing a separate province or a section of a province, so naturally fans become very invested in the team where they or their family is from. Since Panama is so small, it is not uncommon for large amounts of fans to be in attendance supporting both teams, creating a competitive atmosphere unlike anything found in the United States. If identified as foreigners, Americans will often be approached by local fans asking questions about Major League baseball teams and players, further exhibiting the Panamanian friendliness and curiosity towards those visiting their country. The close seats at these games are five dollars while the outfield seats are four. The food and drink are very cheap with nothing over two dollars. It is an inexpensive event and a great way to make friends and go out as a group. Attending a baseball game is a cultural experience in itself regardless if you enjoy the sport, and is something that should be taken advantage of should your travels place you in Panama in the spring. There are also soccer games year round in various locations. Check local newspapers such as La Prensa and El Diario for games and times. These newspapers are always available in the FSU Panama Library. While sports such as boxing and basketball are highly popular in Panama, the opportunities to be a spectator of those events are much less common than they are for baseball and soccer.
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
There are many occasions for celebration and travel, the most notable of all being Carnival. This is a celebration the weekend before Ash Wednesday where people gather from around the country and party. It is truly indescribable with the amount of people in the streets, music blasting, and water flowing from fire hoses! There are many other, less intense, experiences throughout the year that are full of culture, arts, and history. By checking the previously listed resources you can find out about what is happening in the neighborhood and in different parts of Panama at any time of the year. These holidays are especially great opportunities to not only travel in groups, but to mingle with locals as well.
Nightlife As beautiful as Panama can be during the day, when the sun goes down another side of the city comes alive that gives Panama its reputation as having some of the best nightlife in Central America. The club scene is separated into two main locations where a variety of different clubs and salsa bars can be found very centrally located. A bit closer to the banking district of the city lies Calle Uruguay, which is not a single street as its name implies but a small neighborhood with a variety of clubs, restaurants, and hookah bars. Some of Panama’s most famous clubs are in this area, and although it is towards the banking district and some clubs are relatively upscale, it is still very affordable by American standards. Panama, among other countries, has been known as the birthplace of the music genre reggaeton, and some of the world’s most famous DJs and performing artists have been known to make apFlorida State University
Study Abroad with Us! pearances at these clubs. In addition to the environment at Calle Uruguay, another nightlife hotspot is Zona Viva, located on the Amador Causeway. This has an array of clubs and bars similar to Calle Uruguay, but also features a large amount of salsa bars which provide a cultural experience different from your typical night at a club. Both Zona Viva and Calle Uruguay will be known by any cab driver in the city, and the popularity of various clubs fluctuates depending at the time of year. It’s hard to go out anywhere in the city without having a great time, but promoters for the more popular clubs are easily accessible and are always more than willing to help assist anyone looking for a taste of the Panamanian nightlife.
While nightlife and the club scene is something Panama City is known for, there are also countless smaller bars and jazz clubs scattered throughout Casco Viejo and closer to the City of Knowledge.
In Albrook, Super 99 is the closest store to a Wal-Mart that you will find in Panama. It has fresh produce, school supplies, a variety of brands and is relatively inexpensive. There are often ‘deals’ happening throughout the store, which is one of the puzzling things you will see in Panama. An example would be a box of pencils taped to a bottle of ketchup or a t-shirt taped to a box of cereal. These deals will not only make you laugh, but save you money!
A few examples include: Relic A bar located at the bottom of Luna’s Castle traveler’s hostel in Casco Viejo, it has a beautiful courtyard area outdoors as well as an inside that has been remodeled to give the illusion that its customers are relaxing inside of a cave, the overall environment providing for a unique experience as travelers from all over the world can be found inside on a nightly basis. Those interested should direct a cab to Calle 9 in Casco Viejo. Lum’s This is the bar closest to the City of Knowledge, and is probably the closest thing to the typical American sports bar that can be found in Panama. For one looking for a simpler, quieter night out, Lum’s is a great place to simply relax or to catch a game.
“In Panama City, you’re not confined to the bright lights of Calle Uruguay every weekend. There are a lot of really cool things to do in this large Central American City; you just have to go out there and find them.” - Andres Bascumbe, Mass Media Communication Studies
Safety and Nightlife The nightlife areas of the city are rarely found to be dangerous, the biggest threat to one’s safety being pick pocketing. Again, as long as one has common sense and awareness, this should rarely be a problem. The biggest safety issue with going out in Panama City is the matter of illegitimate taxis. This is where it is perhaps most important to finalize the cab fare before entering, as well as make certain the driver is taking you to your desired destination. There are a variety of gentleman’s clubs and less honorable institutions in Panama that have taxi cab service to bring customers, and these drivers will typically operate in Calle Uruguay and Zona Viva. The general rule is that it’s best to steer clear if a taxi driver is advertising not only his service as a taxi, but also a bar or a club. A lot of times these drivers will speak English very well as to appeal to uninformed tourists. Again, getting home from a night on the town is in no way an issue if common sense is exercised, but it’s important that one is aware of those who may have intentions other than helping you get from point A to B.
