Your personal experience with the ILC Panama could be this…
You just passed the luggage checkpoint at Panama Airport. It is much hotter than you expected it to be, and your t-shirt is already getting sweaty. You walk towards a crowd of waiting people, pulling your luggage behind you, as you see a cheerful boy holding up a sign with your name on it. Behind the boy are two smiling parents, looking for you while discussing the last of the dinner preparations. They aren’t sure about how well someone from Europe can handle Sancocho, a local spicy dish, but they figured they’d still welcome you in the Panamanian way, and make some extra rice, just in case.
You take a deep breath, and continue walking towards them. You googled Panama before coming, taking note of the most important facts and figures, and went through the program-outline you were sent in advance 5 or 6 times on the plane ride, but now it is real. This is really happening.
Walking over to them your host parents catch your eye and beam you a smile. You’re greeted with a warm hug. “Hola!” they say, “how was your trip?”. Still a bit tired from the flight, you have no idea what you’re supposed to expect of this trip.
The following 4 weeks have changed your life. The intense Spanish course you took has taken the way you communicate to a new level; some people you ran into couldn’t even believe you were from a different country. The stories you have to tell your friends are too many to pack into the first night back.
You sit down, and start telling them about the different aspects that Panama is made up of: the financial district of Panama City, where most of the economic action of the fastest growing economy in Latin America happens; the Casco Viejo (Old City) with its French and Spanish style buildings, churches, and markets; the famous Panama Canal and the history connected with its construction and ownership; and the preserved natural habitat with the manifold of communities it harbors.
Among the communities you visited were the Ngöbe-Buglé in the Boquete highlands and the Creoles of Isla Bastimentos, who speak the exotic Creole language. The environment they’re surrounded by and live in embraces all kinds of animals and insects. You observed in their natural habitat, the likes of the Bottle Nose dolphin while on a water excursion, or the endangered and poisonous Red Frog during a trip into the rain forest.
Having gone to local clubs there and taken lessons, dancing to Latino music doesn’t seem a challenge to you anymore, and the sight-seeing trip while kayaking has left you an indescribable impression of nature’s beauty. The trip has given you a real understanding of what the social pillar of sustainability means, and why it is important to preserve places like these. And last, but not least you took with you a part of the greatest treasure anyone can find there: the culture.
While telling your stories years later, you still know that the only way to really understand them is to experience it yourself. That’s also what the friends you made there know too well, so you call them up and ask them if they feel like grabbing a drink to talk about the good old times, current happenings and the future challenges we and our world will be facing.
This may not necessarily be your story; who knows, it could be filled with so much more. Take your time and have a look at the diaries of past participants. If you want to tell your own story, apply for our Language & Culture Program. The chance is yours, take it!