Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


“Theory is good, but knowing how environmental issues are viewed and acted on by the public by living with the public is invaluable."

—Program alum

A student with her homestay family

Experience Panama’s rich cultural diversity.
The SIT Panama program includes several different homestays exposing students to different regions and ways of life in both Panama and Costa Rica. In sharing daily life with host families, students greatly improve their Spanish and directly witness how development and conservation affect different communities throughout the country.  

Panama City
Experience the unique vibrancy and diversity of Panama’s capital and largest city.
Students live with families in Panama City for approximately four weeks over the course of the semester. Students experience the ways in which rural customs are sustained in the midst of booming international banking and trade businesses; hone their Spanish skills through daily practice with their families; and gain valuable exposure to Panamanian traditions and culture. As one of the leading base locations for international NGOs, Panama City offers students many opportunities for exploring development and conservation issues and initiatives.

Although exact locations can vary each semester, additional homestay locations can include:

Loma Bonita (rural mountains)
Gain valuable insight into the challenges faced by villagers when dealing with environmental conservation, eco-cultural traditions, and human survival.
Students spend approximately four days with families who live in a protected area buffer zone in the interior of the country. Family livelihoods are based on subsistence agriculture and natural resource extraction. Students live and work side by side with their hosts, sharing daily activities of food production and other chores.

Purio (rural lowlands)
Discover how cultural ties directly influence resource use and decision making for conservation.
On the Azuero Peninsula, students live with families and interact with a community known for its traditional folklore and strong cultural roots. Alongside subsistence ranchers, students participate in cultural activities and land use practices, helping to rein in cattle, mill sugar cane, milk cows, and make cheese for sale. This homestay is usually four days.

Students with farmers from homestay communities at EARTH University

La Argentina, Costa Rica
Witness the ways EARTH University is working with families to improve the environmental conditions on their farmsteads. 
Part of EARTH University’s mission is to transfer the sustainable technologies it develops to local communities. One of the communities where EARTH extends its mission and where students from EARTH carry out their field practica is the community of La Argentina, Costa Rica. SIT students have the chance to stay with these families for a short period to observe the remarkable work EARTH is carrying out.

Naso-Teribe Indigenous Territory
Discover how mega projects and industrial interests are threatening indigenous livelihoods.
Located in the Palo Seco protected forest, the Naso-Teribe Indigenous Territory is nestled around the Teribe River where the Naso-Teribe population draws its livelihood through subsistence fishing and agriculture. Food production, still grounded in traditional practices, has kept forest and aquatic ecosystems intact. Students live with families and learn about traditional resource use, livelihoods, and contemporary threats to the Naso-Teribe way of life.

Guadalupe (rural highlands of Chiriquí)
See conservation efforts taking place in a community neighboring the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Parque Internacional La Amistad, Panama’s highest mountain chain, in the province of Chiriquí.
While enjoying the cloud forest in this beautiful community, students learn about the region’s mammals and birds and also about the different ways in which local farmers have adapted to living in close proximity to an internationally protected area. Local organizations known for their strong environmental tradition share with students their work on environmental education, soil preservation, organic fertilizers, organic farming, environmental advocacy, and best environmental practices applied to coffee production. This homestay is typically between six and seven days.

Costs Dates

Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Panama City

Language Study: Spanish

Prerequisites: Coursework in environmental studies, ecology, or biology.


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

Connect With Us

Connect icons

888.272.7881 (toll-free in US)



Mailing Address:
PO Box 676, 1 Kipling Road
Brattleboro, VT 05302 USA

Contact us by email.