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
As far as grocery shopping is concerned, there are three stores that have a wide variety of not only local foods but more familiar things as well. Closest to home is El Rey which is open twenty-four hours. It is your mid-priced grocery store with a few American brands but little variety.
Reba-Smith is not as close to campus as El Rey or Super 99 but it will provide you with some of the favorite treats from home you might not be able to find in the other stores. Although Reba Smith is the priciest of the three, you are sure to find what you need. Restaurants serving traditional Panamanian food can be found not only within the City of Knowledge, but all over the country. The traditional Panamanian dish typically consists of a serving of chicken or steak, rice and black beans, and the famous Panamanian patacones. Patacones are fried plantain chips that can be found on the menus of virtually any Panamanian restaurants, and are sold in grocery stores as well. Some of the world’s best seafood can be found in Panama, the oceans on both of its borders serving as resources for fresh fish, shrimp, and lobster. Corvina is a fish found off the Pacific coast of the country, and can be found in typical seafood restaurants. Another specialty seafood dish is ceviche, which is shrimp or other small shellfish marinated in citrus juice, typically lime. Ceviche can usually be ordered as an entrée as well as in a salad. Restaurants serving traditional Panamanian food near the study center include: Pan y Canela Located in the small shopping complex between the study center and the student housing, Pan y Canela offers a number of typical sandwiches and other deli items made to order as well as a variety of pastries and baked goods. This is a popular choice of students for lunch due to its distance from the study center, and it offers take out as well as indoor and outdoor seating.
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~ Checklist ~
Print out this page and use it as a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything during your stay in Panama! Also be sure to write down places that you visit which are not listed. At the end of your program, share them with your program assistant/leader and we’ll add them to future guides!
Museums • Miraflores Locks Museum • Museo de Historia Panameña • Museo de Ciencias Naturales Attractions
• Isla Taboga • Parque Natural Metropolitano Nightlife • Relic • Lum’s
• • • • • • • • • • •
Go to Bocas del Toro Go to Isla Grande Go to Colon Camp on the beach Get involved with the FSU Panama student government Drink maracuya juice Eat dinner at a restaurant on Las Terrazas in Multiplaza Mall Eat dinner at a plaza outside in Casco Viejo See a famous musician in concert Jog/rent bikes on the causeway Celebrate St. Patrick’s day (believe it or not this is a huge holiday in Panama, everybody still dresses up in green!) • Travel to Colombia • Plan a trip to return to Panama after you have to leave! Notes
Must-Do Activities • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Visit Isla Taboga Play pick-up sports with locals Swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans In the same day Eat patacones Swim at the pool in the City of Knowledge Go to the Casco Viejo Jazz Festival during the spring Go to a baseball game Visit Isla Coiba Climb Volcan Baru Go see a movie in VIP at Multiplaza Climb the rock wall at Albrook Mall Get nachos at Oralé (Mexican restaurant downtown) Practice Spanish with taxi drivers
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
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Study Abroad with Us! Café la Giradilla This small restaurant can be found near the shopping complex between the student housing and the study center, and serves a variety of traditional dishes, including those mentioned above. Café Duran This is a coffee shop located in the same shopping complex, and also offers a variety of pastries and beverages. This smaller café is typically less busy than nearby Pan y Canela and may be a better option if one desires a quick coffee. Another thing to note is that the closest ATM to the study center is located in this restaurant. Deli Gourmet This is a very popular option for customers desiring a vegetarian menu. While there are multiple locations in different parts of the city, the location most convenient for students is located in the El Dorado neighborhood, which is a short trip by car northeast of the City of Knowledge. “With the choice between Lebanese food on Via Argentina, traditional Panamanian food on the Causeway, or a classic hamburger in the heart of the city, in Panama City you’re sure to find food to fit your taste.” - Patrick Johnsen, Environmental Science and Geography
Chapter 7: Diversity Abroad Panama’s people are known to be very friendly towards tourists, but as in any situation, disrespect or rudeness towards Panamanians and their culture will more often than not get the same response. Things to make note of include:
Americans may sometimes fall into having the stereotype of having a lot of money. This is important to note when out on the town and should encourage one to be that much more aware of pickpockets or anyone that may try and harass you by trying to get you to buy something. (Souvenir stands, convenience stands on the street, etc.) Young women, Panamanians included, but especially Americans, will commonly be whistled at or honked at when walking outside. This is nearly unavoidable and is part of the culture, but as mentioned before, what might be considered as appropriate clothing in the United States may not be the case for the Panamanian lifestyle. If the whistling and honking is something you’d like to avoid, attempting to dress similar to the local customs is usually the best approach.
