Overview | Academics | Cost | Location | Life Abroad | Student Voices
The central theme of The School for Field Studies (SFS) Panama study abroad program is ?islands as a delicate system,? with emphasis on the resources of Panama?s spectacular coastal and marine environments. Students will explore several key interfaces: human and natural systems, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and conservation and development. The goal of this undergraduate study abroad program is to assess the state of the archipelago?s fragile natural habitats, define the main environmental issues, and understand the community goals in natural resource management. Our ultimate goal is to help islanders maintain balance and harmony between people and nature in this fragile ecosystem.
The School for Field Studies pilot semester program Tropical Island Biodiversity and Conservation Studies in Bocas del Toro, Panama, provides students with an exciting opportunity to conduct research and explore the rural Caribbean and the isthmus of Panama.
Panama is the great connector between two continents ? a corridor that links the natural riches of Central America to South America. Few places on Earth can claim the density of species and ecosystem richness that this isthmus can. Among its reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, estuaries, and rivers, this region boasts a variety of reef/game fish, turtles, and dolphins, as well as more novel species such as manatee, monkeys, and caiman.
Our classroom in Panama is the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro, a place where forest and shore come together and present almost limitless opportunities to study the ecology and conservation of both the marine and terrestrial realms.
It is the dynamic interface between forested islands and life-filled waters that will drive our learning of fragile habitats, natural resource use, and indigenous ways of life based on deep relationships with the environment.
Getting to Your Program
Students make their own travel arrangements but are given guidelines for arrival dates and times. Students may choose to take the SFS group flight.
Upon arriving in Panama, US citizens are ordinarily given a 180 day tourist visit. Non-US citizens may, however, require a consular visa. IAP and SFS are not responsible for administrative procedures with immigration for traveling or visas not related to the academic program, so if you plan to travel outside of the program and/or stay in Panama for longer than the program lasts, please check with the of Panama immigration.
Students are required to participate in a pre-departure orientation at UW-Madison as well as an on-site orientation upon arrival in country. The orientations are designed to introduce students to the program and prepare them for living abroad.
The SFS field station in Bocas del Toro for our Panama study abroad program will be a brand new facility built by our partner, the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC). Located on 130 acres of property owned for generations by a local Ngobe family, the station sits on a promontory of land adjacent to open fields and within sight of the Chiriqui Lagoon and dense off-shore mangrove stands. Within meters, thick inland tropical forest dominates the landscape, sheltering the site with verdant canopies where howler monkeys abound and toucans search incessantly for fruit. Student housing consists of rooms within a raised platform building that provides views of forest and shore. Freshwater showers are available. Other buildings consist of classrooms, a library, a laboratory, and a common room used for dining and events. A full-time cook is available for most meals; healthy traditional dishes will dominate the menu each day with fresh fish from local waters.
Excursions and Activities
POTENTIAL FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
Snorkeling for field research and species identification on pristine coral reefs
Shallow water excursions to the delicate intertidal surf zones where giant starfish and spiny sea urchins abound
Deep exploration of giant stands of old-growth rain forests; viewing giant orchids, colorful macaws, monkeys, and numerous arrow frogs Monitoring of beach erosion and palm stand loss due to rising sea levels
Lecture from Panamanian and international researchers and government environmental officials
Visits to massive banana plantations on the mainland to understand the impact of the commercial agricultural industry on the local economy and delicate coastal environment
Excursions to distant islands to visit indigenous housing settlements and observe the livelihoods of traditional farmers, fishers, and forest gatherers
Visits to eco-lodges and resort hotels to understand how development imparts pressures on fragile marine and terrestrial habitats and ecosystems
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
SFS Center Director and staff
Use the links below to find out more information on academics, daily life and student impressions for this program.SFS Academic Notes
(Fall - 2013-14)
Returned Student Network
to see testimonials from students abroad or to contact a returned student.
SFS's interdisciplinary, experiential approach to education is designed to train students to learn by doing. As students engage in high-quality field research, students begin to understand the challenges of confronting environmental issues. Students learn the value of experiencing another culture, of collaborating with their fellow students and with the local community to develop workable solutions. Students are also given the rare opportunity to work side by side with an international research team and learn state-of-the-art field research skills. The program combines classroom-based academics with field study. Students should expect an academically intensive experience and be willing to learn in a variety of settings.
Each field station is staffed by a Center Director and two to three full-time, resident faculty. Most of the SFS faculty are native to the country/region in which they teach.
SFS's classroom in Panama is the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro, a place where forest and shore come together and present almost limitless opportunities to study the ecology and conservation of both the marine and terrestrial realms.
It is the dynamic interface between forested islands and life-filled waters that will drive learning of fragile habitats, natural resource use, and indigenous ways of life based on deep relationships with the environment.
School for Field Studies
Program Web Page(s)
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
Sort by Foreign Course Titles
Sort by UW-Madison Course Titles
Group by host institution and Sort by Foreign Course Titles
Group by host institution and Sort by UW-Madison Course Titles
Program cost information includes program fees, as well as out-of-pocket expenses with notes to help explain costs. Program fees are estimated and can be adjusted at any time. Once accepted, you will receive a cost sheet that includes confirmed program fees and additional out-of-pocket expenses.
Spring 2012-13 Cost Estimate Sheet
Fall 2013-14 Cost Estimate Sheet
Sources of available funding for study abroad include scholarships, grants and loans. To increase your chances of receiving financial aid, International Academic Programs (IAP) recommends filling out your FAFSA
to begin the financial planning process early.
For detailed information on financial resources click here
This scholarship list includes scholarships IAP knows about that are relevant to your desired program. It is not an exhaustive list of all available scholarship opportunities for study abroad. Although we make our best effort to ensure the list is up-to-date this information changes frequently, and it is the responsibility of the applicant to verify information.
Benjamin A. Gilman Internat'l Prgm
Foundation for Global Scholars
School of Education Study Abroad Scholarship