Ethnicity With regard to ethnicity, it is extremely rare that anyone would ever encounter any harassment based purely on appearance or race alone. That being said, you may be stared at in public or while out at night. It should be understood that this isn’t because you’re strange or you’re doing something out of the ordinary. While doing something out of the ordinary or disrespectful will attract strange looks, people that stare typically are doing so because you might not look like the people native to Panama and they’re simply curious. As was mentioned earlier, Panama itself is a very diverse country in and of itself, so the only reasons anyone would ever act negatively towards a foreign student would be due to inappropriate behavior or if they were acting offensively.
“Coming from the United States I was extremely surprised when it came to figuring out what and how I was going to feed myself here. The food is different, but more similar to that of the United States than you would think. My roommate and I often go out to eat for lunch in between classes and go to diners on the weekends to get our fix of American food. The food in the grocery market is very affordable, and the typical cuisines of Panama are fantastic and unique.” – Luke Liddy, Biological Science
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
By today’s standards, Panama is classified as being a third-world country. That being said, this makes for a huge distinction between the upper and lower classes, almost to the extent that there is barely a middle class. The fact that most of the students attending classes at the study center are from the upper class unfortunately doesn’t facilitate interaction between students on our programs and citizens of the lower class. This doesn’t have a direct negative effect on an International Programs experience, but the presence of the lower class is something that students should be aware of so they can have as well-rounded of an experience as possible.
LGBT The role that sexuality plays in the Panamanian culture is a bit paradoxical; one might assume that every department store specializes in undergarments upon observing a model or
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Study Abroad with Us! mannequin in a mall and politicians in the past have been known to be supporting multiple families without protest from the public. While discussion of sexual behavior is considered to be acceptable in public, what is done in one’s personal relationships, and with whom, is considered to be one’s personal business. As in many other cultures, the existence of same-sex relationships in Panama dates back as far as before Europeans arrived in the 16th century and has consequentially been woven into the country’s history. The country’s largest festival, Carnival, has been known to double as the gay pride event of the year, and gay pride marches have been occurring every summer in the city since 2005. Transgendered individuals have integrated seamlessly into the Panamanian culture, dating back to the when their existence in a village was considered to be beneficial as well as a blessing from a higher power in indigenous cultures. While protests against homosexuality are extremely rare, examples of homophobia still exist due to the strong presence of Catholicism in Panama. No civil rights for same-sex couples have been issued in Panama, and in the workforce there are no laws preventing the firing of an individual simply based on their sexual orientation. All things considered, the attitude towards homosexuality in Panama should not be a matter of concern to someone considering studying there. As mentioned before, the LGBT culture has a presence in the society, represented by multiple organizations, the most prominent of which being the AHMNP (translates to the Association of New Men and Women of Panama). The event that one’s orientation would have a negative effect on their experience in Panama would be very rare, and should in no way be a deterrent to someone contemplating studying here. For those interested in getting involved in Panamanian LGBT culture and nightlife, a good resource is http://www.farraurbana.com which includes contact information for various organizations as well as a variety of bars and clubs.
Chapter 8: Travel Because Panama occupies such a small area of land, it’s not only easy to travel all over the country, but its fairly cheap as well. As mentioned before, the bus terminal located at the Albrook mall has buses that service all different parts of the country, as well as cities as far away as San Jose, Costa Rica. If time is more of a concern than money, flying to different locations throughout the country is a much faster option with flights that rarely last longer than an hour. Some great travel locations include: Bocas del Toro A collection of islands in the northeastern region of the country near the Costa Rican border, Bocas del Toro has long been known as a hot spot for surfers and backpackers alike. A bit far for a short day-trip, this is a great location to spend a long weekend and the variety of hostels and activities in the surrounding area make it perfect for a short visit. Bus tickets can be found for around $20 one way and plane tickets are usually around $80. Isla Taboga As mentioned before, Isla Taboga is a wonderful way to get out of the city’s hustle and bustle for a day. With its short distance from the study center, one will find it difficult to visit only once after discovering how convenient and enjoyable it is to spend a day there.
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
Boquete A experience in and of itself, arriving in Boquete can give one the impression that they may be in another part of the world altogether. Its location in the mountainous region of Panama gives it a climate rare to Central America with temperatures that have been known to dip as far down as 50°F. With such a unique landscape compared to the rest of the country, Boquete is one of Panama’s hidden secrets that is a must-see destination for anyone with a weekend to spare. As with virtually all other parts of the country, one can find a bus that goes to this region from the Albrook terminal near the City of Knowledge. Beaches As mentioned before, spending a day at the beach is the perfect way to enjoy a day of fun in the sun as well as experience some of what rural Panama has to offer. On days without class, taking a bus from Albrook terminal to beaches west of the city, such as Pal Mar and Coronado, is a great way for large and small groups of students to take advantage of the year-round tropical weather that’s typical of Panama.
“Whether you’d prefer a ferry ride to Isla Taboga or a bus to Bocas del Toro, travelling in Panama is not only affordable but is extremely accessible.” - Caleb Combs, Biology
Chapter 9: Coming Home While acclamation and culture shock upon arriving in a new country are both undoubtedly parts of studying abroad, another transition that requires just as much adjustment takes place upon returning home. Among the obvious differences, such as changes in surroundings, daily life, another major change that comes in to play includes seeing people for the first time since before your experience abroad. Seeing new sights and being in an environment doing new things every day is always exhilarating, but the reverse effect can occur upon being home again. The old saying goes “there’s no place like home,” and while returning home can be very exciting, realizing and coming to terms with the fact that you are no longer abroad can be a difficult process. As if a change in scenery wasn’t enough, adjusting back to what was once a regular routine after your experience can be a daunting task. These can both be difficult transitions to make, but what usually goes overlooked in returning home are the interactions with those you’re close to. As much as you may want to try and share what you’ve done with your friends and family, unless they’ve done similar things, it will normally be difficult for them to relate. In the rare event that people become disinterested in your stories, don’t take it personally as it’s most likely due to the fact that they simply haven’t experienced what you had or may even be jealous at the fact that you’ve had such a unique opportunity. Even those who were the most homesick during their travels find coming back a challenge, and there are various ways to help combat this “reverse culture shock.” Talking with and spending time with those who you were with while abroad or have been abroad is always a good solution. While reminiscing and exchanging stories can be saddening because of the nostalgia involved, at the same time doing so gives the ability to look back at your experience and truly realize how valuable it was.
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Study Abroad with Us! Having longing feelings about your study abroad experience is not only common, but it should almost be expected. By keeping all this in mind before you come home, the transition to returning will occur much more smoothly, although the process may be lengthy. If nothing seems to be comforting to how much you may miss studying abroad, know that by doing so you’ve given yourself the unique ability to see the world around you from an entirely different perspective, enhancing the life you have back home as well as creating a lasting impact on your future.
Résumé Building One of the many advantages of studying abroad as opposed to traveling independently is the experience you can use to enhance your résumé. Be sure to include your experiences on your résumé or CV so future employers notice you—only 1% of American college students study abroad so this will set you apart on grad school and job applications!
Garnet and Gold Scholar Society and The Global Pathways Certificate Now that you have had an amazing experience abroad, how can you make sure you capitalize on this life-changing event and build your academic and professional portfolios? Thanks to two new initiatives on campus, you can use your international experience to satisfy specific criteria to become a Garnet and Gold Scholar or to receive the Global Pathways Certificate. These programs have been established to help students who have meaningful experiences outside the classroom synthesize them in a way that will help them to continue growing from them both in the classroom and in future careers. For more information on these programs, visit their websites:
http://garnetandgoldscholar.fsu.edu/ http://global.fsu.edu/students/certificate/certificate.htm Additional Resources International Programs:
http://international.fsu.edu/index.aspx Ciudad del Saber – City of Knowledge
http://www.ciudaddelsaber.org/ FSU Panama
http://panama.fsu.edu/ Republic of Panama.net
http://www.republicofpanama.net/ – very comprehensive site with lots of links STA Travel
http://www.statravel.com/ “Traveling to a beach from the FSU Panama campus is fairly easy; students can take a small commuter flight to locations such as Contadora Island, Bocas del Toro, and the San Blas Islands. Students can also take a bus from the Albrook Bus Terminal to get to other beach destinations. Taboga Island is just a short ferry ride away from Panama City. When I was a student in Panama, I went to the beach as often as I could.” – Katie Fowler, Multinational Business Operations and Spanish
Panama Student Guide 2011-2012
International Long Distance
http://lcpi.com/ - Cheap international telephone rates Students Abroad
http://studentsabroad.state.gov/ -U.S. State Department information for students abroad
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